A CIA mole, a KGB defector, the height of Cold War tension, and American agent Sandy Grimes’ race against time to protect her country.
That’s the backdrop for the new ABC mini-series “The Assets,” shot in Lithuania and debuting tonight at 10pmET. Co-executive producers Morgan Hertzan and Rudy Bednar recently spoke with TVNewser about what audiences can expect from the show.
TVNewser: What was the motivation behind producing a 1980’s Cold-War thriller in 2014?
Hertzan: The story. We went and met with the real Sandy Grimes, who this show is really about. Sandy was such an incredible character and so passionate about this story and so passionate about the patriotism that she had, we just felt we had to do this.
Bednar: Sandy sort of clinched it for me. Her husband [Gary] was lovely too. The two of them together is what this story is about. What is it like to be a mom at night and a CIA operative during the day. That whole funny constellation of one’s life really made for an interesting drama.
TVNewser: Can you talk about what went into the depiction of CIA mole Aldrich Ames?
Bednar: The reasons are complicated…the actor who plays him really brought an incredible intelligence and power to the character. Here’s a guy who was really looking for love from his dad and everyone. It really hurt him through his CIA days, where he was not really recognized as a high-powered agent. And then finally the KGB comes, and they dangle money and acceptance. He’s a star for the KGB, and the money is really the outward showing of his value.
Hertzan: Paul Rhys brought such a danger and a complexity to this character. He said something to me early on: ‘This story is really about how far a man will go for love.’ And it was so true. Alrdich Ames was wanting love from Rosario, from his employer, from his family…that is really what this character was all about.
TVNewser: Did any of the current day NSA-surveillance news impact the writing of the show?
Hertzan: This story from 30 years ago is so relevant today with Snowden and Wikileaks and government secrecy being a riveting topic. I think what’s happening today makes it even more riveting to see what happened 30 years ago. The storylines don’t change that much.
TVNewser: Why do you feel spy thrillers like “Homeland,” “The Americans,” and now “The Assets” are resonating so much with viewers?
Bednar: We’re living in that world. It’s in our face everyday. You’re reading about compromise, phone records…it’s probably much more palpable now than in 1985.
Hertzan: There’s a deeper human emotion and connection to these stories that is always pervasive and relevant.The thing that makes this so compelling is that it is true. When you watch James Bond or Homeland…you think ‘could I do that, could I betray my country, keep my work secret from my spouse?’ To me a lot of the intrigue, is ‘what would you do?’
TVNewser: What is the takeaway you hope viewers will get from the show?
Hetzan: As you watch, you realize this whole world that we’re exploring is all shades of grey. With both Ames and the KGB defector, there were all these parallel lives…there is not black and white answers in this world.
Watch a sneak peak of “The Assets:”