Are you in serious small-screen spy withdrawal since “The Americans” ended and “Killing Eve” has yet to return for its second season? Well, then NBC has a new show premiering tonight that might help quench your thirst for a cat-and-mouse game: “The Enemy Within.”
Described as a “character-based psychological thriller,” the Ken Woodruff-created series follows Erica Shepherd (Jennifer Carpenter), a brilliant former CIA operative, now known as one of the most notorious traitors in recent American history serving life in a Supermax prison. FBI Agent Will Keaton (Morris Chestnut) is forced to enlist Shepherd to help him track down another dangerous and elusive criminal she knows very well.
Per NBC, “While Shepherd and Keaton have different motivations for bringing the enemy to justice, they both know that to catch a spy… they must think like one.”
OK, so this logline might sound very familiar to fans of other shows featuring fictional depictions of the FBI, CIA and international people of mystery. So we asked Woodruff to tell us what exactly separates “The Enemy Within” from other TV shows in this genre — including NBC’s other spy show, “The Blacklist.” And his answer was fourfold.
“First, ‘The Enemy Within’ isn’t a show about spies — it’s a show about spy hunters,” Woodruff told TheWrap. “That immediately changes the dynamic. Our characters aren’t trying to steal microfiche from an embassy. They’re hunting down the Jason Bournes and James Bonds of foreign countries.”
Woodruff continued: “Second, we work very hard to make the show feel as grounded as possible. Our writers, directors, cast and department heads do a lot of research into the reality of this world and we try to portray it as accurately as possible, while still telling compelling stories.”
“Third, the show is contemporary,” he added. “While there may be others shows in this genre on the air, ‘The Enemy Within’ absolutely feels like it exists in the world we live in today. There’s an uncertainty and anxiety that permeates our culture these days, and we try in every episode to capture that feeling of unease and mistrust.”
“Fourth, and most importantly, ‘The Enemy Within’ focuses on emotion,” Woodruff said. “Yes, these episodes are roller coaster rides of action and suspense. But we always make sure to prioritize these characters and the emotion their feeling. There are scene and stories in ‘The Enemy Within’ that you won’t find on other shows in this genre. And at its heart, “The Enemy Within” is about a mother working to earn her way back into her daughter’s life.”
Woodruff describes Erica Shepherd, that mother at the heart of this drama, as “one of the most highly-trained, capable, deadly operatives to ever work for the CIA.”
“She speaks half a dozen languages, can assemble and fire an assault rifle in seconds, and is brutally lethal in the field. But what truly makes Shepherd dangerous is that she can’t be trusted. On one hand, she appears to be a dedicated, loving mother and a patriot who gave 16 years of life to the U.S. Intelligence Community. On the other hand, she’s the worst traitor in modern American history, responsible for the deaths of four of her own colleagues. We don’t know who the real Shepherd is. And neither does Will Keaton, the FBI Special Agent tasked with working with her.”
Woodruff promises that “the back-and-forth between these two characters over the course of the season will be full of sparks and conflict.”
“One minute Shepherd will do something to warn Keaton and his team of danger, or even save their lives,” he said. “But the very next minute, she’ll undercut that trust by trying to escape, or sabotaging an investigation. Ultimately, their relationship is about trust. And whether or not Keaton will ever be able to find it with Erica Shepherd.”
“The Enemy Within” premieres tonight, Monday, at 10/9 on NBC.