Xander Berkeley does such an amazing job portraying the villain of Percy on Nikita that I had no idea what to expect when interviewing him. Although this might ruin his villain image, he’s a very nice and charming guy.
In an exclusive interview with TV Fanatic, Xander talks about who founded Division, Percy’s sociopath-ness, and of course what’s to come in the season's final episodes.
You play such a good villain; I’ll admit I was a little nervous to speak with you today.
Oh my gosh, see this is why I say I don’t want to play too many more bad guys! [laughs] People do get that feeling, and then when they meet me its different. I have two little girls and I don’t want them to think daddy was the bad guy at the end of the day. [laughs]
Percy isn’t ruthless, he’s a complete sociopath! The difficulty playing a sociopath is that the character cannot know he’s a sociopath. All of Percy’s actions have to be justifiable to him. Part of what makes him come across as menacing is due to the fact that I approach the character from a standpoint of thinking about what makes him do what he has to do.
Human life may not mean ‘nothing’ to him, but he’s so Machiavellian to seemingly cold-bloodedly trade one life for many. That’s his argument and his self-justification. He’s thinking big picture. What happened with Michael…I think if he was confronted by Michael about it, he would say he’d do it again because that one life led to the saving of possibly thousands. Of course, nobody wanted to see anybody like his family get hurt. That wasn’t the plan; that was an accident. Collateral damage happens in war.
So cruel? I don’t even know what you’re talking about. [laughs] The show's called Nikita, so of course we’re going to see it from her point of view, but I approach the character with this notion that all truths are but half truths. We’re led to believe he’s cruel, but in light of recent events, there’s a certain cruelty to having to take out threats worldwide. Percy seems very self-serving about it all, but you could make an argument that he just has to keep his financing up so he can send his special forces of his into dangerous situation and have the equipment and the training be at a certain level so as not to fail.
Was Percy remorseful at one time?
I think he has become increasingly cynical and increasingly hardened. He’s sort of hunkered down. If you look at it through Percy’s point of view, he sees Nikita as dangerously naïve and idealistic. There’s this interesting battle going on in our country between the right and the left, and in a way they represent that argument on some level.
These last two episodes coming up… I’m so excited about them. Percy’s been laying low in the past few episodes, and you assume that Nikita is winning in a way in this little battle they’re having. Great things are coming up, and the writers found a way to justify why he has been taking he course he has been taking. It’s really exciting. They gave him some flashy fun stuff to do, and there are smart and interesting twists that people won’t see coming.
Did Percy found Division? If not, who was his predecessor?
This is his brain child. In the next episode he states as much, he created Division. Michael says at one point “you can’t possibly have done this” and Percy says “I created this place, I built it. You have no idea what I’m capable of.” [laughs] So yes, he is the founding father of this shadowy wing of the defense department.
Last episode they used cochlear implants, which are actually used in the government.
Exactly. That’s what I find really fun about the show. They’re tracking stories whether its in real time with certain events that are happening, or even relating back to the episode earlier on in Chile, they were referring to an incident that took place in 1972 when George Bush Sr. was head of the CIA. There’s a lot of things that have gone in the government and there’s no simple way of looking at it. It’s great because the show is through Nikita’s point of view, and she’s this great heroic character. But you can still look at it from different sides, it’s not too one dimensional for me as villain.
I still want to see an episode of Division after hours.
I know, we keep talking about that. What lives do these people really lead? I think it’d be so fun. [laughs] Everybody loves teasing me about what Percy does when he goes home. Aaron [Stanford]’s character Birkhoff…I see him singing show-tunes. [laughs] I see Percy listening to opera in a Park Ave apartment that overlooks the city. Taking in Gothem; while listening to opera. I don’t know how far they’ll go. You’ll see things changing, and the geography of Division may be changing in the coming season, should we be granted one.
In my interview with Melinda Clarke, she was convinced Percy and Amanda are having an affair. What are your thoughts?
We joke about the dungeon room that they sneak out of, sort of one of the time buttoning up their shirts, ignoring the different recruits passing by. [laughs] It’s a nice family show, we can’t quite go there yet. Melinda is such much fun to work with, as is everyone on the show. We’re a very agreeable bunch of people.
What was Percy’s life like before Division.
I saw him as this meticulous person. He was just shy of being a Blue Blood, and maybe even a bastard, illegitimate on some level. But he was so close that he got to be in close proximity to great wealth and the best education because he worked really hard. He was so driven and ambitious to catch up to the people that he went to private school with and people that had all of the money and power and connection. He found himself in the situation with the Senator Kerrigan that Spencer Garrett played that he was looking out for him and kind of covert work to him out of trouble. Percy’s a person who always made himself useful to people in power and political influence. He adopted that role early on, and that became a prototype for him of the role he was going to play. He wasn’t going to be the puppet; he was going to be the guy pulling the string behind the scenes. That would be his way of getting back at these privileged people, being even better than them.
Will Percy find out about Alexandra’s identity right away or will Amanda torture her for a while?
All I will say is it is a great reveal. What Percy gets into himself with Alex is highly entertaining, I think. The extent to which he’s willing to admit to his own Machiavellian tendencies might surprise you.
How long has Percy had the plan of cutting himself off from the government?
Well, I think it’s been brewin’. He has been stewing for a while. Feeling that the country has gotten too liberal and they’ve stopped funding his Division and they’re making it harder and harder for him to do his job, which he feels is to keep this country safe. He’s having to take these outside jobs and he feels that he’s so committed to his belief that what he’s doing is right, that he’ll take any damn job that he has to take to keep the money coming in. Along the way he’s getting increasingly bitter and cynical. Each time Nikita hits and takes down his activities he gets angrier and more bitter that she doesn’t get the big picture and that she’s actually hurting the country, in his mind. He also believes the government is hurting the country by not believing what he believes. He’s got to do this; it’s been growing steadily in him.