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Nikita – Producer Albert Kim on life, love and death

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Nikita 2.06 - Maggie Q and Shane West
Episode 2.06 "343 Walnut Lane" - Nikita (Maggie Q) and Michael (Shane West) © 2011 The CW Network

Expect the unexpected. As any Nikita fan will tell you, that’s the best way to describe the CW TV series in which Maggie Q plays a rogue assassin, battling the mysterious agency known as Division. It’s a show in which the body count is high, betrayal is commonplace and happy endings are few and far between.

Bearing that in mind, it’s probably not surprising that the writing staff of Nikita would keep future plot details firmly under wraps. During a recent sit-down promoting the current season, executive producer Albert Kim was happy to discuss the season to date, but upcoming storyline remained as classified as real government secrets. Here are a few of the details we finally managed to squeeze out of him.

Is it true that the Nikita writing staff has the series mapped out through season three?

Nikita Producer Albert Kim
Producer Albert Kim

It depends on how you define ‘mapped out.’ We have an idea where we want to end up in season two, so there is a finish line in mind but how we get there is not mapped out at all. There are a lot of paths to get to the same point.

I guess we have an idea for season three, which is based off of what happens by the end of season two. And as far as season two, we know where we want to be at by the end of episode 23. Right now, I’m just wrapping up writing episode ten, we’re figuring out episodes 11 and 12, and we’re shooting episode nine.

After that, there’s a lot of blank space between that and episode 23. It’s not blank- in the writer’s room, we have cards on the board with certain mile posts that we know we want to hit at certain times, but again, there are a lot of ways to get there.

At the same time, we don’t want to be so closed off to change or the possibilities that might happen. A lot of times, we’ll see what comes back to us on film and from the actors and say, ‘You know, we should make use of that opportunity.’ One of the real surprises this year was Xander [Berkeley] in that cube. We saw Percy in the cube and said, ‘Wow, he’s great in there!’

In a weird way, it even made him more dangerous being confined, because he’s like a tiger behind a cage, so we knew we wanted to take advantage of that, even though in the long run there’s a plan in place for Percy to escape or attempt to escape, but we didn’t want that to happen right away after we saw what Xander was delivering to us.

It’s that kind of thing we want to take advantage of.

Nikita clearly has affection for Alex and vice versa, but could there be a point where that changes and they become enemies?

Nikita 2.03 - Shane West and Maggie Q
Episode 2.03 "Knightfall" - Michael (Shane West) and Nikita (Maggie Q) © 2011 The CW Network

There’s a definite thaw between them right now, so they’re definitely moving together, which is where we’re trying to work to by the mid-season finale, which is around episode ten. We want to get the sense that they’re heading in the same direction, but like with any relationship, there will be an ebb and flow to it, so they’ll probably drift apart as well.

One thing that we were very cognizant of when we ended season one was we knew this revelation would come out about Nikita killing Alex’s father, but that doesn’t mean that Alex hates her. It’s not like flipping a switch. It’s got to flow naturally, so we’re discovering that as we go along. And it’s got to feel realistic. We don’t want it to have the sharp turns of a soap opera.

Can we expect more shocking deaths as we got last season?

We like to kill off our characters! It keeps everyone on their toes. I know at least one actor who told me that the first thing they do when they get each script is turn to the back to see if they’re still alive at the end of that episode.

There will be some shocks on their way, but we’re a spy show, so secrets and deception are our stock in trade. In our show, nothing is ever what it seems. I won’t say we’re like a science fiction or magic show, where people come back from the dead, but there are twists to that as well.

And even if characters die, they tend to reappear whether it’s in flashbacks or visions. Nicolai Udinov has been dead for six years and he keeps appearing, so there are ways for the actors to come back.

How difficult is it to balance the action emotional elements of the series?

Nikita 2.06 - Maggie Q and Shane West
Episode 2.06 "343 Walnut Lane" - Nikita (Maggie Q) and Michael (Shane West) © 2011 The CW Network

It’s a huge challenge. Frankly, it’s also what I really love about the show, because the action sequences are fun but really tough to write and choreograph, but some of the character stuff is even harder. Some of the quieter scenes are the hardest to write. You’ve really got to sit down and get into the minds of these characters, but that’s the appeal of the show.

I think back to some of the favorite sequences and parts of scripts that I’ve written and some of them have been action sequences. I love the bridge sequence we did last year in episode #118, which I think is one of the best action sequences we did, so I was really happy with that.

At the same time, I love the scene with Nikita and Michael in the hotel in #109 when they were in Uzbekistan. That’s one of my favorite scenes that I wrote. I don’t know a lot of shows where you get to do both, which is why I feel incredibly lucky to work on this show.

What can you say about the events we’ll be seeing in the mid-season climax?

Nikita 2.06 - Maggie Q, Shane West and David Keith
Episode 2.06 "343 Walnut Lane" - Nikita (Maggie Q), Michael (Shane West) and Richard Ellison (David Keith) © 2011 The CW Network, Photo by Ben Mark Holzberg

In terms of what we want to accomplish, up until now, we’ve had Nikita and Alex apart on parallel tracks in a lot of early episodes, so they haven’t had a lot of scenes together. They met in episode one and there was a cross-over in episode two, but since then they’ve been pretty separate.

We want to make sure that those roads start converging so we want to get to the point in episode ten where once you come back from that break, they’re going to inexorably meet. So that’s a big thing.

Along the way, we’re also dealing with overall missions of revenge and where the characters are in their individual respective missions, because even though they’re both driven by revenge, they’re very different.

Alex has had more betrayal in her life, so she’s headed somewhere that’s a little darker than Nikita. And Nikita is realizing that and wants to make sure she doesn’t get there, but Alex obviously has some big trust issues with her and that’s something she has to overcome.

While that’s happening, Nikita and Michael will be drifting apart, so with all of our characters, there’s a bit of a sine wave going in and out, in and out. That’s hopefully where you will feel the season going by then. If not, we’re doing something wrong!

Nikita, Season 2, Episode 10 “Guardians” airs December 2, 2011