EXCLUSIVE: ‘Nikita’ Star Shane West Talks Surprising Double-Death Finale
It's been a rollercoaster year for The CW's "Nikita" (Fridays at 8 p.m. ET). Despite a consistently compelling second season, the cerebral action series was considered to be a long shot for renewal right up until last week's announcement of a Season 3 pick-up.
Audiences have seen the show evolve in countless ways since it first premiered, but one of the biggest changes this season involved the expansion of what the cast has dubbed "Team Nikita," originally encompassing the core trio of Nikita (Maggie Q), Alex (Lyndsy Fonseca) and Michael (Shane West), who banded together to take down Division, the oppressive black ops agency that trained them. Last year, the odds seemed firmly stacked against our favorite rogue agents, but thanks to the addition of Birkhoff (Aaron Stanford), Sean (Dillon Casey), Ryan (Noah Bean) and occasionally Owen (Devon Sawa), "Nikita's" merry band of rebels has grown into a force to be reckoned with in Season 2.
HuffPost TV caught up with Shane West earlier this week, and he was quick to reassure us that "'Team Nikita' has been put together for a reason" this year, despite the fact that their heartwarming family rapport seems a little too idyllic to last (especially on a show where every character has a target on their back). West did admit that the May 18 season finale would feature "a significant loss," but also insisted that the episode was "probably our best yet."
Read on for HuffPost's exclusive discussion with West about potential plans for Season 3, Michael and Nikita's tumultuous relationship, and which "La Femme Nikita" star he hopes to lure in for a cameo. Caution: Spoilers ahead.
Congratulations on the well-deserved renewal. Have you had any discussions with Craig or Maggie about what the game plan for Season 3 will be and where you might go?
Thank you very much. I think when you see the season finale, it will be enough for the audience to understand what’s going to happen ... This is the first [interview] I’ve had since finding out now we are [picked up]. It’s a weird feeling ... The finale of Season 1 and the finale of Season 2 were written, I think, very well in the sense that we wanted to wrap up some storylines and keep things open just in case it wasn’t canceled and just in case it was canceled. I think this year, it is such a transition. The finale is going to be open to so many paths and so many storylines that it’ll be fair game for Season 3 with whatever we really want to write. I haven’t had too many deep conversations with them yet. I’m assuming we may have some this week in New York [at The CW's upfronts presentation for the upcoming TV season on Thursday, May 17]. If not, I’ll be having one in a month-and-a-half anyway.
You usually start filming in early July, correct? Do you have time to look at any film projects over hiatus before you go back to work?
Well, there’s a couple of indies that I would like to do that look possible. But now, it feels like we need to be going first week of June. I think we were pretty much ready for the middle to the end of June, so I may be S.O.L. in a couple of projects. But that's kind of how it goes when you’re on television. You have a very small window. Nowadays, there are very small independents that are being shot and there are giant blockbusters like "Hunger Games." That middle movie in the $15 to $20 million budget has seemed to have disappeared. So, it's more difficult when you're on television to squeeze into a film when you have two months off.
Let's talk about this week's "Nikita" finale. What I've loved about the latter half of Season 2 is that there's been a real family dynamic within the team. It's no longer just Nikita and Alex or Nikita and Michael on the run; you really get the sense that they've created this makeshift family together with Birkhoff and now, Sean and Ryan. Is that something you enjoy, or has the shift proved challenging?
I think what has proved challenging with the group is more of the actual filming process. It's more people in the scene, more coverage, longer hours, things like that. But the positives are much stronger. For me, it's a lot of fun -- Noah [Bean] and Dillon [Casey] are a great addition to the cast and ... everyone seems to be complete opposites from each other. So, it’s a great dynamic that is brought in for Team Nikita. I think it’ll be very interesting to see how this will work out in Season 3. But I think it’s exciting. It scares you when you put a lot of people together, when you build a Justice League or whatever because you worry that one of them has to go.
We've heard that there will be a significant loss in the finale. Is there anything you can hint without spoiling?
I’m not even sure there’s a way I can hint. [Laughs.] You know, there is a significant loss. But I can say that there is a loss of more than one that isn’t being talked about as much. Some people will miss that character as well. We’re storming the castle. You saw in the second-to-last episode with it being "to be continued," where Nikita is now locked into Division and essentially, so is Michael. He’s not going anywhere either. You have the rest of the cast up above ground. It can easily be one of the bad guys, but it can be one of the Team Nikita, as I was just talking about. I’m kind of trying to leave all the options open. The way it’s done was done very well, in theory; I haven’t been able to see it yet. Thanks to the upfronts, I may not actually be seeing the finale when it airs on Friday. But the way it was written-- and then, when I talked to Maggie about it too, who loved it -- the scenes have gone very well and I think that this finale is going to be -- not even just hyping the show -- probably this is our best episode yet.
Percy has been such a fabulous and truly effective adversary over the past two seasons. There's been a lot of focus on Nikita's vendetta against Percy, but in a lot of ways, Michael has just as much motivation to take him down, after what Percy had Kasim do to him and his family. Does Michael have any moments with Percy in the finale that satisfied you from a character perspective?
Actually, no. [Laughs.] Not enough -- but it doesn’t mean that I’m upset by that at all. I feel like Michael’s had his times and his moments with Percy, even a few more recently in the "Wrath" episode where he tries to get Nikita back. But it’s been a bummer for me from an acting perspective in the sense that I didn’t get to really work with Xander [Berkeley] as much this year. I only mean that from just being disappointed because it was so much fun working with him in year one. Even though it clearly has to be this way and this is how the storylines should go and this is the way I want it to be, you do kind of miss walking around Division in those suits and acting opposite Xander, who’s a wonderful actor. I thank god for the flashbacks because I got to do a few with him and a few with Melinda [Clarke] and actually wear the suit and be in Division again. That was fun.
I love that the show utilizes flashbacks so effectively. The fans seem to love them and it really deepens the relationships and subtext for present-day scenes.
It really helped out. You can just do countless sub-stories and subplots with that and backstories. It’s a wonderful thing; as long as no one does anything too radical with their hair, we’ll be all right with the flashbacks.
Michael was in a fairly unique position in Division, having trained so many of the recruits. Will those relationships come into play in the finale in any way?
Oh yes, for sure. Without giving too much away, Michael and Nikita are going to be starting the finale off somewhere in the bowels of Division; separated, but both in Division. Consequently, there is going to be a lot of action and fire and a lot of run-ins with Division security, agents, recruits, like everyone. So, there are going to be moments for both Nikita and Michael stepping up vocally to express their feelings and their wishes and their disappointments about how Division is run and what’s become of Division. I think that these speeches were very well written. They’re pretty classic.
Nikita and Michael have had a fairly tumultuous year. Where do you think they're headed in Season 3?
Well, one of the things I can say is, the fans will be happy to know that they will be together. They are together ending Season 2 and going into Season 3. But sort of like the ending of Season 1, it is open for interpretation. It's ripe with possibilities. There’s a lot of things that can happen that can come and pull them apart again. That’s something that I think is necessary for a storyline, because it can’t just be the perfect couple and there you go. Otherwise, we should have waited to bring them together in Season 6 or 7. They’re different; Michael’s very conservative and Nikita’s very liberal. Without also giving things away, when you see how it ends and what their current destiny is going to be, they’re going to have different opinions on how to handle the situation. It’s also going to bring back a lot of bad memories; some good memories, but mainly, bad memories for them personally. That’ll be something they’ll have to learn to deal with as well.
I remember hearing rumblings that if you were renewed, Craig [Silverstein, the show's executive producer] was looking at having Noah Bean join the cast as a regular in Season 3*. Michael and Ryan seem to have developed a fairly comfortable working relationship, judging by "Dead Drop," so I'm assuming that Michael doesn't see him as a rival for Nikita's affections?
[*Editor's note: A rep for Warner Bros. confirmed to HuffPost TV that Bean has a series deal for next season.]
I get in trouble every time I answer this. [Laughs.] I don’t think -- and this is just me; Maggie can say whatever she likes, Craig can say whatever he likes -- but I really don’t think Michael's that jealous of a person. Not meaning he’s uber-confident. But in the over-the-top situations that these agents have in this world that's been created, knowing so much about Nikita’s background -- I think he’s pretty confident that Nikita is in love with him. He is now confident about that, and vice versa. I mean, he dropped his life in Division, he left Percy and everything to be with her. Because that’s such a dramatic change for his life, I don’t see him going for someone else. Some truly tragic things have to happen to I think really break them up. That could happen. It would probably happen on Nikita's side more than it would Michael’s because of Nikita's storied past and her issues with men in general. Michael was fine with his wife and his kid, like, he would have been fine forever that way [without cheating]. I mean, I sense that he could have been jealous of Owen’s [Devon Sawa] character. But I didn’t take it that route once they wrote in the fact that Owen had killed Nikita's love. At that point, I wouldn’t be, Shane wouldn’t be jealous, and I wouldn’t think Michael would be either, because if she went for someone that killed one of the loves of her life then that’s pretty warped.
I think Ryan’s a little bit more dangerous because he’s an unknown. He’s more of an analyst; he’s not a fighter, he’s more the brains instead of the brawn. I can sense if they’re separated, a bit of jealousy coming out. But I don’t think naturally it will happen with Michael. I think he’s more amused or intrigued. Then, I think it’ll depend on what scripts they write, clearly. If Michael disappears for six episodes and it’s Ryan and Nikita for six straight episodes, yeah, Michael will probably be [bothered by that].
What I appreciate about Nikita and Michael's relationship is that it really does seem solid. Nikita's issues are tied to her backstory and her own insecurities, but both of them, as a couple, seem to accept each other for who they are, regardless of the terrible, traumatic things they've been through. I think it's one of the biggest strengths of the series, that unconditional love.
Thank you. I think they're two peas from the same pod, really -- different original backgrounds, but with so much darkness in their life that they are the light of each other's life and lives. I’m glad you said that, and I feel like the audience has been able to witness that too, especially with their creations of Mikita and Shaggie and things like that ... You could see them with other characters for a little bit, but I don’t think you’d want to see them separated for too long.
You had some great character beats this season, between Michael's relationship with Nikita and his discovery of Cassandra and Max -- were there any moments or developments you were particularly pleased with?
Season 1, Craig told me everything that he wanted to do with the character of Michael. He actually did it all -- I was surprised and happy. It was great. Everything happened in one year with the team and the family, bringing them together and Michael leaving Division and all that stuff.
In Season 2, I really got nothing for backstory, so, it was a lot of figuring things out from episode to episode. We knew there was going to be a break between Michael and Nikita. But I think almost everyone assumed that it would have been Nikita’s fault. But they wrote in the whole Cassandra and Max thing, which kind of put it on Michael’s shoulders, which was going against the grain -- another thing that I like about our show. I enjoyed it very much. Helena [Mattsson] is a wonderful person and it was fun to work with her. And with Illarion Unhuryan -- I never really had a son before, so that was great and he was adorable. Clearly because of the fan reaction, it was a tough storyline to get through. Michael’s so passionate about his family in the past, his current family, taking care of people, taking care of the recruits and soldiers when he was at Division. Now that he has this son, this is something he can’t just walk away from.
When we were able to hide Cassandra and Max and put them in a safe place, I think that was a smart way of writing out the story, of leaving it open if we were ever to venture into it again. That was a lot of fun for me. But it was all a surprise. Then I got a lot more fun things this year. I got to have a rapport with Owen, which no one expected and worked out great. We actually clamored for more episodes, even though it was supposed to be this rivalry. It started to turn into kind of a fun friendship kind of thing. With Noah, it was great because I never really got to work with him as much. So, that was fun in the last three or four episodes. I know the fans love Michael and Birkhoff’s rapport. As long as that can continue, I’m always happy there as well. And I got a little bit more in with Lyndsy -- I wish there was more with Michael and Alex this year. This just didn’t seem like it was the right time. There’ll be a lot more, I’m sure, in the next year now that we’re all somewhat of a team.
Is there anything you're still hoping to discover or delve into with Michael next season -- perhaps more of his background with the Navy?
Yeah, I think Navy would be a little interesting. I mean, I'm assuming his background in the Navy was already done in the first year of the Kasim storyline, at least the most interesting part for viewers. But I’d love to see the beginning of Michael in Division. The first couple of years, pre-Nikita, [was] that transitional thing of him being more of a lighthearted soul to becoming this robotic automaton to now, where he’s somewhere in between and goes a little back and forth -- at least that’s what I’ve been trying to do. I would love to see some of his missions with other characters.
What I’d love to see, too, is who might have trained Michael. I think that’s a great guest star possibility. My idea, which I thought would be a lot of fun so we might as well put it in print, was getting Roy Dupuis, who played Michael in "La Femme Nikita." He’s a Montreal actor. I think he mainly stays there, but if he’d at all be interested, that would be kind of fun and great for the franchise as well ... That’s what I’d love. But from a background perspective, maybe Michael’s last name, maybe where Michael might have lived at some point, those little things. I guess for the future it would just be, for Season 3 -- that aren’t flashbacks -- it would be great to see how the relationships develop and how deep they can become or how much deeper they can become.
What else can you tease about the finale to really whet the audience's appetite?
Well, we have a major death happening. We also have another death happening. It’ll be a double surprise, one more surprising than the other. I think they’re both done and handled very well. Fortunately, and here’s a tease, I’m not a part of any of them. I didn’t get to have fun with any of that. I won’t be involved in those death scenes. My character’s still running around and stuck. But with those deaths, with those endings, there’s also a new beginning. There’s two new beginnings for other characters that are explored. Where there’s dark, there is light. You’ll see both of those things happening. My god, that's four things already happening! I think with the actual finale there’s going to be a great Mikita moment for those fans at the very end of the episode. Team Nikita has been put together for a reason. It's going to lead to a lot of open doors and a lot of possibilities and a lot of problems.
The "Nikita" Season 2 finale airs Friday, May 18 at 8 p.m. ET on The CW.
Who do you think will die in the finale, and where do you think Team Nikita is headed in Season 3? Share your predictions below!
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