The Player’s finale was an explosive episode, particularly for Cassandra King – who was abducted and interrogated by FBI agent Rose Nolan before her tragic past was revealed. Cassandra’s portrayer, actress Charity Wakefield, joined Strike Back Examiner before the finale to discuss the shocking interrogation scene and uncovering her character’s origin story.
In “Tell,” viewers learned that before she became “The Dealer” and before her military years, Cassandra was the only survivor of a slaughter that killed her father, mother and brother. While that information was a bombshell for the fans, it wasn’t for the actress. “I knew right from the pilot,” she told us.
“For me, it was actually wonderful to start to get the placement of that stuff because I knew the character trajectory right from the beginning,” Charity added, “and it’s been a slow burn storyline, but I think part of the frustration of being cut short is that we were beginning to explore that kind of material for my character. I was really looking forward to being able to play it out.”
Before The Player began, she’d been given a lot of information on Cassandra from the show’s co-creator, John Rogers. “He and I talked extensively right in the beginning,” she said. “You need to be ready for what you’re about to play or the areas that you’re going to investigate on screen so, I did know quite a lot actually.
“So, I know we don’t really know what’s going to be happening with the show in the future but I’m still holding the candle for it, just in case something wonderful happens and we do get to come back and do more.”
If “Tell” does end up being the last episode of the series, Charity left having done some of her bravest – and toughest – material yet. Thrown into the back of a van, Cassandra is brought to a secret interrogation room where she’s roughly searched, drugged, and ruthlessly questioned by Nolan (KaDee Strickland) in an ugly scene. What was it like to film those scenes?
“I love anything like that, anything that’s got the real feeling of intimacy and danger of it,” she explained. “In a sense it’s given to you in a play – you just put your mind there – and for me I find it much easier to play emotionally charged things than not. Having said that, the physical aspect of it all was, when I was doing it I felt completely in command of what I was doing.
“Then when you step out of the scene, you do sometimes get that emotional rush, because you do sort of go through it in a sense, because you’re committing to it emotionally. That can be a little bit of a reflux just after you finish the scene. Your body processes what you’ve just been through.
“We know at the end she had some inkling of what would happen. She went into it open-eyed, but to have your dress torn off you and to be blinded and all that kind of stuff, playing that out, it kind of does all these things to affect you,” she continued. “Your brain kind of computes what you’ve just gone through and you think about all sorts of things around it like people who might have gone through similar situations…I find it fascinating, it’s all good interesting experience.”
Also coming to a head in this installment is Cassandra’s relationship with Mr. Johnson (Wesley Snipes). Johnson doesn’t think that Cassandra trusts him, and she winds up pointing a gun at him to stop him fighting with Alex (Philip Winchester). So did we just witness the complete degradation of their relationship, or is it possible that Cassandra was never on his side to begin with?
“I do think they have a good relationship actually,” Charity said, “and I think that’s the sadness is, they certainly have a excellent working relationship, they work very well together. It’s almost fatherly-daughterly to a degree which is why they’re able to sort of, when you do know your parent very well, you’re able to rebel against them. She’s got a huge respect for him, but I mean if she were to find out something that she really genuinely didn’t know, that would shift things enormously and I think there would be fireworks because she’s under a certain impression.
“I think the real turn in that interrogation room is new for her. The only things perhaps she doesn’t know, having eyes on everything in her own and other people’s lives,” she added. “I feel this episode really shifts in tone and opens a completely new door to what would have been the rest of the season and potentially a new season.”
Whose side is she on – Johnson’s, Alex’s or even none of the above?
“I think in the immediate circumstances, I think there’s a part of her that really does have allegiance to The House,” Charity said. “It’s certainly given her thoughts of a family and a home where she hasn’t had one in real life, and she’s very connected to it on a day-to-day basis.
“I think underneath all the difficulties, she does have a strong sense of loyalty to [Johnson] and believes in a lot of what he believes in, in terms of sort of a sacred trust. It’s very complex, because I don’t think she really believes in The House in the way that he does. I don’t think she buys into this idea that they can take the law into their own hands.”
One challenge that Charity learned to master over the season was the art of acting with blue screens, as many of Cassandra’s computer displays are added in post-production. Since so much of her work is in front of those devices, we asked her how she adapted to the task.
“It’s pretty hard actually,” she laughed. “Certainly in the beginning, I definitely had a few days where because of the way the show works, often I would be doing a lot of my scenes back to back, and then the challenge was just a huge amount of dialogue and information that you have to deliver at breakneck speed. I think I just learned how to work for myself, because sometimes it works best when the information is actually scrolling in front of you, but sometimes that can’t happen because of the nature of filming.
“Sometimes I’m staring at nothing or sometimes they even need to take the screen away so that the camera can be roving. You can get two or three cameras sometimes roving in front of you. And if there isn’t an actual point of reference to look at and you’re delivering a lot of information, that can be really tough, so it’s sort of like a mental maze to jump through,” she continued.
“The crew were so amazing and so unbelievably helpful, so anytime it got tricky I would just put my hands up and go guys, what can we do here?” she added. “You’d put a little pink X on the corner of the screen for reference or hold something up. You just work together as a team, and I grew to really love those days because I was working so directly with this brilliant crew.”
Ultimately, while fans continue to hold out hope that The Player will get a reprieve either from NBC or another network to continue Cassandra’s journey, Charity is beyond grateful for their support as well as that of her colleagues. “It’s just been a joyful experience shooting it,” she enthused. “I just want to say thank you to the crew that was so amazing, and for me coming from doing something that has been really different from this – sort of historical pieces, stuff that’s much lighter and sweeter and naive – it’s been absolutely incredible to put out those darker sides. Keeping things back and excavating slowly has been fascinating to me to play out.
“The skill set involved in playing Cassandra, to build that with such an incredible, dedicated crew was really wonderful,” she reflected. “A guy named Michael Hexum is worth mentioning. He worked in props and he worked with all of the arms on the show, which there’s quite a lot of, and he completely took me under his wing and taught me so much. People went out of their way on this one to help us. So I want to give a huge thank-you to the crew.”
While building her character was a total team effort, there’s one thing we’ve learned from watching Charity Wakefield on The Player: she’s an actress to watch now and into the future.
The Player is now available on iTunes, Hulu and NBC.com.