Exclusive Interview Nikita

Exclusive Interview: Carlos Coto

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Writers are the unsung heroes of our favorite TV shows, and Carlos Coto has written a number of Nikita‘s most memorable and pivotal episodes to date. As our beloved Nikita enters its final season, this incredibly talented writer discusses some of the show’s most iconic moments, and his inspiring journey as a writer.
Oh and Mr. Coto, thank you for the photos.

When did you realize you wanted to be a television writer, and how did you go about accomplishing that goal?

I always wanted to be a storyteller. I think I started my first novel in the sixth grade. It was about a kid chosen to protect earth by a secret “Council of 7” on another planet. Still working on that.

My parents are Cuban exiles, and I grew up in a house full of stories. About Cuba, about family, about another time and place and a panoply of characters that still crowds my brain. Cubans love to talk. A lot. So there were a lot of storytellers in my family. A great uncle back in Cuba was a songwriter named Juan Arrondo. He wrote some hit boleros in the fifties. There were other aunts and uncles who were poets. My grandmother was a gifted poet and pianist in her own right and taught me to love stories. And books. Whenever I got a new book, she taught me the importance of writing my name and the date in it. Stories and words were things to be treasured. All of the kids picked up that love for self-expression. My sister’s a budding novelist and my older brother, Manny, writes for Dexter and 24 (among other things). I got the film bug from him. I was the unofficial “P.A.” on the Super 8 movies he made in high school. Then, when I got into high school, I made my own Super 8’s. Easier than doing a book report. I remember I chose Edgar Rice Burroughs’ Tarzan as a book report in High School and made a whole movie about Tarzan being captured and shipped to modern-day Orlando, Florida (my hometown) by accident. It was epic – in my mind – but it taught me the basics of film language and a love for telling visual stories.

After college at the University of Miami, I became a reporter for The Miami Herald. That was all about stories, too. I didn’t know it at the time, but it was really a training ground for television. Instead of pitching network executives, I was pitching editors. They’d assign me stories (episodes?) and I’d go find the interview subjects (characters?), talk to them, then write. I’m still a reporter. Whenever I sit down to write an episode, the characters gather in my brain and I report on their actions (Sometimes Craig comes in and changes their actions, so I change my reporting). Being Cuban-American, however, the challenge for me is always to just shut up and let them talk.

Anyway, if there was ever a “realization” to become a TV writer, it happened after I moved to Los Angeles in 1992. Manny had just sold a screenplay for a million dollars (it was called The Ticking Man) and he was urging me to come out. So I came out to write movies. I was going to be the next Shane Black. I locked myself in an apartment, my wife went to (actual) work and I wrote. Seven movies. None of them did anything, but one (a version of Die Hard in the White House called 1600 Penn), ended up on somebody’s desk at the video game company, Activision. They hired me to work on an espionage game called Spycraft. I met an agent, Dan Brecher, at the company Christmas party and he took me in. I was going to be his “interactive client.” Forget the next William Goldman, I was going to be the next great game designer. Well, a few years later, the game industry bubble burst. Dan looked at me and said, “Why don’t you write a TV spec?”

I wrote a spec episode of ER. Sitting down to write that involved, in the archaic 1990s, gathering VCR tapes of the show, watching them repeatedly and breaking down the episodes into beats. I figured out how ER put together their stories, I researched with my other brother, Jorge (a medical student at the time) and I cobbled together an episode. That script got me an assignment on a show called New York News. It was a short-lived newspaper show starring Mary Tyler Moore as the editor of a New York Post-style newspaper. I was hired to do a freelance episode. It was episode No. 11 – but they only aired seven episodes. So it never saw the light of day. But I got a VCR tape of it. So there.

The ER script kept paying off. It got me freelance work on Viper and the Sentinel and finally landed me my first staff job on The Pretender. The creators of that show, Steve Mitchell and Craig Van Sickle, were really the first people to look at me, take me seriously, and tell me I could do it. And I did it. And I made mistakes. And I learned the craft. Pretender ran for four seasons, I wrote 13 or 14 of them and learned everything from pre-production to post. It was a graduate school, a training ground and crazy thrill ride. Those guys turned me from a writer to a writer-producer, which is at the heart of what we do in TV. (Too many showrunners these days don’t do that anymore, and it’s a huge mistake. Writers aren’t just writers in television. They need to understand the process, top-to-bottom. That’s the only way they’ll ever fully grasp the medium they’re supposed to be mastering.)

I learned a lot on The Pretender, but I continue to learn. Every day. The actors, directors, craftsmen and other professionals I collaborate with on Nikita teach me something every time I produce an episode. Not to mention the writers. We all stand on each other’s shoulders.

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Maggie with me and my family on the “Paris” rooftop for Knightfall” 

In the late 90s, you worked on Mortal Kombat Conquest; one of the first shows I ever loved as a kid. How do you look back on that experience today?

I really didn’t work on the series. I just wrote the pilot. It was the first pilot I ever wrote. I remember, I was so green that they brought Manny in to supervise me. He basically helped shape the story and was there to rewrite me in case I screwed it up. It gave me the confidence I needed to do it. I wrote the pilot for Fox and they passed on it – instead, they picked up Shaun Cassidy’s Roar, a Braveheart knock-off starring Heath Ledger. That ended up going 13 episodes. The Mortal Kombat producers took my pilot into syndication and put it together as a series.

Two things happened in the interim, though. I got the Pretender job. That was a network job, a big break. Also, the Mortal Kombat producers had me in to discuss turning the pilot into two parts. We had two or three sessions, we worked out all kinds of cool stuff – then they fired me. For no reason that I could see. Unlike the Pretender guys, they did not trust me, they did not believe I could do it. But they took all my ideas, gave them to a new writer and set him off to rewrite me.

The story was solid enough that all he really changed was dialog. I had created a whole new universe – even some new characters (Taja and Siro) – so when the Writers’ Guild arbitrated the credit, I ended up with sole “Developed by.” I was proud of my work on that show, but I didn’t love what they did with the actual series. It could have had a lot more edge and a darker soul. It was hard to watch, too, because they shot it in Orlando! Still makes me insane when I think about it – first pilot I ever write, I get fired from it – and they shoot it in my hometown. It was the first of many black eyes this business gave me. I tend to shake those off, though, when the next thing comes along – ’cause the next thing is almost always better.

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It’s no secret that Heroes lost a lot of goodwill throughout its run. Where do you think the show lost its way?

I was lucky enough to work on Heroes when we were getting our good will back – Season IV, which IMHO (and in the opinion of a lot of the fans) was the second-best season after Season I. It was a real privilege to work on that show and give it a proper ending. We brought it full circle with Nathan and Peter and of course, Claire. Oh, and Sylar.

I remember one of my first days on that show, I met Ali Larter and she said, “Oh, you’re replacing Bryan [Fuller].” I was like – “No one can replace Bryan.” That was true. He had helped lay the groundwork for a very cool season – the carnival of specials with Robert Knepper as the villain. Bryan also left behind an excellent story about a kid who gets singled out in a small town because he’s a special. It was a Matthew Shepard allegory. I took that notion and tried my best to do it justice. Ali and Jack Coleman really delivered on that episode (as did Mark L. Young, who played the kid). That season also came together for me because of Knepper. A story’s only as good as its villain, and Robert always brings humanity and nuance to the baddies he portrays.

I also loved the way we ended it, with Claire revealing her powers to the world on live TV, coming full circle from the home video she made with Zach in the pilot. Frankly, I thought it opened up the world for a Season V, and I pushed for that. Tim Kring wanted it, too, but NBC decided against it. Maybe the “loss of good will” the show had suffered in the early seasons was too great. I don’t know. And I don’t really pretend to know why things went bad after Season I. My instinct is that they just got too ambitious. This whole world opened up to them – both narratively and economically. Heroes became big business, and everyone from NBC on down tried to capitalize on it. Trouble is, no one was minding the store. They lost sight of the story, and the wheels came off.

I hear they want to bring it back as an Xbox series. I think that’d be great. Tim created an awesome world and it deserves to be explored, especially now that it’s been opened up.

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You worked on 24 in season seven. Now that the show is returning as an event series next year, is that something you’re excited to see?

I’m stoked. Manny is back on the show – he’s running it – so I know it’s gonna be bad-ass. He’s shared some tasty nuggets about what they’re doing, but I’m afraid I can’t share it forward. Jack might show up and duct-tape me to a chair or something.

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 Tell us a bit about how you came on to join the Nikita writing staff.

Mainly it was thanks to Craig Silverstein, whom I’d worked for on his first show, Standoff. He called me about it. I had just finished Heroes and was fielding some other staffing jobs. The second I read Nikita I knew I wanted to work on it – not only because it was Craig, but because the story was so strong. And the show knew what it wanted to be. You read so many pilots and they’re almost always concepts or characters in search of a series. Nikita was on point – and it’s dark and rich and full-bodied – like a good Cabernet (sorry, I’m a bit of a wine fiend). I just had to get in on it.

Anyway, Nikita was also in the espionage world, which had always been in my wheelhouse going back to my first gig on that computer game. Also, growing up Cuban, conspiracies and espionage are part of the conversation. In many ways, Nikita allowed me to do all the things I wasn’t allowed to do on 24. More epic, graphic-novel-style storytelling, humor, deeper character study. The second I got in there and Craig let me start playing in his sandbox, I knew I was gonna be happy. It’s been four seasons of grinning ear-to-ear, tossing that sand around and building stuff. I’m sad that the school bell had to ring and we’ve gotta come in from recess.

One of the first episodes you ever wrote for Nikita was Dark Matter,” which introduced the character of Ryan Fletcher. What do you think of his journey so far and did you ever have any idea he would morph into such an integral part of the show?

Fletch has been a constant revelation and inspiration – thanks in no small part to Noah Bean, who really brought the character to life. The idea was to create a real-world analyst who could uncover Division and provide, narratively, the moral soul of the series. He was the guy who looked objectively on what was happening on the show – like a viewer might – and say, “Hold up. Maybe our government shouldn’t be doing this.” He was supposed to help us ground the show, and the character did that in ways we never expected. He ended up grounding the concept, the world – and Nikita herself.

Again, it was Noah’s performance. It was so real and full of truth from the jump. I knew it the very first day we shot him and he pulled off the line about Division where he tells the CIA director, with a straight face, that “these people are like the dark matter of the universe…” It was a decidedly arch line – remember, the show’s a graphic novel! – and I wasn’t sure an actor would be able to pull it off. Craig wasn’t sure about the line, either, trust me, but that’s what’s great about Craig – he respects individual inspiration. He let it ride. Of course, I also made it the title of the episode – a cheap TV writer’s trick. Build a moat around the line and there’s no way they’ll be able to cut it! The subject of dark matter had been in the news, and I knew Fletch was a guy who ingested all kinds of news – he was always looking for patterns – so it would be bopping around in his brain. In the end, Noah took the line and made it sound like Fletch was making it up in the moment. He’s a truly gifted actor. I give him cheese, he makes soufflé.

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With Craig Silverstein on the set of “Homecoming.”

I’ve always felt that “Fair Trade” was by far the strongest episode of the first half of Nikita’s second season. From spotlighting Nikita and Birkhoff’s poignant relationship, to Amanda going completely unhinged (the epic hammer smash). Talk us through the writing process of this superb episode and the amusing coincidence of your writing two episodes with the word “Trade” in the title.

To me, that episode was born in the pilot. Nikita takes Birkhoff hostage and tells him she’s going to take down Division. Birkhoff laughs and says, “You’re gonna have to kill your way through a lot of people.” In other words – You’re gonna have to pay a high price. Well, what if that price became Birkhoff? After a full season on the other side, Birkhoff had now joined Nikita’s fight. We were at episode 209 and the idea came up – what if Birkhoff gets caught and gets put in the crossfire? What if there’s a real cost to Nikita’s war?

More often than not, that’s when our best episodes come together. Nikita makes a choice – a bold, bad-ass choice – and it causes consequences for the people she loves. “Fair Trade” was about Nikita pushing to identify the members of Oversight. Birkhoff cautions her against this. Don’t push too hard. She says it’ll be a cakewalk. We’re just going to identify these guys, not take anyone hostage. Sure enough, it goes south and Birkhoff gets grabbed. Nikita finds herself alone – without Michael, who’s in London dealing with his newfound son – and she has to fix something she broke. So she gives up the Black Box for Birkhoff’s life. “Fair Trade” indeed.

As for the title, that was deliberate. I had done “Rough Trade” in Season One – a title that Craig came up with. I like the idea of repeating motifs in our titles and stories, especially when similar themes are being explored. Truth is, a lot of our episodes end up being these kinds of moves – captures, negotiations, brinksmanship and finally, a trade. Hopefully a trade that costs everyone a high price on all sides. It’s one of the tropes of the espionage genre, the way a duel is in a western. Two gunslingers meet at high noon and draw. In our case, two sides meet at a (metaphorical) bridge and walk prisoners across to one another. Or they trade for some prized object.

The moment when Birkhoff’s hand gets smashed came up in the room. Craig pitched it and I just went with it. From there I was able to build all the stuff between Birkhoff and Amanda (and, btw, hint at what was to come with Sonya). I knew those scenes would be dynamic because Melinda and Aaron were in them. Still, I wanted to make sure they meant something and that the hammer smash had (no pun) impact. By the time it got into the director’s hands – it was Nick Copus, who I’d done “Rough Trade” with – I knew it was going to sing. They rehearsed those scenes on a Sunday together and were able to get all the kinks out. That’s why Amanda moves around the chair like a ballet dancer. I mean, no one slinks better than Melinda. The whole episode came together so seamlessly, and it was really two “A” stories in one episode – let’s not forget there was a whole Alex-becomes-a-stripper-to-get-into-Russia story in that one, too. Nick really pulled it off and when Craig watched the cut, he literally SCREAMED when Amanda smashed Birkhoff’s hand. I’ll never forget hearing that from Craig’s office. It was a great feeling, and I knew it would have the same effect on the audience.

The real money, though, came in the final Nikita/Birkhoff scene in the beach house. Nick had this crazy idea that Birkhoff would be making Margaritas. I wasn’t sure, but by now I’d learned to let it ride. That detail, and the amazing and subtle work by Maggie and Aaron, brought out the truth in that moment. It’s one of the moments I’m most proud of in the whole series. In fact, the episode I’m doing right now, 403, is very much a sequel to “Fair Trade,” and it delves more deeply into the Nikita/Birkhoff relationship. As Maggie pointed out to me the other day, Nikita and Birkhoff really have the most unique relationship on the show. He can say things to her that no one else can. And it started in the pilot.

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An Instagram shot of Lyndsey Fonseca/Alex.

I can’t tell you how much I love “Power.” It’s an utterly spectacular hour of television and my all-time favorite episode of Nikita. How did you tap into the fantastic, layered relationship between Nikita and Amanda?

The relationship was there to be tapped. And this one not only went back to the pilot for me, it went back to the original Besson film. If you watch the flashback scenes in the episode, when Nikita’s speaking French with Amanda and they’re prepping for the Ramon mission, there are direct references to the scenes between Anne Parillaud and Jeanne Moreau. And it’s no accident the scene was in French.

Episodes begin for me with the characters. Whether you’re linking new ones together or setting others to clash. In this case, it was really all about a trade again and we had plenty to play with. Ari makes a move to take over Zetrov and Alex cuts him off in that board meeting – Lyndsy killed it in that episode. And oh yeah, we had a whole caper in which they steal the “H.E.3” device.

Still, it was all about getting Nikita and Amanda in that lab. On opposite sides of that glass. Nikita locked herself in a room with a very valuable device. Amanda wanted it. She’d do anything to get it. Even kill Nikita. Or would she? A trade that demands a high price for all sides involved… Any other show would have been fine with just those parameters – now, on top of that, we had this awesomely rich mother-daughter, mentor-student relationship we could dig into.

Every episode is a discovery for me, and, if all goes well, a revelation. Like “Fair Trade” and so many others, “Power” took on a life of its own. When I started to explore Nikita and Amanda’s life together in Division, then brought it full circle to the present, I started to hear and see things that blew me away. It all came down to an essential truth – Amanda had made Nikita. She’d given her a gift. Made her strong, powerful and pretty. And how did Nikita repay her? She rejected everything about her “mother” and she ran away. That’s a simple, deep truth that speaks to everyone, and when you can work in this genre, and wade through all the noise of a spy show and find that, you know you’ve been given a gift. Shut up and put it in the scene. By the time we got to the set, I sat down with Maggie and Melinda, we ran those scenes, and we streamlined it, so that the truth was at the heart of the scene.

Amanda was truly hurt in that scene, and Melinda, to her credit, carried it off. Not an easy thing to do when you play a villain. And Maggie? Maggie went to some dark places in that scene. It was all about abuse and abandonment and betrayal. It wasn’t easy for her. She had to tap into some stuff, but she went there. It was one of those days when I felt privileged to work with her.

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The white-board in the writers’ room – where everything is built.

Homecoming is one of my favorite finales of all time. You did such a tremendous job of bringing everything together for an epic collision, that I remember feeling like the ending (“here we go again”) would have left me satisfied had the show been unjustly cancelled. How overwhelming was it to sit down and really crack the finale word for word? Especially one that signaled such a monumental turning point for the show.

Crafting the episode wasn’t tough in the sense that we had enough story. We had plenty of story – and we knew it was all about Nikita’s climactic clash with Percy. The trick was, as with every finale, figuring out a way to balance all the elements and make sure everything – and everyone – got their due.

It was frankly a blast from start to finish. That’s not to say it wasn’t easy – but it was made easier by the team of artists assembled for this show. By the time our Toronto production team, led by Marc Alpert, started working on it, I could tell it was going to be something special. Marc and production designer Andrew Stearn outdid themselves. You’ll see the attached photo of the rig they made for the shot of Nikita sliding down the tube – just that was amazing enough. Then there were the two or three days of shooting at the farm – creating the missile silo and the final Percy assault. Marc even went back and directed some second unit shots and insisted on bringing in a cow so that the military trucks could drive past it.

Eagle Egilsson brought so much to it that I don’t even know where to begin – although the obvious place would be Percy’s death. We just figured Percy would fall and land on his cell. Eagle designed a whole sequence that revealed the death and put the emphasis on the characters. It was more than a death, it was a good-bye.

It was also cool that Craig asked me to write it. Really cool. The story break was intense, but we managed to balance all the elements. After that, it was a matter of writing, then cutting, then re-writing, then trimming, then re-writing again.

The most amazing thing that happened during shooting, though, was the realization that the Act VI wasn’t quite working. It came after a note we got from Danny Cannon (EP, director of the pilot, “Dark Matter,” and many others) and Maggie herself. They felt there was something about the last-act structure that wasn’t compelling. Nikita’s storyline was ending too soon. It was like the air came out of the story. We realized we had made the mistake of treating Percy’s death as the end of the episode. It was most certainly a climax, but Nikita’s story wasn’t over. I had written all the stuff about her taking over Division, but it was sort of rote. It just “happened,” but it wasn’t especially dramatic. So, we created the entire sequence when the Marines nearly get in and Ryan has to come down and negotiate with Nikita. Oh, and I was able to keep the Birkhoff/Sonya kiss, which was key – I knew Nikita and Mike would have theirs. Why not share the love?

I tend to put my stuff through a lot of revisions anyway – I have to find it – but “Homecoming” I really kept alive and organic throughout the process. New ideas kept occurring to me throughout, and there were certain things I would not sacrifice – like the Michael/Nikita flashbacks, Birkhoff’s kiss – or Nikita sliding down that tube. I was intent on showing people parts of Division – and Nikita’s story – they had never seen. It paid off, and it was a real thrill.

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Re-breaking the end of “Homecoming” with Craig in Toronto.

You wrote two of the most powerful episodes in season three: “With Fire” – which had Nikita torturing Ari as well as some wonderful parallels between Nikita/Michael and Amanda/Ari…. and “Invisible Hand” – which I found stronger than the finale with its brilliant Nikita-Amanda face-off. Tell us a bit about writing these two episodes.

“With Fire” was all about one line. Ari to Nikita: “There’s no forever in this business.” It hit me in the room break. Soon as I had that, I knew I could build a story about Nikita vs. Ari and all the revelations it would bring – about Amanda, about Michael and about Nikita herself. From there, it was about keeping the story as simple and raw as possible. We knew it was going to have torture, and we knew it was going to do something the show had never done before – it was going bring the violence of the Nikitaverse to the real world.

It was not an easy thing. We weren’t dealing with Gogol or Ramon or some other made-uppy kind of terrorist group. We were dealing with Islamists who were angry about America’s drone war, something very real and grounded. I was concerned about it, and the week we finished shooting it, the massacre happened at Sandy Hook elementary. Violence against innocents was on everybody’s mind. Of course, it was Amanda who had taken Saalim’s very real emotion and twisted it into vengeance. That’s what brought the story into our graphic novel world, but only a little bit. These people were throwing grenades in elevators and gunning down Middle Americans at fruit stands. If you rewatch that episode, you’ll notice the violence done by the terrorists is mostly implied – we cut away from it at the first possible moment. But we linger on the violence Nikita does to Ari. We revel in it. That was deliberate, and it all led to the revelation that Ari was protecting his son. The only thing that matters. The people you love. That’s the only forever in the business and it’s what Nikita always felt about Michael. She wants their “forever” to be possible, but doesn’t know that it ever can be. That’s what Season IV is all about.

“Invisible Hand” started out the way many episodes start late in the season – in a panic. Holy crap, we have all this plot we have to deal with and it’s all coming together and how are we going to tie it all up and who’s going to face-off with whom and wait-a-second, Amanda’s got this big plan and how’s she gonna tell Nikita? Whew.

Bottom line? We knew Amanda had trapped Michael with a new hand and that she was going to use that to force Nikita to kill the President. In the room, we called it “The Vise.” Amanda would clamp down on Nikita in this episode and that would create a situation that would make Nikita’s life hell – into the finale and into Season IV. So, it was really all about how best to get Nikita and Amanda together without either of them losing their power. They had crossed a lot in the season (in 307, 313 and 318), so this clash really needed to mean something.

We had the vise, but how to make it richer? Well we obviously had Maggie and Melinda. And all that Nikita and Amanda stuff. Except we’d gone past mother and daughter and mentor and student. We needed something new. The revelation was the Michael of it all. Amanda wanted to do worse than kill Nikita, she wanted to make her life a living hell and make it impossible for her to be with the man she loves. That’s why the scene builds to the moment where Nikita falls to her knees and says “My life is over…” And she drops her gun… and she doesn’t pick it up and try to make a move.

It’s a testament to Maggie that she wanted this from the jump. She came to me after reading the script and said, “Nikita’s gotta lose in this episode. She’s gotta lose all the way.” When you have a star who’s willing to do that, you know you’re golden.

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Mikita on the monitor during the “Homecoming” farm shoot.

Which episode do you think is the best the show has produced so far? And from the ones you wrote, which are you proudest of?

Wrath is the best we’ve done. It’s the one that’s gonna be at the top of every list, and it should be. Albert Kim nailed that script, Jeff Hunt brought it to life, Maggie and Shane delivered on so many levels. And the story had everything. Nikita pushes too hard, Madeline Pierce gets killed – and Nikita’s loved ones (Sean, Michael) pay the price. On top of that, the Brandt character comes out of her past – Nikita has many demons and here was a literal one. He stirs up everything in Nikita’s dark soul and then Michael puts himself on the line. It was a perfect balance of action and emotion and everything we do so well. Negotiation and brinksmanship – and yes, a trade – as drama. It fired on all cylinders.

My other favorites tend to be anything written by Kristen Reidel. Echoes,” Shadowalker and Self-Destruct,” which is the great unsung episode of Season III.

Of the ones I’ve written, I’d have to say I’m proudest of the Season II finale, “Homecoming.” That one had it all for me and it was the culmination of Nikita’s two year war on Percy. It allowed me to bring so much together for our characters, and making it was filled with all kinds of revelations and surprises. It was the first time I got to work with Eagle Egilsson, and he hit it out of the park. He brought so much scale to it and we were feeling it from the start. By the time we did “With Fire,” we were finishing each other’s thoughts.

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My pretentious shot of”Homecoming” director Eagle Egilsson inside the Division barn (with “fingers of God” lighting in the b.g., natch)


Which character do you most enjoy writing for and why?

That’s like asking me what my favorite wine is. They all have different flavor profiles and they’re all transcendent in their own way. And I love ’em all. Same with our cast. Every one of them has brought their character to life and every time I sit down to hear that character speak (yes, I’m still a reporter), new truths are revealed to me.

Now, if you put a gun to my head (which often happens in the Nikitaverse), I’d say my favorite character to write for was Percy (may he rest in peace). He’s such a fascinating and morally complex character, and as broad as he can get, he surprisingly allowed us to ground the show in new and surprising ways. I realized it when I was writing my first episode, the scene between him and Michael near the end of “Rough Trade.” Percy starts talking about 9/11 and how important Homeland Security was to the administration. He’s not exactly wrong in that scene. He’s not wrong in a lot of scenes, which is what makes him interesting. Xander Berkeley was able to capture the humanity in the character and make him a dimensional villain. It’s not an easy thing to do, but it’s like I said – your story’s only as good as your villain. I think that’s why I enjoyed “Homecoming” so much because even though he loses, Percy kicks ass in that episode, and he took another graphic-novel piece of dialog – the stuff about Cortes and the Aztecs – and totally pulled it off. Made me sound like a genius.

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Lyndie Greenwood at work as Sonya.

And finally, I know you can’t divulge much, but what tidbits can you give us about Nikita’s fourth and final season? Craig Silverstein mentioned that Ramon ( a character you introduced) might return. Do you think fans will get the payoff they’ve been waiting for with these explosive six episodes?

Ramon’s coming back – at least he’s in a script. There’s always the danger he’ll fall away in the cutting room, but for now he’s gonna be back. And just as it did in his prior appearance, Ramon’s appearance means a lot for Nikita and Michael.

What else can I tell you… There’s a “lair in the air’ this year – the team is operating from a plane – but I guess everyone knows that after Comic-Con. Episode 403 is Birkhoff-centric, which I’m excited about.

Fans will most definitely get the payoff they’ve been waiting for – and I’m not just talking about the payoff you expect. Nikita facing off with the Big Bad (Amanda) and all that. There’s a deeper thing Nikita’s fighting – remember, she’s got demons – and she’s going to have to face a lot about herself before she can truly find her place in the world. And she will. I’m not sure exactly what that looks like, but like everything about this show, it will reveal itself. The show will tell us. And it’ll be awesome.

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Nikita and Ramon on the rooftop.

Thank you Mr. Coto for one heck of an enlightening and in-depth interview. I think I speak for everyone when I say we can’t wait to see what you and the rest of the crew have cooked up for Nikita‘s final six episodes. Thank you for your part in creating such a spectacular show.

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My white board drawing of the finale that never was – “Percy’s Escape” (We used to joke that he would make his getaway with a kind of “Division saucer separation”)

3 comments

  1. I completely and thoroughly enjoyed this interview. I am addicted to Nikita and love all the work the actors/actresses put into the show. But none of that could be conveyed unless the writers, producers and directors didn't have it together. Thanks so much for this show and all that everyone brings to it. I'm so sorry it has to end, but I do understand and agree. In the future it will become a classic and one that really deserves an Emmy.

  2. Hi Dallas,
    I'm very glad you enjoyed this interview. It was extremely insightful to conduct and I echo your words concerning the amazing writers and crew who gave us this fantastic show. If only the Emmies recognized the brilliance of Nikita, but at least the rest of us do 🙂

  3. Wow, thank you so much for this interview! What an enjoyable read. I love knowing how the show works behind the scenes and it's so cool to read how much he adores the cast, especially Melinda and Maggie Q.

    Love the photos! And all the discussion around “Homecoming” and the complex Nikita/Amanda relationship…wow, incredible. It's no surprise I enjoyed Heroes' final season, seeing this guy wrote most of it! And Standoff was one of the ONLY procedural shows that I used to watch WEEKLY, Nads! It was so good and I'm still annoyed it got cancelled (all these years later). It had a really unique twist and wasn't like your typical run-of-the-mill FBI show because its characters were only the negotiators of a crisis (and they were sleeping together, Grey's Anatomy-style lol). Pretty cool finding out this guy worked on that show too!!

    So sad this show is underrated. Can't wait to see how it all ends though! So exciting.

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