'Graceland' interview: Vanessa Ferlito on the life of an undercover drug agent

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In "Graceland," all of the main characters are undercover agents. But none go more undercover than Charlie DeMarco, played by Vanessa Ferlito ( "CSI: NY," "24"). When visiting the show's set, we talked to Ferlito about her role and just how deep Charlie and the others will go into the criminal underworlds they investigate.


What attracted you to the role on "Graceland"?

Vanessa Ferlito: I automatically thought of reality TV in the sense that -- not comparing the-the writing, it's phenomenal --  but just how you take like seven, six strangers and you put them in a house. That's what intrigues people. That's why people are so drawn to this.

It wasn't like a typical procedural. This was more in-depth with the characters and that's what I loved. I loved Charlie and how she was written as a strong and powerful girl in the house with a bunch of boys. And the story was great. The writing was really great.  And pilot season is hard, you know -- there's so many and good writing's so far and few between, you don't really know ... You kind of just have to go with what you like and that was the one. 


Just how into her undercover assignments does Charlie get?

Vanessa Ferlito: What they've been writing for the character has been so intense and I kind of just threw myself right in. Right in. I don't want to give away too much -- I always give away too much -- but there's drugs and the life of an undercover FBI agent is really dangerous and really intense and you really don't have much of a personal life. This becomes your whole life. So you play hard and you work hard in the house. And you're kind of like a celebrity in a way, like you're like a fish in a fish bowl. 


Does everyone on "Graceland" have a tendency to get in too deep?

Vanessa Ferlito: Oh yeah, that's what I was saying. Everybody gets in too deep ... It's inevitable because it's just like anything else in your life -- if you look you're going to find it. So if you keep going in harder and harder with these people, you're playing with fire. You're putting your life on the line, you're going to get in too deep. You're not like going for some guy shoplifting at Wal-Mart. You're messing with like the top drug dealers and killers.


Will we get to learn much more about Charlie and how she became an undercover agent?

Vanessa Ferlito: I think this season that they have this great story that's going on. It's all intertwined that Mike has a story and Briggs has his past story and then what I'm dealing with. And somehow it all comes together. And there's just so much information, but there really is not much time to go in deep with Charlie's character. I think this season's more about Briggs' back story, but I think eventually, yeah, she's got really a dark past.  A little bit.


How did you prepare for a role like this?

Vanessa Ferlito: We've gone training, and we sat with a lot of undercovers and, of course, heard all their crazy horrible stories -- stuff that they went through and stuff that they've seen. A lot of them after a while just, you know, they don't do it. Or they do it for a while and then they have to get out. They just can't. One girl has a family now, she has kids. There's no way you can do that with a kid. I mean I couldn't imagine.

So we sat with them a lot and did training and they put us in these houses with walls put up and they look like kind of crack dens and we had to kind of go through and clean the house. 


"Graceland" premieres Thursday, June 6 at 10pm on USA.

Photo/Video credit: USA