Cynthia Addai-Robinson is no stranger to playing kickass women – and her new role in the new USA series Shooter keeps her squarely in the “folks we wouldn’t want to mess with: category. Shooter, based on the 2007 film of the same name, features Addai-Robinson in the role of FBI agent Nadine Memphis, a character that was recast as female (Michael Peña played “Nick Memphis” in the movie) without the star even knowing.
“I hadn’t seen the movie when this opportunity presented itself to me, so in a way it was kind of nice to have the opportunity to build this role from scratch,” Addai-Robinson told Rotten Tomatoes. “The character originally was male and as far as I know that was a conscious decision by the folks putting the series together … it’s an interesting opportunity to explore a different dynamic, especially when you see how this character fits into the larger world and how Nadine ultimately ends up interacting with the other characters, it’s interesting to see it, you know, as a female role.”
Memphis is investigating ex-Marine sniper Bob Lee Swagger (Ryan Phillipe) after he is framed in a plot to kill the president that goes wrong – but her doubts about his involvement are quickly dismissed by her coworkers.
“It’s interesting to question how would she [Memphis] be perceived if the character were male,” Addai-Robinson said. “I think certainly for women who are watching, that might be something they can see as far as how her character moves about in the world and they might be able to relate to it in a very specific way.”
Addai-Robinson played rebel fighter Naevia in the Starz series Spartacus and later was high-ranking government official Amanda Waller on Arrow, carving out a niche for herself away from the typical rom-com roles often available to younger actresses. Most recently, she played a Treasury agent in the Ben Affleck thriller The Accountant, making waves as a female character with no romantic interest in the film.
“It’s interesting once you see a pattern arise in your work as far as how people might perceive you or where your strengths lie,” Addai-Robinson said. “I’m not sure how I landed in these government roles, I’ve been very fortunate and all of these characters, they’ve all been different in their own way.” But, she added “I like the idea I get to be my own fully-formed woman and fully-formed character and it’s not necessarily about being dependent … on a man.”
She joked, “Maybe in the next role I can be a government agent with a love life as well – they aren’t mutually exclusive.”
But playing dark characters does come with its own set of issues. Shooter’s intense violence saw the show push its premiere twice after events in the news prompted sensitivity concerns. Addai-Robinson said she agreed it was the right thing to do and that the show’s relevancy to current politics is almost eerie.
“When this show was coming together, nobody could have predicted what would be going on in the world, and so it’s interesting to suddenly find yourself in a show that feels so topical and so timely. So when you find yourself in that situation you want to be sensitive to it, which I think we have been. And at the end of the day, we now have opportunity to be very thoughtful moving forward with the story that we are telling because now it sort of takes on a different immediacy,” she said. “First and foremost, we want to entertain.”
She added without giving away a spoiler, to keep your eye on one particularly relevant plot point that mirrors current politics.
“When we start out in the pilot, we have this situation, we see my character meeting an informant and he leaves some information that has been written by a journalist in the Ukraine – and that’s sort of a very important thread to follow… The plot is quite dense so it’s important to pay attention to these little breadcrumbs.”
Shooter airs on Tuesday nights at 10 p.m. on USA