Security contractor Christopher Chance doesn't work alone, but he maintains a tight inner circle populated only by levelheaded ex-cop Winston and the predictably unpredictable Guerrero. Now, Chance has found himself with a new ally that threatens to change the whole dynamic, for better or for worse, in the form of Ilsa Pucci.
Actress Indira Varma joins Mark Valley and the cast of Fox's "Human Target" for its second season as Ilsa, a widowed billionairess in need of Chance's services. Best known for playing Niobe of the Voreni on HBO's "Rome" and Suzie Costello on "Torchwood," Varma's character arrives on the scene equipped with a unique feminine perspective and a whole lot of cash.
"She's a widow; her husband was killed - she suspects murder and she suspects right - and she's had to surround herself with security guards and all that paraphernalia because she thinks that her life is at stake," Varma told CBR News last month during a visit to the set of "Human Target" in Vancouver. "She hates being protected, and I like that aspect of her. She's not careful, worrying about breaking her nails. She's not like that, even though she does like her nails to be done! She hates not having her freedom, which is why she goes out in search of Christopher Chance. She's heard about this lawless Robin Hood figure, and she goes to find him."
As Pucci and Chance work alongside each other during the action-packed season premiere - an episode aptly titled "Ilsa Pucci" - the widowed philanthropist sees value in Chance's operation. "If they had a bit of cash behind them, and basically a woman nagging them telling them to go on and 'take that bloody job,' they would be more successful," Varma explained. "So, she invests in them and therefore becomes their benefactor and boss."
Pucci comes from a vastly different world than Chance, Guerrero and Winston, providing the team - and the series - with a unique womanly perspective that didn't exist previously. "They need disciplining, but I also think they need to be challenged. In order to grow, you need to be challenged," said the actress. "It's nice that I haven't been enlisted to play a bimbo. I've been enlisted to play a, yes, kick-ass [woman], but not the classic cliché of that. I think she's an intellectual and I think with men and women, it's always an interesting dynamic. [The show] definitely needs a woman who is a constant, not just a sexual connection."
And make no mistake, Pucci is a constant. As the team's new benefactor, she's taking quite an interest in how her money is getting spent. "Ilsa Pucci is a very clever woman - she has power, she's controlling and she likes to have things done the way she likes to have them done," said Varma. "Obviously [Chance and his team] have their methods, but she's not just there to dole out money. When people give out money, they want to know how it's being spent. So she has a certain amount of [investment] here. I think that will bring a huge amount of friction but also a lot of fun, because she's not from the [same] milieu. That should be a laugh."
Though she doesn't have the need for high stakes espionage and adventure coursing through her veins, Pucci finds herself developing respect and appreciation for the field. "She and her husband, who was a philanthropist, had always given their money to charity and have had such-and-such foundations here and there, but probably at arm's length; they wouldn't get their fingers dirty," explained Varma. "Now, suddenly, she's rolling her sleeves up and she's saying, 'Actually, I'm going to dig a hole with you - but I'm not going to change my clothes!' I think there's an attitude that people with money and education can bring, which is quite forthright and quite fun."
But Pucci's views are bound to clash with Chance and the rest of the team from time to time. "With two very powerful people, there's inevitably going to be a push-pull of hot and cold. 'Ooh, he's so macho' and 'ooh, he's a pain in the ass.' Quite a healthy relationship and the sexual tension, doubtless," the actress laughed. "I think a woman brings a different dynamic, and she's a woman with brains. I think Chance has that, but he has brawn as well. I think she might have some very lateral ideas and some wit."
"I think she's terrified of [Guerrero], because he's so lawless and she doesn't understand it yet," Varma assessed of Jackie Earle Haley's character, adding of Chi McBride's Winston: "I think she's very respectful of his cop position. To her, I think that's what she always tells herself - first and foremost, he was a cop. He's the law and the sensible person."
Pucci isn't the only new woman on the scene, however, as "Entourage" actress Janet Montgomery joins the cast on a recurring basis as Ames, a carefree thief with ties to Winston's past and admiration for Guerrero's methods. "She's like a street kid, and I'm the opposite," Varma said of Montgomery's character. "With Ames, I think Pucci thinks, 'oh, look at that little street urchin. Maybe I should help her find some new shoes!'"
Perhaps Pucci isn't cut from quite the same cloth as the rest of the "Human Target" class, but Varma actually relishes in her character's differences. "I'm hoping it will bring comedy to it," she said. "I definitely think a billionairess in her Gucci outfit who wants to see how her money is being spent - and it's in completely the wrong place - and the fact that she's gung-ho, it could be really funny. She's also really bright and she'll find ways of making it work. I think she'll have lateral thinking. She'll bring a different kind of thinking to it."
The second season of "Human Target" premieres on Friday, October 1 at 8/7 PM central, only on the Fox network.