ABC’s ‘Deception’ Interview: Ilfenesh Hadera Talks “Kay Daniels!” [Exclusive]

Ilfenesh Hadera, Deception

(Courtesy of ABC/David Giesbrecht)

From our set visit into ABC’s newest crime drama, Deception, Villain Media has an exclusive interview with actress Ilfenesh Hadera discussing her role as FBI agent Kay Daniels. Get ready to fight crime and learn a few magic tricks alongside magician Cameron Black (Jack Cutmore-Scott) and FBI agent Kay Daniels (Hadera).

As we previously mentioned in our review, the career of superstar Las Vegas magician Cameron Black (Scott) may have been ruined by scandal. But he’s found another place to put his skills of deception, influence, and illusion to use; the Federal Bureau of Investigation. As a consulting illusionist, Cameron uses every trick — even while inventing new ones as necessary — to help the government catch the world’s most elusive criminals and solve crimes that defy all explanation.

Before the ABC premiere of Deception on March 11th at 10pm, Hadera reveals what audiences should expect from Kay Daniels during the upcoming season. In her character profile, Daniels is  a take-charge, hard-working FBI special agent. The action-packed footage from the recent promos and trailers tease the origin story of how Daniels will eventually team-up with Black.

Hadera has become part of ABC’s long history of tough female protagonists, which ranges from Alias’ Jennifer Garner to Quantico’s Priyanka Chopra. When asked to outline Kay Daniels, the Deception starlet proudly describes her hardboiled character, “She’s kicking in doors! She’s on the same level with the most wanted criminals in the world. She’s talking face to face with them with such bravery. That’s wonderful to play! I wish I had that a little more in me in my own personality. She brushes things off and keeps moving!”

In preparation for the physically demanding role, Hadera went through training with a former agent from the bureau, “I hadn’t any weapons training prior to the start of the show. They hooked me up with an FBI agent, the FBI version of Francis [Menotti] and David [Kwong]. She has been with the bureau for 30 years. She’s retired now. I went to an incredible shooting range out in Ridgewood; state of the art everything. I learned how to hold a gun, properly clear a room. I think that’s something you never stop learning.”

There’s also another side to her persona that audiences will get to know. Hadera added, “[Daniels]’ really compassionate. There’s that side of it too. She’s a really rounded character. And that’s who you hope to play when you’re considering a role.”

As an FBI agent, Daniels has been trained from the get-go to spot deceivers and catch liars on the spot. But Black has made a career out of his elaborate deceptions, using every double-dealing trick at his disposal. I asked her, “How is the dynamic going to work between them? Is Kay there to call Cameron out on his trickery and expose his illusions?”

Hadera answered, “She’s skeptical at first by nature because it is her job to not be tricked, deceived. She has to stay one step ahead. He’s genuine in wanting to help the FBI. Skeptical but natural and organically, it becomes a nice relationship with trust there.”

Ilfenesh Hadera , Deception
DECEPTION – ABC’s “Deception” stars Ilfenesh Hadera as Kay Daniels. (ABC/Craig Sjodin)

The ABC drama comes from the minds of Chuck co-creator Chris Fedak (Chuck) and magician/consultant David Kwong (Now You See Me). As a special bonus for viewers, Blindspot creator Martin Gero and Greg Berlanti (Love, Simon) — who has just about dominated the superhero genre on The CW Network — serve as executive producers on the series. Hadera has been on-board with the show since being cast back in 2017.

Villain Media had the opportunity to watch the highly anticipated pilot during the recent New York Comic Con. Held at the Jacob Javits Center, I was in attendance at the crowded panel, where an enthusiastic audience watched the unaired pilot.   

Now at the set visit, having recollected the star-studded event, I followed-up with the question, “What was that like, holding a screening there before the official premiere?”

Hadera shared, “At first, it’s like nerve-wracking because you don’t know how anyone’s going to respond to it. You know the people who you’ve acted alongside with. You watch it and you’re thinking of your friends and their hard work; and your colleagues. You’re excited! It’s your work and it’s entertaining!:

She continued, “But to sit in a room and see the audience reaction is really encouraging. I think we were on episode three or four when we did Comic Con. You think what you’re doing is good but you don’t know. When you have that kind of reassurance, it’s really nice!”

Ilfenesh Hadera, Deception ABC, Deception, ABC
DECEPTION – ABC’s “Deception” stars Laila Robins as Special Agent Deakins, Vinnie Jones as Gunter Gustafsen, Lenora Crichlow as Dina Clark, Jack Cutmore-Scott as Cameron Black/Jonathan Black, Ilfenesh Hadera as Kay Daniels, Amaury Nolasco as Mike Alvarez and Justin Chon as Jordan Kwon. (ABC/Bob D’Amico)

The reassurance from New Yorkers also matters because the show is filmed in the Big Apple. She mentioned, “We’re shooting in New York, mostly and primarily in Brooklyn. It’s hard not to feel the city is a character. On the show, it’s a wonderful landscape. It’s such an interesting character! The streets give it a unique mix and grit that not every show has.”

Hadera recalled, “ By the grace of God, our producer is connected! We were able to use locations not accessible to other producers. We closed off the First Avenue tunnel under the United Nations on a Sunday. You know, that’s cool!”

Having filmed the pilot, gone through the training, and now currently working on the upcoming episodes, I asked the Deception actress, “How has this experience changed you as an artist?”

Hadera responded, “Well this is my first job as a series regular on a show. I feel so lucky! Because it’s like finally! This is great! This is happening! I have other friends who have been doing this for a long time. You see their grueling hours. It’s like, ‘Oh my God! Am I going to be able to do this, these 12 to 15 hour days everyday? And am I going to do it well?’”

“I feel like I’ve proven myself.” Hadera told me, “You have to do it. You have to show up; everybody else is on, the whole crew and cast. Who wants to be the weakest link? It’s really nice to know now that I can do it!”

[Note: Links in bold. Our conversation has been edited for length and clarity.]

Airing right after American Idol, Deception premieres on ABC at 10pm on March 11, 2018.

By Jorge Solis