When one goes undercover, it’s easy to forget what side they’re on.
As she becomes a full-time cast member on Law & Order: Organized Crime, Nona Parker Johnson is speaking up on how her character Carmen “Nova” Riley is getting deeper in her undercover job in the Marcy Killers gang.
This includes how the lines between her lives may be blurred and Nova finds herself in the middle of some tough decisions.
Nova’s rise in the criminal underworld on Law & Order: Organized Crime
When Law & Order: Organized Crime Season 2 began, Nova was shown as a top aide to crime boss Preston Webb (Mykelti Williamson). She worked with Hugo (Antino Crowley-Kamenwati) while dating Penda.
When Penda was killed in a drive-by shooting, the audience discovered Nova was actually Detective Carmen Riley, an undercover cop. With the Marcy Killers rising to power, Nova is one of Webb’s “vice-presidents,” aiding his work.
In the latest episode, Webb announced that Nova was now his second-in-command. When one gangster complained about reporting to a woman, Webb sent a message by slamming a knife through the guy’s hand.
Speaking to TV Insider, Johnson discussed how Nova’s growing role in the Marcy Killers is causing her to question her loyalties between the cops and some of the gang members she feels close to.
“She’s negotiating this constant sense of danger. What I’m learning also about Webb is that he is a very, very observant, very, very specific particular kind of person. So I think as I get closer to him, it, like you said, gets all the more dangerous. That’s something that she’ll be negotiating in terms of how far to go or what kind of liberties she can take. But from the get-go, she’s been doing things that way.”
Sergeant Ayanna Bell and Nova clashed at first, but Bell is worried about Nova, both for her safety and the idea she might be forgetting whose side she’s really on.
“It’s inherently built into the newness of their working relationship and also what we are seeing is this more intimate dynamic between them because she really, really cares about Nova and her safety and she has a history with a UC. But Nova feels so empowered in this position and in sort of how far she’s come within this job, so I think they’re going to continue to butt heads in terms of Nova’s capabilities [and also] Bell’s responsibility to her UC.
It’s similar to all these different worlds kind of clashing together, and with that comes specific people in each one of these worlds that Nova cares really deeply about. From next episode on, you’re going to see her negotiating these relationships and how she wants to protect these people, how much these people mean to her. But at the end of the day, she is a cop and Bell is her boss, and that’s something she can’t forget.”
These lines become more blurred as the next episodes enhance the drama of Nova’s job.
The undercover lines become blurred
Nova isn’t the only one handling an undercover job. Stabler (Christopher Meloni) is posing as a rogue cop to infiltrate the Brotherhood, a pack of corrupt cops led by Frank Donnelly (Denis Leary).
Yet Johnson notes how Nova feels herself being pushed in different directions by her job.
“It’s a fine line that she’s riding. There’s so many pieces at play now at this point with the addition of her family coming in that it’s almost like this sort of desperation to keep all these worlds separated. Partly it’s that, that I want to keep all these worlds separate. I think I have the capability to do that, but it’s also nothing I have any control over. So I would say that it could be read as an overconfidence to a degree because there are just so many pieces at play that Nova has absolutely no control over.”
Another complication is Webb’s wife, Cassandra (Jennifer Beals). While the woman appears to be a simple art gallery owner, she’s hinted to be just as ruthless as her husband.
“I, for myself, love playing with the idea that Cassandra is infinitely more terrifying than Webb is. I’m definitely using that, and I’m hoping to see more of that and more of what she has to offer to this gritty storyline. But I think definitely keep an eye out for Cassandra, ’cause it’s already so much fun peeking into who she is.”
Yet another problem is Nova’s brother, Derrick (Jordane Christie), a local pastor. He’s unaware his sister is a cop, assuming Carmen is just deep in the gang life. Nova was quite worried when Webb dropped by the church and put her brother in danger with her secret.
“You’re going to see Nova really grappling with what is the right thing to do. What is going to keep him safe? What’s going to keep us both safe? But also how can I be as honest with him as possible? How does Derrick fit into this? You’re going to see that he has his own set of ideals, his own set of suspicions and paranoia and a really, really strong sense of protecting his family as well. That’s something that is going to be really fun to get a peek at. Their dynamic really comes alive.”
What’s coming for Nova’s job on Law & Order: Organized Crime?
The next episodes will continue the dual investigations as Nova works to find the proof of Webb and Congressman Kilbride (Ron Cephas Jones) up to no good while Stabler works with the Brotherhood.
While quiet on most of the details, Johnson did relate how it might be interesting to show what kind of person Nova is when she’s not undercover.
“I am really curious about that as well. I haven’t thought too much about what happens to Nova once her cover’s blown or once she comes out from undercover. What I’m really interested in is what happens to those relationships that she cares so dearly about. If I had to hope for one thing, it’s that she and Bell can really get on the same page and they can really find a sort of common ground.”
As the drama heats up, Parker Johnson relates she’s still showing the toughness of Nova and how that shines in the part.
“She is still the same, hard, tough as nails cover that she’s been for the last six years that we saw from her in Episode 1. So look forward to seeing more of that coming back, her coming back to that. She’s not somebody to mess with.”
Given the danger that’s coming, Nova will need all that toughness as Law & Order: Organized Crime puts her in between two dangerous worlds.
Law & Order: Organized Crime Season 2 airs Thursdays at 10/9c on NBC.