Counterpart: There's twice the J.K. Simmons in Starz's new alt-reality spy thriller
What if you could meet yourself? Would you trust you?
It’s a question Howard Silk (played by the inimitable J.K. Simmons) faces in the new Starz sci-fi espionage drama Counterpart. Howard goes to work every day in the interface department of a spy agency in East Berlin, performing a mundane job he doesn’t really understand. But his stagnant routine is disrupted when one day his security pass doesn’t work, and he finds himself in an interrogation room with… himself.
Only the doppelgänger isn’t exactly him. “I wanted to make a show that depicted two versions of the same self in conversation,” says creator Justin Marks. “I’ve always wondered how choices I’ve made have formed aspects of who I’ve become.”
The thriller is set in an alternative version of present-day Germany, with the Berlin Wall still standing and serving as a crossing point between two parallel worlds that formed 30 years ago when an experiment-gone-wrong split reality.
Though Howard and Prime (as he’s called, to differentiate the two Howards) share a past, their lives have diverged as time has passed. Likewise, their surroundings have evolved—socially, politically, and technologically. “Neither world is better or worse than the other,” explains Marks. “They’re just advanced in different ways because of the nuances and details of each history.”
In both realms—each rife with conspiracy, assassins, and mistrust—turning to the person who knows you inside out isn’t necessarily the safest option. “As the series goes on, we ask, ‘Can these two exist in the same space without somehow destroying each other’s lives?'” says Marks. “The answer is ‘Absolutely not.'”
Counterpart premieres Sunday at 8 p.m. ET on Starz.