The new Prime Video series, Citadel, is a sexy love letter to the spy genre–but with a twist. The drama follows not just one, but two top Citadel agents, Nadia Sinh (Priyanka Chopra Jonas) and Mason Kane (Richard Madden) on a mission to save the world. But first, the would-be-heroes and former lovers must regain their memories—which were wiped clean—and find answers from their pasts that could obliterate the villains and secure the future.
The Citadel season finale streams on 26 May. Here’s how Chopra Jonas, Madden, and their costar Stanley Tucci, who plays handler and computer whiz Bernard Orlick, described their characters. Executive producers Anthony and Joe Russo and David Weil added their insights on the characters and the Citadel mythology:
Priyanka Chopra Jonas, Nadia Sinh
Chopra Jonas plays superspy Nadia Sinh, a beautiful and mysterious character who boxes bad guys for breakfast. The only problem is, Nadia has some missteps in her past that could compromise the mission. It’s a conundrum Chopra Jonas said she welcomed in addition to the show’s ability to create three different iterations of Citadel–one for America, one for India, and a third version for Italy.
“The ambition of the show, which has never been attempted on film or television, was very exciting. I’m an actor who worked in Indian movies and then started working in American movies,” Chopra Jonas said at a screening event for Citadel that took place in Los Angeles before the Writers Guild strike. “As someone who always wanted to see the globalisation of international cinema, this is a joy. To see filmmakers from Italy, India, and America sit together, where entertainment doesn’t belong to a country anymore, where streaming is taking this to 290 territories, that’s like insane.”
That, and her character handily navigates espionage, combat, and challenging gender norms.
“The spy genre has been monopolised by guys,” Chopra Jonas added. “I wanted to make Nadia very convincing. I wanted her to be able to go toe-to-toe with someone like Richard, who was incredible at his job. I wanted it to feel like there was never any excuse for her. It took a lot of physical work and emotional work untangling and re-tangling this character because we shoot it out of order and we’re not being linear.
“We shot it over a year-and-a-half, so it was a very ambitious show on many levels. At this point in my career, that’s what I’m looking for as well—a character where you not only have all the action and the fun stuff, but actually have so much drama and conflict that you’re dealing with at all times.”
Chopra Jonas’ physicality in the role still impresses Executive Producer Joe Russo.
“There’s a Cirque du Soleil-level of timing that goes into that,” Russo said. “There were some very difficult sequences and you are throwing full-force punches at other cast members. And if you miss by a quarter inch, you’re going to break somebody’s jaw or really hurt someone.”
Russo also wanted to make sure he gave credit where it was due.
“Both of them are incredible at all the action, but I’ve never met anybody who loves to fake punch more than Priyanka. You just throw her in there and she’s ready to go,” he added with a chuckle. “I don’t know if stunt teams get enough credit and I don’t know if actors get enough credit. We do encourage them to do as much as possible. They both answered the call and we’re very grateful because it adds a lot of credibility to their character portrayals.”
Richard Madden, Mason Kane/Kyle Conroy
Richard Madden gets to play both a complicated spy named Mason Kane and Kyle Conroy, the man who Mason eventually becomes after his memory is erased. The Scottish actor confessed that this duality intrigued him from the start.
“The unique thing for me was getting to play two sides of the same coin,” Madden said. “I got to kind of deconstruct a man and pull out extreme versions of him. One, a tough spy full of a lot of hate and trouble in his past, and the other who’s got a lot of love around him and is everything the other one wants. I kind of got to dial up and down those extremes to see where they cross over as characters.”
Madden also added, “That was a bit of a draw in terms of coming to this. How can I play these two men, who are the same, and get to indulge in the extremes of both of them?”
Stanley Tucci, Bernard Orlick
The Emmy-award-winning actor said the complexity of Citadel and his character made him want to be a part of the show.
“I was really interested in it because the plot was so complex and the characters were complex,” Tucci said. “It wasn’t that sort of standard ‘Here’s the white guy spy.’ It was more than that. The character was really interesting. Normally in the spy genre, which I love, you often have these sort of stock characters. You have the guy spy, you have the handler, and then you have the tech guy and the femme fatale. This changes it all up and that’s super cool.”
Tucci also enjoyed that there is more to his character Bernard than meets the eye.
“He’s a combination of, I suppose, three of those,” Tucci explained. “He’s in the field, from time to time, and he’s the tech guy. But he’s also the handler. One of the things I also love about it is that there’s a darkness to it. There’s a drama to it, an emotional drama, but it also has a wonderful sense of humor. And this we can attribute to those two people [points to the Russo brothers].”
Anthony and Joe Russo, executive producers
To best understand Citadel and the feat the cast and crew pulled off for a six-episode first season, you have to dive into the spy drama’s origins, said Executive Producer Anthony Russo.
“Everything comes together in a different way, but this show was probably one of the most unusual experiences in our careers,” Anthony Russo said. “Jen Salke, who we have a very long relationship with, called us up–this was maybe five years ago–and said, ‘Amazon has an enormous international reach and we have fantastic relationships with creative communities around the world. Our regional offices are so strong throughout Amazon.’”
“She said, ‘I would love to make a show that had an English language component to it with one version of the larger universe, but also local languages around the world with various series happening in those languages as well with different teams behind them. The idea would be they would all exist together within the same narrative universe.'”
Anthony Russo said Salke knew the work they had done with Marvel and thought they were “uniquely suited to try and conceive something for this space.”
“So, we set to work with a lot of our collaborators and eventually came up with what evolved, through a lot of work from David as well, into Citadel.”
David Weil, co-creator, executive producer, and showrunner
Weil agreed with the Russos and added that Citadel is both original in its execution and approach, while also paying homage to all the spy movies and TV shows that preceded it.
“We love spy stories,” Weil said enthusiastically. “This is a love letter to the spy genre that we all sort of grew up loving. But we wanted to modernize it. We wanted to make it more reflective of the world we live in. Oftentimes, historically, Bond, Bourne, Mission Impossible, you have a single, white Western male at the center. We have this incredible spy duo at the center of Citadel, which makes it feel just so modern, so exciting and so inclusive.”
The action is an added bonus.
“To see Richard and Priyanka both kick ass, in the way that they do, is amazing for Joe, Anthony, and me,” Weil said, adding that the writers’ room is just as diverse. “As an American writer, there are so many biases and blind spots that I have in my own writing. So, when you get to work with people from around the world, from different backgrounds and experiences, they illuminate these blind spots. They make me a better writer. They make the show better. It’s been incredibly fortunate that Amazon supported such a process and that every day, we get to build this with that team.”
Watch the first season of Citadel on Prime Video.