Madam Secretary Declassified: Go Behind the Scenes (PHOTOS)

Michael Logan
Madame Secretary

There’s never a dull moment—or lack of global crises—on the nail-biting Beltway drama Madam Secretary. In the April 10 episode, Secretary of State Elizabeth McCord (Téa Leoni) tries to free a group of African schoolgirls held captive by the Islamic extremist group Boko Haram. On April 17, she forms an uneasy alliance with the Russians against Hizb al-Shahid, a terrorist group that has already unleashed one bomb on America.

How does the cast handle all this stress and trauma? By going coconuts! We asked Patina Miller (press coordinator Daisy Grant) and Erich Bergen (Elizabeth’s personal assistant, Blake Moran) to grab a camera and capture some of the behind-the-scenes lunacy. “Working in the State Department is a crazy, epic, high-anxiety experience for our characters,” Miller says. “We actors are always looking for a way to break the tension!”

Madam Secretary

Courtesy of Patina Miller

No, you didn’t miss the episode where speechwriter Matt Mahoney—played by Geoffrey Arend—got trapped inside a fireplace. “One day, he just climbed in there and made up a musical number about it,” Miller says. Adds Bergen: “Geoffrey would do goofy stuff like this even if we weren’t shooting pictures for TV Guide Magazine!”

Madam Secretary

Courtesy of Patina Miller

One hyper-dramatic episode had Leoni so drained she had to put her head down on the stateroom conference table during rehearsal. “I asked if we could snap a picture,” says Miller (above), “and Téa was like, ‘Oh, honey, I don’t care. I’m dead. You go right ahead!’”

Madam Secretary

Courtesy of Patina Miller

“Elizabeth’s team has a really young vibe, but this isn’t Quantico,” says Bergen (with Miller). “We’re not underwear models.” And their thoughts run deep. “On the show, we’re always suppressing information from the public,” says the actor, “so when a real-life crisis occurs in the world, I’m very suspicious. What don’t we know? Then I start to become obsessed and, pretty soon, I’m thinking about JFK and the second shooter. There’s no end to the paranoia!”

Madam Secretary

Courtesy of Erich Bergen

When Elizabeth and daughter Stevie (Wallis Currie-Wood, center, with Bergen and Leoni) went scouting colleges for younger sister Alison (Kathrine Herzer), the actors shot on location in the Bronx. “It was so cold we couldn’t feel our own bodies,” Bergen says. “We did a scene where there’s a security scare and we all had to run. By take eight, my head and torso took off but my legs stayed put, frozen to the ground. It was not a good look for me.”

Madam Secretary

Courtesy of Erich Bergen

“The McCords aren’t quite the Osmonds,” Bergen notes, “but they are good, well-intentioned people with relatable family problems.” Leoni (with Herzer and Currie-Wood) plays mom on the set too. “We take all our cues from Téa on how to be professional,” Bergen says. “There’s no diva behavior. Nothing showbizzy. It feels like a nice, regular 9-to-5 job—only one that’s watched by 14 million people.”

Madam Secretary

Courtesy of Erich Bergen

“Geoffrey is a comic genius and a spot-on mimic,” Bergen says. “When Zeljko Ivanek [White House Chief of Staff Russell Jackson], who always has 10 jobs, can’t be with us for the table read, Geoffrey imitates him perfectly.” Arend even tried out his Morgan Freeman impression for the real Morgan Freeman, an exec producer of the series. Cracks Bergen: “I don’t think Morgan found it as funny as Geoffrey hoped he would.”

Madam Secretary

Courtesy of Erich Bergen

Bergen had a pompadour as Bob Gaudio in the movie version of Jersey Boys, and he sports a mini version as Blake. “My hair is so heavy we have to get it as high as possible every morning,” he says. “By the time we start shooting, it has deflated to its correct height.”

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