There are plenty of downsides to working for an elite spy organization — there are certain precarities involved, like death, or the downfall of your organization inadvertently leaving you with a wiped memory of who you are and what you’re capable of. Both are certainly risks the agents of Citadel take, and something Nadia Sinh and Mason Kane (Priyanka Chopra-Jonas and Richard Madden, respectively) spend the first two episodes of the show clawing their way back from, often violently fighting off those who wish them harm. Which is all to say: I get it, there’s dangers to spying that can make the whole profession semi-unappealing. But on the other hand, there’s Stanley Tucci.
Tucci has made his bones as a charmer, whether as a fashion expert and mentor (The Devil Wears Prada), a dad who steals every scene he’s in (Easy A), or the guy making Captain America who he is (Captain America: The First Avenger). He is maybe the single reason to take a job at Citadel, something Madden knows all too well. As far as he’s concerned, Tucci defined the tone of the mega budget Prime Video show.
“This is a completely new IP; we were making this from scratch, we have nothing to base it off of,” Madden tells Polygon. “And Stanley was the one that managed to really bring that tone to the scenes where we can straddle drama and action and thriller with these lighter touches, and make it funny — he’s a master of doing that.”
Tucci’s typical on-screen presence is all magnetism. But on Citadel, Tucci’s spymaster Bernard Orlick is arguably another risk (and certainly a prick) as he handles Mason’s case. He brings him up to speed by kidnapping his family, being a bit snide and biting, and generally making life a little harder for Mason than it needs to be. But since it’s Tucci, he’s still pure charisma distilled. And he’s clearly having a great time with it.
It’s a testament to how good Tucci is that Bernard feels as natural and holistic as he does in the heightened world of Citadel. While he can be off-putting and rough as far as spy handlers go, badgering his charges with quips and kidnappings alike, Bernard does contain multitudes that shine through in the shades of Tucci’s performance: He’s impatient and smug, but in the first two episodes he also clearly cares about his agents, in his own way. As Tucci puts it, he’s using them as tools, and selectively feeding them information in a world of secrets and lies.
“He’s sensitive and he doesn’t want to overwhelm them emotionally because the stuff that they’re dealing with is huge,” Tucci says. “The emotions that they’re dealing with, the memories that they’re dealing with, are huge. And he has his own memories that are dark and disturbing, and experiences. I think that’s one of the reasons why he is funny, or can be funny. Because he has to be, just [to] survive. And that, to me, is always an interesting character to play.”
Tucci told Polygon he took the role in large part because of his respect for Madden. He was “blown away” by Madden in Netflix’s Bodyguard and in the Elton John biopic Rocketman, and said his co-star is “amazing” (as Madden basically folded into himself, embarrassed and flattered by the praise).