Tell us a little about yourself Serena and how you got into the FBI.
Thanks so much for inviting me to visit. I’m 28 and have been working as an FBI agent for about 8 months and recently landed a spot on their Art Crime Team, which consists of only a dozen agents around the country who specialize in art crime investigations. I’ve dreamed of being on the team since I first heard about it as a teenager, because more than anything I want to track down the art thief that killed my grandfather.
Wow, that’s quite an aspiration. Why’s it so important to you?
My grandfather was very special to me. He nurtured my love of art and taught me how to paint. And…there are other reasons I’d rather not get into right now, maybe some day.
O-kay. Well, on the job, you seem to lean on Tanner Calhoun a lot. Tell us about him.
Tanner was my field-training agent when I started with the St. Louis office and he’s become a good friend. My dad is an economics professor at Wash U and Tanner actually used to be one of his students. So he also became a bit of a favorite dinner guest when I was a rookie. My mom took advantage of any opportunity to remind him to watch my back. He’s ten years older than me and likes to tease me a lot. I really enjoy our banter. It helps diffuse a lot of tension when the job heats up.
And what about Nathan Butler? Do I sense a budding romance?
What? You’ve been talking to my mother haven’t you? Romance is the furthest thing from my mind these days. I’m still struggling to find my footing as an FBI agent. And I’m not so sure how Nate would feel about dating an agent. He’s my apartment superintendent, and civilians, especially males, seem to have funny ideas about dating women who carry guns for a living. But Nate is a super nice guy. He shares my love of art and of old movies. And…he cleans litter pans! Oh, and he takes my mistakenly pulling my Glock on him totally in stride. There’s not many men I could say that about, so come to think of it, maybe my job wouldn’t bother him.
Working as an agent has got to be scary sometimes. What’s your greatest fear?
It’s a silly little fear really. I’m afraid of small spaces. It goes back to something that happened when I was a kid. For the most part, I’m pretty good at managing it. I mean if I absolutely had to take the elevator to catch a bad guy, I would, but…I’d rather take the stairs.
We all have our little quirks, I suppose.
Yes, one Tanner likes to tease me about is my tendency to remember people’s names by connecting them in my mind to famous movie stars. Tanner is always trying to guess who his lookalike is and of course, he always suggests super good looking actors.
He is very good looking don’t you think?
Sure, but I’d never admit it to him! He reminds me of Jeffrey Dean Morgan in the movie Accidental Husband. And Nate reminds me of Bradley Cooper.
Now, let’s talk about your Aunt Martha for a moment. She’s a hoot. And she seems to enjoy helping you with your cases, does that worry you?
A little. Sometimes. Aunt Martha has traveled the world over and is incredibly savvy, but a case could go south very quickly and Aunt Martha is sometimes a little too happy-go-lucky for comfort. Not to mention that my mom would kill me if anything happened to Aunt Martha on my watch.
What do you do to unwind?
I paint or watch an old movie.
Hmm, I like so many movies I’m not sure I could pick just one.
Favorite drink–Coffee or Tea?
It’s tea, but most people don’t realize I drink it. My family is British, so I’m afraid that I’ve been indoctrinated into the very particular way tea should be brewed and served and I just don’t enjoy it if it’s not done just right.
Favorite place to travel?
Martha’s Vineyard. We used to visit every summer when I was a child.
Favorite local attraction to visit?
Oh, St. Louis is such a fabulous place to live, because there are so many great attractions that are also free! I love to visit all the free attractions in Forest Park—the zoo, the art museum, the history museum, the science center, the theatre, the beautiful trails and picnic areas.
You’ve dedicated yourself to recovering stolen art, but tracking down a guy who wants to nab what passes for art these days, from people with more money than sense, isn’t on the top of most people’s priority lists, police officers included. How do you respond to that?
Most people don’t value art crime investigation as a priority, because they think only the rich are losing, but we all lose a piece of our common heritage. Art shows us ways of seeing the life that science can’t.
this interview first appeared on ArtBooksCoffee.com Mar 30, 2016