Eric McCormack is known best for his role on “Will & Grace”. He is starring a new show on TNT called “Perception”, which premiers Monday, July 9 at 10 o’clock pm Eastern on TNT. Media Mikes had a chance to chat with Eric on his new show and what we can expect.
Mike Gencarelli: What drew you to the part? Was it immediately you read the script and went I got to do it or how did it all happen for you?
Eric McCormack: Yes, I was a bit of that on first page where I’m lecturing was a big one for me because I was a big Paper Chase fan from the 70s with John Housman. And the idea of playing not just a neuroscientist not just somebody brilliant, but the fact that he is a teacher, that he has that thing that audience in the palm of his hand and that he’s funny and passionate and finds an interesting way to approach what could be a very dry topic. He finds a very humorous approach and I just love this guy. Then to find out outside of the classroom he is often crippled by symptoms of schizophrenia, I thought that’s a wild combination of the arrogant what becomes with an intellectual and the absolutely let us say crippling conditions that the disease contributes.
MG: What kind of research did you do?
EMC: I did as much as I could. I think it’s crucial that we represent all aspects of this, the neuroscience and also the academia but most importantly the schizophrenia, not to mention the FBI reality which is somebody else job, but with incredible accuracy. We started with Dr. Michael Green at UCLA who is a neuroscience professor with schizophrenia as his expertise. And then I sat down with Elyn Saks, a fascinating woman who wrote a book called The Center Cannot Hold. She is a law professor at USC but she wrote a book about her own schizophrenia, which she completely blew her mind out in the 70s. She was like writing brilliant papers one day and in the hospital strapped down to a bed the next and has such tremendous memory of it that she was able to describe it and some of the passages in her book about what it feels like to break psychotically were absolutely crucial to what I do in the show.
What aspects of your personality or idiosyncrasies did you bring to the role of Daniel?
EMC: What I love about him like I say is that combination of so much confidence and so much crippling fear. And I think if there is anything that I can understand as an actor is, I think it’s that. It’s that idea that sometimes the only way we see is by walking into a room and believing that no one can do that better than us. And yet it’s really just a mask we put on disguising the fact that we’re terrified that we suck and we’reterrified that we’ll never work again. I think understanding that dichotomy is understanding what it must be like to have the drive that says I need to be in front of a classroom or I need to solve this puzzle even though I’m on a crime scene that is absolutely shutting me down. And to have that disguising someone that ultimately would rather be in a laboratory then out to dinner with people is to understand the world that he lives in mixed emotional.
MG: What challenges have you found on taking on the hat of producer as well on this series?
EMC: I am a producer on the show I’m certainly not the producer. I couldn’t produce the whole thing and be in every scene. The guys that created the show Ken Biller and Mike Sussman do a fine job at producing it creatively and there are some great guys producing it physically. My contribution as a producer mainly I wanted to make sure that we all conceived the look and feel of the character and we’re on the same page. I wanted to have a say in the casting and I was certainly in the room for the casting of Rachael, Kelly, and Arjay and I’m really excited how that worked out. Then to say hey, it’s important the tone of the show, whether it be dealing with how do we shoot a hallucination and accurately reflect what schizophrenia can look like or feel like. How do we have a scene where he’s angry but there’s also a comic element? How do we do that and accurately represent how a professional behaves? How would a schizophrenic behave? It’s important that I always have the ability to speak up and to take ownership of that. That’s the main way I produce.
MG: So you’ve work for a while in comedy with “Will & Grace”; what do you enjoy more, the drama or the comedy?
EMC: I love doing both. When I was on “Will & Grace” nothing made me happier than having a big dramatic scene with Debra in the mists of the crazy comedy. Nothing gives me a bigger better thrill than dramatic crime scene in this show where he gets to suddenly say something inappropriate that clearly is going to be funny. I love the mix. I think the magic is in the combination and I’m never happy with just one.
MG: What do find challenging from playing Pierce in this from an acting aspect?
EMC: Like I say it’s a combination of being accurate enough to plot out. Okay in the course of an episode – and we were often shooting two episodes at the same time just for cost reasons, so it was really a lot of work on my part to go, I have to make sure that there is accuracy here in how he behaves situation to situation. But you also want unpredictability, that the fun of the character is that he surprises the people around him and he surprises himself sometimes. And I like sometimes to discover he surprises me. That somehow my reactions might be something I hadn’t thought of. And yet still remain within the realm of being accurate and being sympathetic and being responsible to the mental illness community.
MG: What do you think it is about “Perception” that’s really going to connect with theviewers? And now that you’re on Twitter how is that going to help with the promotion of the show?
EMC: Well, I’m not a natural tweeter. It’s work to make myself tweet everyday. But having work that I’m excited about like the play that last few months when we first got started it was fun to tweet about that. As we’re getting closer now in the next few weeks I’m going to start tweeting a lot about it because I want people to see the show. I’m excited to share that. I never do work just for the sake of doing it. I do it because I want as many people as possible to enjoy it. I think this will be – this is particularly for summer, I think this will be a breath of fresh air. So much of summer programming is sort of fun and silly and reality shows and competition shows. I think this is people love a good mystery solving show, but I love the point of view of this. I think we’ve gotten to the point now where we can’t just see regular cops following regular things because a lot of those shows we now – it’s nice to see coming from the angle of someone with a very extreme point of view on life. And a guy that is a neuroscience professor with schizophrenia is coming at a crime scene from a very, very different perspective, sometimes humorous, sometimes extremely intellectual. Some of the cases that we’re going to tackle are things that wouldn’t necessarily come up on a lot of other shows because there wouldn’t be anybody. They’d have to go to an expert, someone like a Daniel Pierce, to solve it. So, our guy David Eagleman who wrote a book Incognito: The Secret Lives of the Brain, to have him as our resident expert allowed us to come up with some plot lines that are really fun, and for anyone that likes the twists and turns in an hour long mystery there’s going to be some really surprising episodes.