What's got Dr. Daniel Pierce looking so worried? I asked actor Eric McCormack, who plays the crime-solving doc on TNT's freshman drama Perception, for some clues to the show's season finale, what it's like playing a paranoid schizophrenic, and where he'd like to see Pierce and company go in the forthcoming Season 2.
"I was so excited," he said of playing the two-part season ender. "We shot the whole thing like a big movie so it was intense. It was so good to have a character that has these various disorders, conspiracy theories, and is suffering from this condition but we've only hinted at how it could seriously affect his life. He maintains this balance, but this completely blew that balance altogether." What was his favorite part? "Honest to God, all of it!"
Playing a character with any form of illness - mental or physical - can be tricky, as it's important to portray the condition as accurately as possible while also trying to make a television show. McCormack has made Pierce someone who is definitely not normal, but who also isn't inauthentic for the sake of dramatic license. He explained that the biggest challenge of the role is "keeping the balance between the leading man who's solving crimes, or helping to, and the stuff of the character that is the most interesting - that he's a professor, that he's a total fish out of water when it comes to the rest of the setting of the series, that he's uncomfortable in the world. To make sure that we never go too far one way or the other."
"We go pretty far [in the finale], so I think now as we're regrouping, we're starting to bounce ideas of, as soon as we went down that road, now what?" he continued. As far as what he'd like to see in the next season (Perception has already been renewed by TNT), he said that "I'd like to see the interpersonal relationships deepen. I'd like to see more of Arjay Smith and I, now that we know how important he is to my sanity. The first five, six episodes he looked kind of like the funny helper, the sidekick that is put upon, and now we realize that without him I truly do fall apart.
"And also with Rachael [Leigh Cook], who is one of the funniest girls I've ever met, I think we have to start writing to that."
In addition to the regular cast, Perception has had an exceptional roster of guest stars in its first season, including Jamie Bamber (Law & Order: UK, TNT's upcoming Monday Mornings), Neal McDonough (Justified, Boomtown), and Cary Elwes (Psych, The X-Files). Who was McCormack's favorite to play opposite?
"I loved working with Cary Elwes, who is in The Princess Bride, one of my favorite films. He's a great guy," he said. "I'm kind of hoping as we go into a second season that people will be calling up and saying 'I'd love to play one of your hallucinations.' Freddy Rodriguez [is] in the finale, and my old friend Dan Lauria also came in as Rachael's dad.
"It's a different world now," he added. "Guest-starring on a TV show is not some indication that things aren't going right anymore."
As you're waiting for the next season of Perception, McCormack has a recommendation for what can fill the void: "I did a film a couple years ago called Who Is Clark Rockefeller? It was a role that I was really proud of that I wish more people could go back and rediscover."
And while you're watching that, he's going to be enjoying some well-deserved time off. Asked about his hiatus plans, he told me, "I've only got three months and I was away all year doing Broadway, so I'm mostly going to be sticking close to home and driving my kids to school."
Perception completes its season tonight at 10 PM ET/PT on TNT.