Eric McCormack previews PERCEPTION’s Season 1 Finale

When PERCEPTION started airing earlier this summer, I found myself completely enthralled by Daniel Pierce and the strange and often insane machinations of his brain.  Eric McCormack plays Dr. Daniel Pierce, a neuroscience professor of Hawthorne College, who in addition to helping the FBI solve interesting murder cases, is suffering from often-uncontrolled paranoid schizophrenia.  The first season comes to a conclusion at 10/9c on TNT with Part 2 of the Finale, called “Shadow,” that explores just what exactly DID (or didn’t) happen to the professor’s friend (played by Freddy Rodriguez).  I had a chance to chat PERCEPTION with Eric McCormack, and we talked about what’s happening tonight, and beyond.  There’s a spoiler warning after the jump for some pieces of info he and I covered that happen in tonight’s episode!

PERCEPTION is such a smart show, it feels very real.  I’m interested in what drew you to being a part of this show!
Well, everything you just said.  I think the potential of it. I was not looking for a character that was necessarily solving mysteries every week, but the fact that this guy comes from such a unique perspective.  First of all, he’s a professor, and he’s a teacher, that’s where his passion is.  He has a tremendous intellect.  Playing someone so incredibly smart is so gratifying.  And then the fact that he has this disorder, and he is suffering from paranoid schizophrenia, and holding it back.  Holding it at bay.  Not on his meds, relying totally on his assistant of his, to keep his sanity.  Keeping secrets from the woman he loves, and obviously, having a relationship with another woman he loves, who doesn’t exist?  How could you say no?

What kind of research went into becoming Daniel?
I did a lot of research, particularly with regards to paranoid schizophrenia.  Reading a lot of books, speaking with researchers,.  Michael Green at UCLA, took time with us.  He is a neuroscience professor as well as an expert on the condition.  I had book by Elyn Saks, called “The Center Cannot Hold,” which talked about her own experiences with schizophrenia, and then our wonderful consultant David Eagleman, whose book, “Incognito, the Secret Lives of the Brain,” is such a great example of the kind of book I think Daniel Pierce would write.  As much as there was great information there, our writers have taken some great stories for plots from there.  It was more a feel for the passion in that book spoke to me.  That what I use in those classroom scenes.  There’s no dry, smug teaching here.  The one place he is absolutely comfortable, and driven and passionate, is that classroom.

Obviously, we saw a bit of the cliffhanger in the Season Finale part 1.  What can you, obviously without giving anything away, what can you tease for this week’s finale?
What ended the first part, Daniel admitting that he needed to be admitted, is such a big thing for him.  I think part of the balance I tried to find over the course of the season, is a guy that we love and is sympathetic, and a character that we wanted to see every week, but at the same time, has an incredible degree of hubris and intellectual arrogance. And for a guy like that to come crashing down, I think what we’re going to see in that final episode, is a man truly facing the truth that he’s avoided for a long time.

I thought to myself as I watched the first episode of the finale, as Kelly’s character said, “I think I need to go,” I was struck by wondering what happens to Kelly Rowan going forward.  And it was nice to see after the second part of the finale, that I kind of got my answer. Have you talked about where the show goes in Season 2?
We’re just starting to talk about this now, so I can’t give too much away, but I think the interesting thing is just because there is a real person, it doesn’t necessarily mean that if he’s off his meds again, that Natalie doesn’t come back.  I think there could be a lot of interesting stuff for Kelly to play.  It’s not like one automatically replaces the other.  The interesting thing for him is like, yes, there is a woman that looks like Natalie, but he never even met that woman, so there’s two different characters in many ways.

I love the Kate and Daniel relationship – it’s been played with through the season whether they do truly have these feelings for each other, and it comes to a head in the finale – is that something you’d like to continue to explore?
I think that I’ve always described it as the “Don’t Stand So Close to Me” relationship, that teacher-student thing, the fantasy.  Her dad, Dan Lauria playing her dad says “Oh that’s the teacher you used to have a crush on.” We know there’s something there.  Whether it’s something appropriate for either of them, whether or not he could handle, whether she wants it, that’s the man she wants in her life.  I love that we’ve teased it.  When I read the “Shadow” scripts, I love [where it goes].  Then to find out that it never really happened; we’ve teased it in a nice way, and we can begin looking at it in a real way and see what actually grows in time.  Hopefully, there’s season for that to happen.

You’ve been blessed with some great guest stars this season!  It seems that everyone is getting to explore something, even with a guest starring role, that we don’t usually get to see them play.  Has there been talks of who to reach out to for the next season, are people reaching out to the show to be a part of it?
I think that will start to happen.  We certainly found, like when the casting director said “I’m going to go out to Neal McDonough and Cary Elwes”, I said “You’re crazy, they’re not going to do that!” [laughs] And they showed up and they had such a great time.  I think people are more open to doing interesting stuff, particularly on cable, and now that the show has aired, now that people have seen what those guys did, what Freddy Rodriguez got a chance to do, I think we’ll find people, maybe even I should saying, volunteering to be a part of the show.

Why do you think this is a show that people should be tuning into?
I’m excited that TNT is going to show it a few times over the course of the season.  Like a lot of shows, people missed it the first time around; I’m hoping they discover it.  I’ve been kind of quietly excited about these last two episodes.  I think the show features just a great character, an interesting character that has a lot of dimensions.  It was hard for me to promote it initially because I couldn’t give away the Kelly secrets, I couldn’t give too much away.  I had to be careful that it didn’t sound like a gimmick.  Like “oh guess what, he’s got a disorder, so he sees people, and they help him solves crimes.”  Because when you see the show, I think it’s so much more than that.  It’s a man’s relationship to his own brain.  The smartest guy in the room.  A fireman’s relationship with fire – nobody understands fire like that guy.  Nobody understands how to put it out, nobody understands how to create it. It’s an interesting love hate relationship that this guy has with his own intellect.  Something that he has tremendous power over, and sometimes, no power over at all.  I think that’s what makes the show the most interesting.  The push me, pull you relationship that this guy has with his own psyche.