Thursday, July 5, 2012

Eric McCormack Makes a Surprising Career Move in Perception

 Photo by Amy and Nancy Harrington, Pop Culture Passionistas

Months ago we went on a secret set visit to the new Eric McCormack show Perception. We saw the pilot episode, toured the sets and sat down for a chat with Eric and his co-star Rachael Leigh Cook. But we haven’t been able to share the details until now. We’re excited to finally give you a sneak peak of the new crime drama — we loved what we saw and we think you will, too.

Although he’s best known as Will Truman on the sitcom Will & Grace, McCormack seems just as comfortable in drama. In Perception, he plays a college professor who teams up with a former student (Cook) to solve mysteries. But the neuroscientist has a secret of his own — he’s schizophrenic.

Eric acknowledged that he feels a sense of responsibility in portraying the affliction on the small screen. He admitted, “Absolutely I do. Particularly in this case, it is a plot point, he is not on his meds. And that is a part of his hubris, because he is a neuroscience professor. Because he feels, ‘Physician, heal thyself. I can handle this.’ He has [his assistant] Lewicki [played by R.J. Smith]. He has his routine. He has this belief that if anybody can do it without meds, he can. But that in no way promotes that schizophrenics should not be on medication. Several times throughout the season he will say that he recognizes deep inside that he needs help.”

His schizophrenia will also play a major role in the cases that the lead characters — Dr. Daniel Pierce and Kate Moretti — will be investigating. Eric remarked, “His condition, in every episode, will be a part of how things get solved. The part of his brain that might otherwise need meds, he keeps busy by puzzles… The way his brain works will manifest itself in a lot of different ways.”

Still, as a neuroscientist, having schizophrenia is not something his character easily comes to terms with. Eric revealed, “His condition doesn’t often allow him to worry about what other people think too much. His passions and his fears and what makes him angry, he wears it all on his sleeve and works to cover that up because he’s embarrassed by his illness. Particularly because, as a neuroscientist… the brain he knows. So for a man who knows everything about the brain to not be in control of his own, is his battle.”

In order to prepare for the part in the most realistic fashion, Eric did extensive research. He recalled, “[Executive Producer] Mike Sussman and I sat down with Elyn Saks, who is a law professor at USC, who wrote the book The Center Cannot Hold. And in some ways she is probably the person I based the character on more than anyone… She was a brilliant law student at Oxford and Yale, who was writing these unbelievable papers during the week and then on weekends, literally committing herself into a sanitarium — the voices in her head were so bad. And she’s written this book that really captures the way a person living with schizophrenia, the way it feels like, the way it sounds. And her descriptions of her days were so helpful.”

As a result, people in the know who have seen the series are responding positively to Eric’s portrayal. He noted, “We are representing it quite well. When I talk to people who are advocates for people with schizophrenia, their issues are, ‘Is everybody going to be violent?’ Of course, he’s not violent and he’s very high functioning.”

Tune in to Perception when it premieres on July 9 at 10 p.m. EST/9 p.m. Central on TNT.

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