411mania Interviews: Eric McCormack
Posted by Al Norton on 09.17.2012
411's Al Norton sits down for an exclusive interview with Emmy winning actor Eric McCormack to discuss the season finale of TNT's Perception, the lasting impact of Will & Grace, and what he watches on TV.
Eric McCormack has been appearing regularly on your TV screen for over 20 years but it's his Emmy winning performance on the huge hit comedy Will & Grace that has brought him his greatest fame. Since the show went off the air in 2006 he has starred in the TNT series Trust Me, the A&E mini-series The Andromeda Strain, and had a run on The New Adventures of Old Christine. His new series, Perception, which was recently renewed for a second season, airs its season one finale tonight at 10pm on TNT.
Al Norton: Congratulations on the renewal!
Eric McCormack: Thank you very much. We were very happy to get that second shot.
Al Norton: When you've already had a hit series, does getting a second season on a new series become more important?
Eric McCormack: Yes. I think that people are automatically looking to see if they can make lightning strike twice. I certainly harbor no illusions about the peaks that we reached with the last show but I did a show for TNT a couple of years ago that I loved called Trust Me with Tom X and I was really hoping that would last. We all really loved making that show. When there's no second season you start to wonder how many darts you're going to have to throw at the board before something sticks again.
I love doing television, I love being with a cast and a crew and lasting for a long time because I think amazing things come out of it. I'm excited to be back with Rachel (Leigh Cook) and Arjay (Smith) and Kelly (Rowan). Our writers Ken (Biller) and Mike (Sussman) are only just starting to realize how unlimited this can be because of this character. It's hard for a mystery show to come up with mysteries every week but at the center of it is a guy who is such a genius and such a danger to himself – his brain is his best friend and his worst enemy at the same time – that there's a lot of possibility.
Al Norton: Was there a particular point when reading the pilot script that you realized you wanted to play Daniel?
Eric McCormack: It was pretty early on. The first two pages were this college lecture, and I remember back to The Paper Chase and I used to love John Houseman in those classroom scenes. I thought, "this is great, I'm not a cop, I'm not a lawyer, I'm a professor and I'm brilliant! I'm way smarter than I am in real life. I get to be passionate and funny; this will be great." Then I get to page three and I completely shut down when one of my students asks me out for coffee and I thought, "what the hell is wrong with this guy?" The fact that he can roller coaster from complete arrogance and bravado to completely emotionally shut down is fascinating to me.
Al Norton: I know the show has a neuroscientist as a consultant so I'm curious how that has informed your performance and also about what research you do on the schizophrenia side of things.
Eric McCormack: I did a lot up front because I think it's a big community you have to be responsible to and I didn't want any missteps. I read a lot of books, I met with a professor at UCLA, Dr Michael Green, I read a book by a woman named Elyn Saks who was a law professor at USC and has been on meds for paranoid schizophrenia for 40 years now. The parts of the book about her experiences when she was not on her meds were very important to me and the choices I made in the pilot. Once David Eagleman came on board as a consultant, that backed up a whole bunch of other things, not so much the schizophrenia but the way Daniel's mind works as a educator. The book he wrote really represents the kind of book Daniel would write and informed the lectures a lot. I am really hoping we go even deeper into that in the second season, that we see how much fun his classroom is and how much he loves sharing knowledge.
Al Norton: I know you sing quite well so is there any chance Daniel could have a musical hallucination in season two?
Eric McCormack: Hell, you never know. That's the fun part; if you can hallucinate JFK and Joan of Arc, maybe you can hallucinate Freddie Mercury. We're starting to realize the sky's the limit in terms of what he can experience, or what he thinks he's experiencing. I'd love to do something musical, absolutely.
Al Norton: I made a note to ask you about your favorite Will & Grace episode but I realized it was just an excuse to tell you mine.
Eric McCormack: (Laughing) I like that honesty. What was yours?
Al Norton: Last Ex to Brooklyn; it's one of my all time favorite sitcom episodes from any show.
Eric McCormack: Wow, thank you. That was the one with Mira Sorvino, right? That's a great episode. I should go back to that again. I just saw one the other day, a Thanksiving one that I think also had us in Brooklyn, where Bobby Cannavale and I are making dinner for his family, and that was a great one, too.
Al Norton: I am sure you've been asked this question a ton over the last few months but what did it feel like to have the Vice President of the United States mention your show as one of the catalysts for moving the country forward on gay marriage?
Eric McCormack: It felt fantastic, to be honest with you. All four of us, and the guys who created the show, we've been on tiptoes when it comes to taking any credit. All we did was do a funny show and make it as funny as we could. The after effects we feel when we get the letters from young guys who talk about coming out to their families. We know these things but you never want to blow your own horn so it was nice that the Vice President blew it for us.
Al Norton: What do you watch on TV?
Eric McCormack: I've been loving The Good Wife, loving Game of Thrones. I'm a sucker for Family Guy. I'm ashamed to admit that I am so late on this but I'd managed to not see Breaking Bad up till now and now I've started season one and am madly in love with it. Better late than never.
Al Norton: Tell me about the season finale and if it's possible for folks who haven't been regular viewers to jump in now?
Eric McCormack: I think Monday's episode will be a lot more rewarding if you've seen the last few. I'm excited that TNT is going to rerun the whole season a few times before we come back next summer. I think the reward of this episode will be for those who are truly invested in these characters. The fun for me has been this whole Tweeting thing, which I am new to. I've been live Tweeting most of the shows and the questions people have, the things they notice and how emotionally involved they become with the characters, to get to see that live as the episodes air – particularly this last episode, where every four minutes or so I'd get a bunch of "holy shit, I didn't think that was going to happen!" messages – is just remarkable. It seems almost old fashioned for people to watch TV when it's on but the interaction with the fans on Twitter has been really amazing.
Don't miss the season finale of Perception, tonight at 10pm on TNT