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  • ALAN SEALES: Please welcome Eric McCormack.

  • ERIC MCCORMACK: Hello.

  • ALAN SEALES: So the show is very different from what I typically

  • watch in that I guess it deals with a lot of mental illness

  • and people with those sorts of disorders.

  • I mean, what made you want to tackle this kind of show?

  • ERIC MCCORMACK: Well, I mean, it's

  • a bit of a throwback as a show, in terms of it's

  • a crime solving show at its heart,

  • but the guy doing the solving is the interesting character.

  • I mean, that there's a long period of time,

  • I think, with cop shows, in the last 10, 15

  • years, where Dick Wolf with "Law and Order" said,

  • we don't care about their personalities,

  • we don't go home with the cops, it's all about the crime.

  • And "CSI" took that even further.

  • But this is a throwback to "Columbo" and "Quincy"

  • and stuff, where the central character has quirks,

  • he has downfalls.

  • And in this case, he has paranoid schizophrenia.

  • And also, he's not a cop, nor is he

  • a lawyer-- he is a professor.

  • Most episodes begin in the classroom

  • with him teaching university students.

  • And in this one, in fact, in a couple

  • of-- perhaps even in the next scene,

  • we are actually in the Sorbonne in Paris,

  • and he's lecturing there.

  • I was drawn to it because as a character,

  • he is so multi-faceted.

  • Like Dr. House, he can be a bit of an asshole.

  • He's the smartest guy in the room,

  • but he can also, because of his condition,

  • suddenly be terrified.

  • He can be hallucinating something that ultimately will

  • help him, but in the moment, it can absolutely destroy him.

  • ALAN SEALES: So your character is who?

  • ERIC MCCORMACK: He is Dr. Daniel Pierce.

  • He is a neuroscience professor.

  • ALAN SEALES: Eccentric-- eccentric neuropsychiatrist.

  • ERIC MCCORMACK: Well, yeah.

  • Yeah.

  • I mean, if paranoid schizophrenia

  • is an eccentricity, I guess he's eccentric.

  • He's a brilliant, brilliant guy that basically

  • had his first break with reality at about the age of 21

  • and could very easily have gone off the rails,

  • as so often happens, but he stayed

  • at the university he was at and eventually started

  • teaching there.

  • LeVar Burton plays his old friend

  • who is the dean of the university and is,

  • at least, when we started the series, two years ago, was

  • keeping Daniel's condition kind of under wraps.

  • It was pretty much a secret.

  • Everyone thought of him as eccentric,

  • not realizing that he was a diagnosed schizophrenic.

  • And that's come out in the series,

  • since the beginning of the second season.

  • He was kind of outed on the witness stand.

  • But still it's amazing because when I first read this,

  • I thought, I wonder how many people

  • living with this condition hold down

  • such a position of power and influence.

  • ALAN SEALES: Without people knowing?

  • ERIC MCCORMACK: Right.

  • Without people knowing, or even with people knowing.

  • What we all know about paranoid schizophrenia,

  • if we know anything at all, is the guy outside the 7-Eleven

  • is crazy and he's talking to himself,

  • and that's what the average person sees,

  • or they see the 6 o'clock news, and someone's just shut up

  • a room full of people, and guess what?

  • He's probably schizophrenic.

  • So that is the stigma that gets out there,

  • when in fact, there's a tremendous number of people

  • living with it that, in fact, run companies.

  • And my model-- after I got the part,

  • I did a lot of research and there's an incredible woman

  • named Elyn Saks who wrote a book called "The Center Cannot

  • Hold."

  • She's a university professor.

  • She's a law professor at USC.

  • But she was full blown schizophrenic in the early 70s,

  • and without her meds, would still be so now.

  • And yet, she teaches students, she writes books, she lectures.

  • She's a brilliant lecturer.

  • And I thought, it doesn't hurt to show America

  • there's another side of mental illness.

  • ALAN SEALES: So is that more what

  • appealed to you about the role?

  • You just wanted to increase education of the subject?

  • ERIC MCCORMACK: That's kind of a byproduct.

  • And it's a great one.

  • Ultimately, you just want to play an interesting part

  • that the audience is drawn to.

  • I didn't think, when I finished the sitcom, hey,

  • I should solve crimes, that's what

  • I should do, how can I do that?

  • But it is the most popular form of television, cable

  • or network, and defined an interesting way into that.

  • He's drawn into the FBI.

  • They use him, but he is not an FBI agent.

  • He's a professor whose expertise is called upon.

  • So I like the academic setting.

  • Like I say, every episode has university scenes.

  • And you don't see a lot of that on any series.

  • We have high school shows, but we don't necessarily

  • have a lot of college shows and particularly

  • at that level of academia.

  • So that drew me, too.

  • ALAN SEALES: The TA in the show-- he's been in nine years,

  • I think, in the college [INAUDIBLE]?

  • ERIC MCCORMACK: Yes.

  • You're right.

  • ALAN SEALES: Nine years and six degrees and still won't leave.

  • First of all, I love this story.

  • I was cast early.

  • Ken Biller, who created the show-- we got together.

  • And then I helped him cast the rest of the parts.

  • And my TA was to be named Max Lewicki.

  • And we took three guys to network,

  • two of them who looked like Lewickis.

  • And then this good looking black guy,

  • and of course, he walked in, and he was great.

  • We said, so he's got the part-- we're going to change the name,

  • right?

  • And Ken said, no, no, let's leave it.

  • Max Lewicki.

  • ALAN SEALES: That will throw them off.

  • ERIC MCCORMACK: Exactly.

  • So of course, we waited a long time,

  • and we were deep in the second season

  • before we finally explained that he was adopted by the Lewickis

  • or whatever.

  • And I'm always yelling at him.

  • He's quite beleaguered.

  • But it's fun to shout, Lewicki, and have that guy walk out.

  • ALAN SEALES: Was it Arjay Smith?

  • Right?

  • ERIC MCCORMACK: Arjay Smith.

  • ALAN SEALES: Yeah.

  • Yeah.

  • ERIC MCCORMACK: He's just a little [INAUDIBLE].

  • ALAN SEALES: From Nickelodeon's "Journey of Allen Strange"?

  • ERIC MCCORMACK: Yes.

  • ALAN SEALES: For some people here.

  • ERIC MCCORMACK: Apparently the young people liked the show.

  • ALAN SEALES: Yes.

  • ERIC MCCORMACK: Yeah.

  • He was actually like a kid actor--

  • ALAN SEALES: Really?

  • ERIC MCCORMACK: That has grown into this lovely guy.

  • ALAN SEALES: Oh, yeah.

  • I love him on the show.

  • He's always right there--

  • ERIC MCCORMACK: Yeah.

  • ALAN SEALES: You know, giving you the one-two punch.

  • ERIC MCCORMACK: Exactly right.

  • ALAN SEALES: But is that weird?

  • Like, what in the show made you decide

  • to make him kind of like, sort of, a nurse to you?

  • ERIC MCCORMACK: Well, actually--

  • ALAN SEALES: Because he lives with you, on the show.

  • ERIC MCCORMACK: It was revealed in the second season,

  • but we explore it more this season

  • that that's literally what he was.

  • We met because the character, five years ago,

  • had a complete-- he went out of his mind

  • and was hospitalized for six months and institutionalized.

  • ALAN SEALES: Spoiler.

  • Spoiler.

  • Spoiler.

  • ERIC MCCORMACK: Well, yeah.

  • We've always hinted at that.