Last summer's season finale of "Perception" had some fans a little worried that their hallucinating hero was inching a little too close to normal. The particularly scary schizophrenic episode sent Dr. Daniel Pierce (Eric McCormack) back on meds, to the psychiatrist, and to the conclusion that his disorder manifested much earlier than he'd thought and was more than he could manage on his own.
One person who wasn't worried that the stability would last was co-star Rachael Leigh Cook (Kate Moretti). "Eric himself said, 'If [Daniel] is on his meds, we don't really have a show.' I knew that we'd find the crazy sooner or later. And we're back [in the first episode of Season 2]."
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McCormack explained the reasoning behind the short-lived sanity at a recent press day on the Burbank Disney lot where the series shoots. "I heard the greatest quote from Dr. Elyn Saks, the paranoid schizophrenic USC professor who has been my role model for the part, with regards to meds. 'You take away my demons, [but] you take away my angels too.' When Daniel's healthy, there's none of the good stuff that comes with madness, like his joie de vivre or Natalie. A lot of people living with the disorder feel relief, but then they don't feel like them. It's a very real cycle, a roller coaster, not just a television thing to do. He thinks he can almost outsmart it, ride this thing like a bull."
Neuroscientist Dr. David Eagleman discusses paranoid schizophrenia:
Of course, that's without Daniel really knowing what Season 2 plans to throw at him. First up is his blossoming relationship with his doctor Caroline Newsome, who was revealed to be the inspiration for his imaginary best friend, Natalie (Kelly Rowan). "If your fantasy could come true, would it be as good as the fantasy? How do you reproduce an angel on Earth when you've already got it right," McCormack said. "It's a really cool thing to explore, especially in the second episode [when] it gets all spoiler alert, and I'm dying to see what the audience thinks. It's certainly not something Kelly knew she was getting into last season."
Rowan is thrilled at the challenge of playing a dual role. "You're two people, but essentially the same person. [Natalie is] a person's idea of what [Caroline] has become. Natalie's in his head, and she's what he wants/needs her to be in a moment. If he needs to be reprimanded, fine. If he needs to be comforted or have a romantic moment, fine. When Caroline, who is uptight and less flexible, steps into the picture, it's funny because she's having a competition with herself. It's a real conflict for her. She knows she shouldn't be having a relationship with a patient and what's really involved with being with a schizophrenic, yet she's turned on by his mind and chose to in spite of herself. There's a lot of different levels, and it's fun."
McCormack discusses Dr. Daniel's relationship with Natalie, one of his hallucinations:
Not so much fun was filming their first make-out moment because both actors were suffering from the flu. "We were both really sick. It was a really sexy day," Rowan said sarcastically, adding that for her, having worked with McCormack on "Lonesome Dove" in the '90s and knowing his wife made the transition to romantic relationship easier. "There was a familiarity that we instantly had from working together that was in my favor."
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The pairing pleases another character almost as much. "They sleep together, and I high-five him. Obviously I am supporting that relationship. I give him encouragement when it comes to his sex life," said Arjay Smith, who plays Daniel's assistant/roommate Max Lewicki. "I'm trying to get him to have more fun this season, to get out there, have more experiences with other people, be more personable."
Smith is also excited that Season 2 "goes a lot deeper with Max. The exposure has been very surface up to this point. We get into more of his backstory. Why is his name Lewicki? It is an obscure thing — an African American with a Polish last name — so you know there's a story behind that. You get to see a little more of the chemistry between Max and Dr. Pierce and how they are as roommates. We delve into their quirks, what gets on Max's nerves, what gets on Dr. Pierce's nerves. There are a lot more laughs and personality from Lewicki."
But as Cook mentioned, a happy medicated Daniel does not a show make, so be prepared for things to go south. Rowan teased, "You'll see parallels [of both women's journeys] for a little bit, and then you'll see a decision. He chooses between the two."
And given how handy the hallucinations are to his consulting gig with Kate and the FBI, we think Natalie might have the edge in this race. "They are so helpful, those hallucinations, and we have a cornucopia of terrifying new mental illnesses to talk about," Cook joked.
McCormack loves "how much more integrated the crimes and personal stories" have become in Season 2 and mentioned several cases he is excited for fans to see, such as one where the team heads to a Comic-Con-like event. "That's not a good place for a schizophrenic to be — it might actually induce schizophrenia — so fun ensues," he said before reminiscing about "Caleidoscope," which is slotted as the fifth episode.
"It deals with those realistic Internet games [where] you create an avatar and live in the game. There's basically a kid who's witnessed something who hasn't spoken in five years because he's so lost in this game. The only way to communicate with him is to create avatars of our own, and some really fun s--- ensues because I'm a Luddite when it comes social media and interaction. There's a very funny scene where Lewicki creates my avatar. That's my favorite thing I think I've shot with Arjay."
There are complications in Kate and Daniel's personal and professional relationships. In the season finale, she asked him to always be honest when he was seeing things or being affected by his mental illness, but almost from go in the season opener he conveniently forgets to tell her he's off his meds. "He's not going to be honest, and she corners him, so that's a thing they're working on," McCormack said. When her estranged philandering husband shows up to work with the twosome, things get even more complicated.
For Cook, though, Season 2 complications have been of a more personal nature as she has tried to navigate her badass-with-a-badge persona while being pregnant with her first child. It became more of an issue when her baby bump popped around Episode 9. (There will be 10 episodes this summer and four more shot that will be held for a mini-season to air around Christmas.)
"I'm a little bit terrified at how unafraid they are of hiding it. My vanity is pretty concerned about that. I always get what we call 'well-placed folder,'" lamented Cook. After being told she should embrace the temporary bulky state, she added, "Well, all right, have fun at home watching for it [to show up]."
The new season of "Perception" premieres Tuesday, 6/25 at 10 PM on TNT.