Scott Wolf could get away with murder. His "Perception" co-star Rachael Leigh Cook credits his smiley eyes, warm grin, innocent aura, and seeming ability to stave off the aging process. (Seriously, he doesn't look that much older than he did on "Party of Five," and that went off the air 13 years ago.)
"I learned that as a kid, and I did get away with murder," Wolf said at a press day held on the Burbank, Calif. set of the TNT crime dramedy. Both Cook and Wolf think it's why Wolf has been offered jobs playing the not-so-good-guy more often than not. "The first thing I ever did, I played a really nice, earnest guy; but since then, if you really parse it out, I have been kind of typecast as a d-----bag in the later part of my career. It's fun playing characters who are flawed, complicated, and not so easy for an audience to figure out. Part of the fun of being an actor is being able to express behaviors I wouldn't try to get away with in life."
Seems like his special guest star gig on Season 2 of "Perception" — the series that features Eric McCormack as Dr. Daniel Pierce, a brilliant neuroscience professor whose paranoid schizophrenia makes social interaction debilitating but comes in handy when ex-student-turned-FBI-agent Kate Moretti (Cook) needs help solving cases — is shaping up to provide him with plenty more opportunities to misbehave. Wolf is playing Donnie, a charismatic assistant U.S. attorney who recently transferred back to Chicago and who pulls Kate and Daniel into a murder trial in the season opener. He also happens to be Kate's soon-to-be ex-husband.
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"For a bulk of the season, there were these two layers to whatever was happening," Wolf explained. "One was the professional. They actually do bounce well off each other, respect each other, and make each other better. But then there's this other side which is the complicated past that keeps them from being able to be easy with each other."
Cook added, "[When] we start solving crimes together, you realize that once upon a time they made a really good team professionally and personally. With that pulled away from them, with the personal gone, can they still have that good work relationship?"
He claims the transfer was random, but it is obvious he is trying to win her back and seeking forgiveness for "cheating ... and lying. And don't forget narcissism," Wolf reminded journalists, referencing Kate's name-calling from the first episode. "It is revealed pretty quickly [that] I got transferred back because I miss [Kate] and want us to be back together. Everything is in the Kate-taking-me-back basket. Thus begins this epic journey up the mountain."
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His strategy for redemption "changes as the story unfolds. I'm a by-any-means-necessary kind of guy. In the beginning, it is literally just put myself back in front of her and see what happens. For a while, it's just be here, be back, and take a beating for as long as I need to."
This goes on "for roughly eight episodes," according to Cook. "He takes such a beating that I think there will be extreme Donnie sympathy by the end of this. It is almost impossible, but that's what Scott has pulled off so brilliantly."
Humbly, Wolf credited the scripts and his cast mates. "These are great writers and an incredible cast. ... As we've gone along, my own redemption is revealed to even me little by little."
His return also affects her relationship with Daniel: In the course of the aforementioned case, he outs Daniel's disorder publicly the minute he thinks it will help his cause at a trial, despite all of Daniel's earlier help. Also, at various points in Season 1, it seemed as if Kate and Daniel both had feelings that went beyond being a crime-solving duo. "Donnie showing up complicates things a great deal for Kate, especially the more he reveals himself not [to be] the two-dimensional bad guy she wants to see him as. It's pretty typical of people who work in law enforcement to see people as either good or bad. He's quickly moving into this gray area, becoming a better guy, and it really upsets her balance," Cook said. "She has to confront her feelings for and about Daniel when this little troublemaker says to Daniel, 'I think this girl's into you.' She's put on the spot, absolutely mortified, because she's really busted and crushed, and completely shuts him down, [saying] 'You have no evidence. Everything is in flux.'"
Wolf further explained, "Donnie being a guy who is willing to do whatever it takes [as long as] he doesn't break laws or rules has hurt Kate in the past and rubs Daniel completely the wrong way."
McCormack believes the addition of her ex is a needed "wrench in the works." The actor explained, "He's a nice foil for me. It's cool for her because Kate, even though it was her job, ended up in a passenger-seat role to me. But this relationship with him allows her to have someone else she can take on on a regular basis. There are scenes where I become more of a sidekick to her."
McCormack, who also produces the show, admitted they teased a love connection between the teacher and student that probably wouldn't end up happening. "We hinted mostly because we wanted to see what the audience thought. I courted the shippers, and there was a tremendous reaction, which I think is great, [but] the thing about Kate and Daniel is it's completely unspoken. By Episode 5 or 6, Donnie's the objective voice, the one who speaks it. And I basically say, 'What the hell are you talking about?' [But] she and I have to face it."
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But not before McCormack and Wolf get to have a "Simon & Simon"-style escapade. "Daniel and Donnie wind up finding connections that you wouldn't suspect they ever would. A lot of it is through Kate," Wolf said. "Anyone that winds up knowing [Donnie] winds up wanting to protect him in some way."
McCormack admitted that there was at least one episode where the two "are thrown together and stuck in no man's land. It's really fun. We solve crime together [and] it changes our relationship. I think of it as the Alan Alda-Loretta Swit episode. He's definitely Loretta."
The new season of "Perception" premieres Tuesday, 6/25 at 10 PM on TNT.