Tuning in to TV: McCormack ready for critics to nitpick his new series

Eric McCormack is bracing himself.

He’s starring in “Perception,” a new TNT drama he’s very proud of. On the series, which premieres at 10 p.m. Monday, he plays a character he loves.

Still, he’s waiting for the storm.

“I’ve known from the beginning that we’re going to have to go through a trial by fire,” he said in an Associated Press interview. “We just are.”

On “Perception” he portrays Dr. Daniel Pierce, a brilliant neuroscience professor with paranoid schizophrenia who is recruited by the FBI for a side job: to help solve cases that call for expertise in human behavior and the workings of the mind.

Angela Raiola, better known as Big Ang, stars in "Mob Wives" and will also star in "Big Ang." (Associated Press)

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Angela Raiola, better known as Big Ang, stars in “Mob Wives” and ... more >

Rachael Leigh Cook co-stars as FBI agent Kate Moretti, who, a failed marriage ago, had a crush on Pierce as a student in his classes. Were he not so challenged by intimacy issues, Pierce might now be game to reciprocate her feelings.

Never mind. Their priority is joining forces to solve crimes. And they do, even as Pierce wrestles with his complicated condition, which afflicts him with hallucinations, paranoid delusions and a need to keep strict order.

Pierce is a genius,” Mr. McCormack said, “and he’s got all the bravado and arrogance that comes with it: ‘If there’s anyone who can fix a brain, it’s me.’

“The mysteries are the most delicious thing for him, and yet they stir him up, to his detriment. Every new case will be harder and harder on his psyche, causing his condition to get worse. That makes a great push-me, pull-me for the show.”

When he first read the script, the 49-year-old Mr. McCormack recalled, “I knew right away what I could do with this character. I knew the fun we could have. I also knew what people are gonna say: ‘McCormack does “Monk.” McCormack does “House.” McCormack does “Castle.” ‘ “

A little sigh.

“None of those guys are schizophrenic. None are lecturers at a university. He’s not a [practicing] physician and he’s not a detective.” Mr. McCormack laughs. “Am I nitpicking. Or are they nitpicking?”

The truth is, at the time of this interview a few weeks ago, no one is nitpicking. Yet. But Mr. McCormack is prepared for it to start.

In part, that’s because of his experience with “Trust Me,” his follow-up series to the 1998-2006 sitcom hit “Will & Grace.”

A one-hour comedy-drama that aired for a season on TNT in 2009, “Trust Me” paired Mr. McCormack and Tom Cavanagh as ad men at a current-day agency.

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