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Eric McCormack on the season 3 premiere of 'Perception' with Daniel in Paris

Eric McCormack as Dr. Daniel Pierce in "Perception."
Eric McCormack as Dr. Daniel Pierce in "Perception."
TNT/Doug Hyun, with permission

What happens when Daniel Pierce is off his meds and living a picture-perfect life in Paris with his musician girlfriend? An episode of "Perception" that is as close to "The Bourne Identity" as the series is ever going to get when Daniel is approached by the FBI to help with a dangerous international case -- or is it just his schizophrenia kicking in?

"All of his paranoid fears about the government and spies and being in Europe all come true," series star Eric McCormack tells in this one-on-one interview. "The world is out of control for him, but it was exciting to be shooting it all in the streets of Paris. It was so right for this character to be plopped down there."

When Daniel gets drawn into this episode of spy vs. spy, he is arrested by the Paris police and Kate Moretti (Rachael Leigh Cook) and Donnie Ryan (Scott Wolf) drop everything and jet off to the City of Lights to his rescue. Funnily enough, it is Donnie, who was previously skeptical when it came to Daniel's abilities, who has the most faith that something is really going on and that Daniel is not hallucinating.

Meanwhile back in Chicago, Daniel's assistant Max Lewicki (Arjay Smith) and Dean Paul Haley (Levar Burton) are the comic relief in this episode as they weave a deceitful plot to get Pierce back his teaching position.

For more of what McCormack had to say about upcoming episodes from Season 3, including the fact that we will meet Daniel's father for the first time, check out his interview below:

When we last saw Daniel, he was jobless and Paris bound. Where do we pick up when we return?

He is still jobless and he is in Paris. In fact, we pick up about 30 seconds before the moment that ended Season 2. He is in a café and he has completely fooled himself that this is good, he is happy, that he is safe and he is not going to have symptoms, but we quickly realize that by taking him out of his comfort zone away from Lewicki and Kate, that perhaps Paris is not the safest place for him to be.

One of the things that Daniel needs to stay off his meds is consistency, so how will he be doing in this new circumstance? Any interesting fantasies?

It is a very common for people living with schizophrenia to fear the government, to fear people watching their every move, so a spy fantasy is absolutely dangerous for him, and logical from his standpoint.

Over the past few seasons, we have tried to show that he doesn't flaunt the fact that he is off his meds. It is a very difficult choice for him to make. It is not something he would recommend to anybody else with the condition. It's just for him, he needs to feel like himself. He would rather ride that wave than not. That's what leads to his hallucinations and some of his outburst. Normally, he manages it by simply being in control, by being in his home, and by being in his classroom. Being away from all of that, he is in big mental danger.

Will there also be an actual case since he is not in Chicago? Or does Kate follow him to Paris?

Both of those things are true. There may or may not be an actual case. He believes something is going on. He calls Kate and she comes to Paris, which is great. Almost more so because she is concerned about his mental health; not because she believes something is going on. There are some really interesting twists when she and Scott Wolf arrive.

What can you say about whether or not Daniel gets his job back?

I can say for those that have fears, yes, he will find his way back to his post. How that happens is really fun. We see that in Episode 1 because he left, calling the head of the university an a--hole, it is going to be tough for that to happen. It's actually the fun B-plot of the first episode with Lewicki and Haley figuring out a way to get Daniel back.

Any notable guest stars for the season?

Jobeth Williams plays my mother this season. She played my mother last year in a hallucination because Pierce's mother is dead, and she comes back this season. We love her. Also, Peter Coyote plays Pierce's father for about four episodes. It's a really beautiful story arc about Alzheimer's and about forgiveness. He and his father have not spoken in 20 years. They are both intellectual equals and both as arrogant as the other. Mental illness in each case brings them closer together. It has some really funny moments, and some really touching moments. It was probably the nicest arc played through the season.

You did "Will & Grace" for a lot of years. Now, you're starting your third season of "Perception." Is it harder on a drama to keep the character fresh? Are you going to add anything new this season?

I wouldn't say it was harder. I personally love television. I love having a character that I can live in for six months, and then walk away from for a bit, and come back to, and bring some freshness to it. Every time I see a script, I am just as surprised as the audience as to what is going to happen to Pierce next. So the things that the writers come up with are the things that keep him fresh. It is the surprises in life, particularly for someone who doesn't like surprises, that is always going to bring freshness.

I felt that this year, because of what happens in Paris and the heartbreak that starts the season, and yet how emboldened he feels because he made this move, because it was a very dangerous thing to jump on a plane, and say goodbye to his comfort zone, that there is a tremendous growth through the season of someone who has more courage and is less of a victim, perhaps of his condition. I want to say, he doesn't control it. No one with schizophrenia controls their condition, but he meets it head-on in ways that perhaps he hasn't done before.

What kind of response do you get from mental health professionals about Daniel?

The response has been amazing. One of my models for Daniel is a woman named Elyn Saks, who is a law professor at USC, and who has been living with paranoid schizophrenia for 40 years. We met with her before the show started, and her book, The Center Cannot Hold: My Journey Through Madness, is a bible for me in terms of how symptoms affect people with the condition, how it feels to be inside of that. Last year, I received an award from the Semel Institute at UCLA that she presented to me for getting it right. So that mattered a lot. There is simply no point in doing a show like this and having the people who are living with the condition, or the people who are trying to find a cure, say the show is crap. So, it has mattered to me what they think and the response from them is great.

"Perception" returns with all new episodes on Tuesday, June 17 at 10 p.m. ET/PT on TNT.

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