"Lost" star Josh Holloway returns to TV in "Intelligence," CBS' well-crafted spy drama with a twist, which premieres on Tuesday, January 7 at 9 p.m., before moving into its regular Monday timeslot the following week.
The twist? Holloway's Gabriel character is a high-tech operative as the result of a super-computer microchip implanted in his brain, which connects him directly into the global information grid. It makes him an extremely valuable asset, so he is assigned Secret Service agent Riley Neal (Meghan Ory) to watch over him, not just because of his value and the threat of his being kidnapped by foreign governments, but because Gabriel is also pining for his missing wife. His boss, Director Lillian Strand (Marg Helgenberger), doesn't want him going off and doing something stupid, so she gets him a watchdog!
What else do you need to know? Executive Producer Michael Seitzman gives us the scoop on what happens when man meets machine:
No. 1: What are the dangers of having a chip inside the head of a human who has emotions?
Our characters and our stories are always measuring the distance between man and machine, trying to figure out what it means to have a chip in your brain. What the dangers are in terms of whether that chip could be hacked or accessed? Could it malfunction? What would that mean? How does it interact with you?
I think the questions go to questions we all deal with everyday. I think it is John Lennon's expression: Life is what happens when you are busy making other plans. It became: Life is what happens when your nose is in your smart phone. We all became very connected all the time constantly, so what does that mean for Gabriel? We just took it one step further.
We try not to hit it too hard on the head because if we get too philosophical, it stops being a fun show. If you are just philosophical enough, and you pay just enough attention to it, it becomes interesting and it becomes part of what makes the character tick, and what makes him not tick. And it becomes part of the fear of the other characters. It becomes a story engine. it generates problems for our characters to solve.
No. 2: Can the chip make him physically stronger?
No. In fact, we ask him that a couple times. We have a character ask him if it helps him with his golf game, or he wishes it would. Probably the biggest thing that you're doing when you have a character that has an ability is defining what he can't do and can do. You try to approach it from that angle. Storytelling is conflict management. Where is the tension coming from? The tension will always come from what he can't do? You get a certain amount of satisfaction and wish fulfillment from the things he can do.
We also try to think about what's going to be the most fun thing. The more human we make him, the more fun the show becomes and the more fun he is to write. This idea of measuring the distance between man and machine permeates all the stuff that we do. We are constantly thinking that if we feel we are in the mind of a robot , we are we made a mistake. We are constantly pushing idea that he's a human with this ability and he becomes just like all of us. What if I had that chip? What would I do with that?
If you make him too powerful, too fast or too strong, if he can't bleed, he becomes so much less interesting. The more human he is, and the more he wrestles with it, has fun with it, and the more he can joke about it, the more of a person he becomes.
No. 3: The settings for this show are international. Where are the locations?
[Syria is] Santa Clarita. We have a great production designer and art department. You'd be amazed at how you start with a dirt road and end up with a Syrian marketplace. Or you start with a '50s era office building and it suddenly turns into a capital building in some other country. We've been very smart about how we shoot California and where we go. Our crew is very adept at creating these worlds for us. When you watch the show you'd never know that you are in Southern California.
No. 4: Will Mei Chen (Faye Kingslee), his Chinese counterpart, be a friend or a foe?
She emerges as this really powerful, really mysterious mercenary for hire. We don't really know that much about her when we first encounter her. If you sense we are being careful, it's that we don't want to give story points away that are really fun that we want people to watch. But she does emerge as a really fun character with a lot of abilities who works for clients. We're never quite sure how she meets them or how they pay her. We do know she is a gun for hire, or a chip for hire.
No. 5: Is Gabriel's wife really dead?
We’re not sure yet if she’s really dead. She’s dead as far as we know at the end of 2 but part of the fun of this is that we want to unfold the story in a series of fun reveals for the audience so we don’t want to give it up too soon.
"Intelligence" premieres Tuesday, Jan. 7 at 9 p.m. on CBS. Reruns on Friday, Jan. 10 at 10 p.m. and then moves to its regular timeslot at 10 p.m. on Monday, Jan. 13 1t 10 p.m.