“Intelligence,” premiering Tuesday, Jan. 7, on CBS, looks at the new gray area where man meets machine.
In the set for a high-tech government facility built on the Disney lot in Burbank, Calif., evidence is examined in hopes of catching someone targeting scientists. Leading the analysis is former Special Forces operative Gabriel Vaughn (Josh Holloway), who has a supercomputer microchip in his brain.
Eyeing him is one of the potential targets, a tech executive named Bryce, who has a big interest in the intersection of the organic and the electronic.
He wonders just how human Gabriel still is, and Gabriel assures him he’s very human. Bryce is skeptical, and when Gabriel asks the exec what he thinks he is, Bryce replies, “The future.”
Taking a break in another corner of the set, Holloway — in his first TV series since playing Sawyer on “Lost” — tells Zap2it, “When I read this material, it was like, ‘This is something that is very interesting.’ It’s now; it’s very current; it’s the relationship between technology and our humanity, how that is changing daily, how we are dealing as a society now.
“I liked the fact that the character was more human than machine, and he had a hidden agenda for volunteering for this program. He was desperate to find his wife.”
The missing wife may be dead or alive, and if alive, may have espionage agendas of her own. While he searches, Gabriel solves cases using his ability to connect directly to the global information grid and hack into any data center. Supporting him is Lillian Strand (Marg Helgenberger), the director of an elite cybersecurity agency. Assigned to protect him from outside threats and his own recklessness is Secret Service Agent Riley Neal (Meghan Ory).
Also on hand are Dr. Shenandoah Cassidy (John Billingsley), creator of the chip, and his son, Nelson (P.J. Byrne).
Of course, in this age of concerns over NSA snooping on citizens, having a government agent who can hack databases with his brain presents some ethical questions.
Sitting in a white leather airline seat in a partial set for a luxury jet doubling as a flying tech center, executive producer Michael Seitzman says, “We ride this line all the time. Our show depends on Gabriel’s ability to use his chip to essentially invade everybody’s privacy to solve a crime. We don’t use warrants with Gabriel’s chip.
During the pilot, Seitzman considered have a Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act Court judge as a series regular, to oversee Gabriel’s activities. In the end, though, Seitzman decided against it.
“We stopped worrying about it,” he says. “We thought, ‘Don’t let too much reality get in the way of a good reality.’ It’s a good adage.”
In playing Gabriel, Holloway isn’t as interested in the legal niceties of the situation as he is in getting to the heart of the character.
“He’s a soldier,” he says. “I like things to have some fun. It is a heavy thing, but he’s a cocky bastard. That’s why I love the balance of the fact that he is very much in love with his wife, and he has this real human side.
“At first I was reading, ‘God, where is his human side? He’s just a cocky bastard; where’s his depth? Does he have another dimension?’ And, boom, there it was. I was like, ‘Oh, that’s awesome.’
“However, the first question I asked was, ‘OK, when’s the wife die?’ “
Well, perhaps not right away, but in the meantime, the possibility of the wife out there keeps the damper on any sexual tension between Gabriel and Riley.
“Which is great,” says Holloway, “because I hate when there’s two people who should be together, but they’re not. There’s no reason. Eventually that will work itself out, but it might take a long time.”
Holloway’s also enjoying doing stunts, shooting guns and blowing things up, even if it results in a couple of broken bones in one hand.
“I just broke them two weeks ago,” he says, looking at his hand. “I had to throw a guy into a windshield. It was late; I forgot to let go. So I smashed him onto my hand, and then we had to finish fighting another two hours, so it was fantastic.
“So it’s fun to fight when you’re nauseous with a break.”
Holloway’s not the only one having fun.
“Last episode,” says Ory, “I have an M4 around a guy’s neck. I break his neck, then I turn around and shoot a bunch of people — and I shot people while I had the gun strangling him. It was pretty fun.”
Starting out as a firearms neophyte, Ory has become proficient very quickly.
“My dad used to be a sharpshooter,” she says. “My dad wants me to take it up because, as it turned out, I’m a really good shot. Maybe it’s genetic.”