A widely held, if utterly false, belief is that we only use 10 percent of our brains. But in the upcoming CBS crime drama “Limitless,” nothing could be further from the truth.
Based on the 2011 thriller of the same name, “Limitless” focuses on Brian Sinclair, played by Jake McDorman, a struggling musician who stumbles across an experimental drug that allows him to tap into his full mental potential. Life becomes complicated when the FBI pressures Brian into using his super-intellect to help solve cases.
Bradley Cooper will reprise his film role as Eddie Morra, whose motivations remain unknown.
McDorman spoke with journalists at Comic-Con International about reinterpreting “Limitless” television, mind-enhancing drugs, FBI agendas and his favorite part about playing Brian.
What is the relationship between Brian and Eddie throughout the series?
Jake McDorman: That’s actually one of the most ambiguous parts of the pilot. I don’t think even Brian really knows what Eddie wants to do with him. He drops into his life in the moment of the story where he’s at rock bottom. He’s got the FBI pursuing him and he’s been shot. Eddie abducts him and takes him to a safe house. He’s like, “You’re important.” Brian is like, “What would you ever have to do with me? You’re running for president,” which is where we pick up the story and where the movie left off. The movie ends with Eddie running for senator and is about to announce his presidential campaign. So, the relationship is kind of ambiguous. Whatever sinister or otherwise plans he has for Brian, Brian doesn’t know.
What are the side effects for Brian taking these pills?
They are fatal. Just like in the movie, unless you continue to take it, the side effects will kill you. That’s where Eddie comes in. Brian finds a way to take the pill without any side effects, which piques the interest of the FBI. You find out they’ve known about the NZT for however long. They’ve experimented with test subjects, but they all get incredibly sick or die because the side effects were so bad. I think it’s a necessary component of the story. One of the things Marc Webb, Craig [Sweeny, executive producers] and I talked about before shooting is that we have all these characters addicted to substances. It’s a bizarre line to walk, and to show, that it’s almost like a performance-enhancing drug, but there are serious consequences just like taking any drug. Even though it’s more of a pharmaceutical, it’s not like some recreational drug that has this immense benefit. It’s strange to have your hero be a hero who is addicted. It just leaves a lot of places for the show to go.
Does everybody who takes these drugs know everything about everybody then?
I don’t know. Would we collectively solve all the world’s problems in a weekend? That’s what is really exciting about it. And what are Eddie’s intentions? Is Eddie a bad person? He’s been on it for so long. It has to mutate your morality. If you are on NZT consistently, I feel eventually you’d be like a really advanced alien species visiting Earth.
Where does Rebecca (Jennifer Carpenter) factor into Brian’s life?
She’s the FBI agent in pursuit of him, who realizes that he is on this drug. She first encountered the drug when her father was on it. She lost her father to addiction. She notices similarities in their physical demeanor and suspects Brian might be on the same thing. It makes her pursuit personal, which gives her a soft spot for the outcome. Also, that’s why it generates the idea in her head, “Oh, yeah. This guy could be a resource.” For whatever reason, in whatever way, Brian is immune to the side effects of this drug. He’s kind of like the perfect test subject.
In the pilot, Brian has these moments of humor. Why was it essential to include those beats?
That’s my favorite part about Brian. When Bradley was pitching it to me, when I guess they were brainstorming at what actors would be great to play him, they were like, “It’s hard, man. You can’t lose the comedy. You can’t all of a sudden become this unrelatable braniac that goes off and solves cases. There’s a level of humor in the whole thing.” That’s my favorite part, that montage right where he takes it [the pill], and there is this wish fulfilment, joyful kind of thing. I remember reading the script – because we didn’t have much time after I was cast – it was like three or four days to read and go, “Let’s find all the pieces where it would make sense to interject joy or some sort of enjoyable, humorous side of it,” that I think is essential for who Brian is. You don’t want to lose the fact that if everybody had the opportunity to take this pill, that it wouldn’t be so fun for a second before the side effects, or before you get framed for murder. It’s got to be a blast. You are all of a sudden capable of anything you put your mind to. I think Marc said at one point today, “Everybody’s had that sensation of being in a job interview or being in a bar, two drinks in, and you are firing on all cylinders, telling a story. ‘This is going great.'” It’s that amplified for 12 hours. There’s a really fun, enjoyable aspect to that. That’s one of the things that made playing the role attractive for me.
For people who haven’t see the movie and are coming into this, how important is it to make Brian relatable and the entry point to this story?
It’s very important. The difference between Eddie Morra from the film and Brian from the show is Eddie gets a hold of the drug and it becomes, “Wow, how far can I go?” Then, it’s exciting to watch how far he will go and how much trouble he gets into and how high the stakes get. That’s all the enjoyment of watching the movie.
In the show, Brian is very different. Brian spends an afternoon going, “I can play guitar. I can play chess. I’m a genius. This is so much fun. I should help my dad. He has a terminal illness and nobody can diagnose him, but I can.” He really stops taking the pill after that, especially when he sees how much trouble it gets him in with the FBI. Brian’s intentions are much more selfless than I feel Eddie Morra’s are. To see where Eddie Morra is coming at now, running for president with these ambiguous plans for some kid trying to help his dad, it paints an exciting difference between the vibe of the movie and the vibe of the show.
”Limitless” premieres Tuesday, Sept. 22, on CBS.
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