"Limitless" is the story of Eddie Mora, a struggling writer who takes a mysterious new smart drug known as NZT which allows him to access the full potential of his brain. Only that was the 2011 movie starring Bradley Cooper.
CBS' "Limitless" TV series stars Jake McDorman as Brian Finch, a struggling musician who takes the same experimental drug and experiences similar results, leading him to be recruited as an asset for the FBI and teamed up with Agent Rebecca Harris (Jennifer Carpenter). Unlike many movies adapted into TV shows, "Limitless" doesn't turn its back on its predecessor. In fact, Cooper is an Executive Producer on the series and will reprise his role as Eddie Mora in a recurring role throughout.
At New York Comic Con, CBR TV's Jonah Weiland invited stars Jake McDorman and Jennifer Carpenter to the world famous CBR Tiki Room to discuss the new series, why it's a direct sequel to the film, and how the actors deal with a show that relies so heavily on visual effects that aren't added until later in the filmmaking process.
On why the show is a direct sequel to the movie and having Bradley Cooper's character Eddie Morra pulling the strings:
Jake McDorman: It's great. I think it's a much better idea than to remake the events of the movie into a show, or to act like the events of the movie didn't happen and start completely fresh. Which, I mean, it was in large part due to Bradley's willingness to be so involved in the TV show. It created a universe that feels like it's actually happening; there's events happening simultaneously. I think a big difference between -- Bradley was the protagonist, Eddie Morra was the protagonist of the movie, but he's not necessarily, you know, a good person. He uses the pill for, as far as we're shown, really some self-serving motivations, like the first thing he does when he's on the pill is sleep with someone's wife. It's entertaining to watch, to see how far he can go, but it's interesting to now have the perspective of that character from somebody else whose storyline's running adjacent to his.
It's made for a more authentic story, I think, to pick up four years later and have these plotlines intersect. It's hard to say what happens to your morality, what happens to who you are as a person if you've been taking a drug that separates you intellectually from the masses so much, every single day for four years, which Bradley's character has been. He's much further down his journey with NZT than Brian is.
On how Agent Harris has to stay on task while being charmed by Finch:
Jennifer Carpenter: It would be a conflict if [their partnership] didn't work out. It's certainly not a safe bet, but for now it's paying off. For now, it doesn't seem like, from what I know, it doesn't seem like he's trying to get in the way of what we're doing, the good work we're doing, at the FBI. So for now it's paying off, personally and professionally.
McDorman: Like you're always saying, you're so used to people that always do things by the book at the FBI and Brian's kind of this wildcard that can either get you in a lot of trouble or--
Carpenter: Link to the real world.
On how they prepare for scenes knowing how many additional VFX elements are added in post-production:
McDorman: Usually I don't like to watch playback, and playback is after you shoot something to watch what you just filmed back on a monitor to see how that goes. I think it lends itself to being really -- if you do it and you're not in the right state of mind you can micromanage your performance, which is not a good thing. But for this show it does have such a specific aesthetic, and the way we film it and the camera angles and the way it's filmed when he's on NZT and the camera cues that tell you when he's off NZT. We have very locked off shots when Brian's on NZT, and then it's all handheld and a little bit more messy when he's off NZT. To keep track of that timeline visually is really important, so I'm watching more dailies, I'm watching my performance more than I ever would because it helps to know where the camera's gonna be.
On Harris' conflicted nature and morality:
Carpenter: Right now it feels like she's shaving off a little bit of what she knows keeps her safe in her work, keeps her safe in her process, keeps her colleagues safe in the process. And I'm hoping that, I guess she's sort of hoping that there won't be a moment when she sort of looks back and goes, "I shouldn't have done it."