Alan Cumming embraces complex role on new CBS mystery drama 'Instinct'

 
By Jay Bobbin
Zap2it
Updated 3/14/2018 12:09 PM
hello
  • A professor, former CIA operative and writer (Alan Cumming) gets pulled into a murder investigation when a serial killer uses his book for inspiration in CBS' "Instinct."

    A professor, former CIA operative and writer (Alan Cumming) gets pulled into a murder investigation when a serial killer uses his book for inspiration in CBS' "Instinct." Courtesy of CBS

Alan Cumming was the frequent spice of "The Good Wife," but in "Instinct," he's the main course.

The Tony Award-winning stage and screen talent returns to CBS as the star and an executive producer of the mystery series premiering Sunday, March 18. Based on a novel by best-selling author James Patterson ("Kiss the Girls"), it casts Cumming as a spirited ex-CIA agent turned writer and professor whose first book motivates a serial killer. He teams with an NYPD detective (Bojana Novakovic) to stop the murders.

The continually busy Cumming -- who recently hosted the Movies for Grownups Awards for PBS' "Great Performances" -- says "Instinct" drew him back to series television for the "sort of confounding character" he gets to play.

"There's so many different layers to it. He's sort of a fuddy-duddy professor, a bit of a dandy. He is a former spy. He drives a motorbike. He's gay. He was a child musical prodigy. There's all these different things, and I guess the challenge was to make them all into one sort of whole person."

Executive producer Michael Rauch ("Royal Pains") appreciates the creative freedom "Instinct" has in its TV form: "One of the things James Patterson said when the whole deal worked out was, 'Use as much of the book as you want, or use as little of the book as you want,' which was incredibly liberating. Here's the largest-selling author in the history of the world, (dissolving my) feeling like I had to be true to every word.

A professor, former CIA operative and writer (Alan Cumming) gets pulled into a murder investigation when a serial killer uses his book for inspiration in CBS' "Instinct."
A professor, former CIA operative and writer (Alan Cumming) gets pulled into a murder investigation when a serial killer uses his book for inspiration in CBS' "Instinct." - Courtesy of CBS

"A lot of what the setup is (is what) was in the original book, and then I took certain character relationships and went in a different way."

Whoopi Goldberg has a recurring role as a book editor in "Instinct," which also features Naveen Andrews ("Lost") and Sharon Leal ("Boston Public"). Cumming is quick to cite another of the main appeals of the series for him.

"It's the first-ever drama on American television to have a gay character as the lead," he says, "which I think is an incredible thing and also a terrible thing at the same time. It's another layer to the character that makes it interesting to play, sort of socially and politically ... and especially in the time that we find ourselves in, in America.

"I really do applaud everyone at CBS and (production company) Secret Hideout for having the courage to put that on right now, in a kind of climate that you might think possibly might not be the best time to do that. But I think it's actually the perfect time. It needs to be done, and I'm really proud to be a part of that."

• • •

"Instinct"

Premieres at 7 p.m. Sunday, March 18, on CBS

Article Comments ()
Guidelines: Keep it civil and on topic; no profanity, vulgarity, slurs or personal attacks. People who harass others or joke about tragedies will be blocked. If a comment violates these standards or our terms of service, click the X in the upper right corner of the comment box. To find our more, read our FAQ.