|Eric McCormack. (Joseph Marzullo/WENN.com)
Eric McCormack was asked if there's anything specific in his Canadian background that prepared him to play a brilliant schizophrenic who solves crimes in Perception.
"Canadians, we're just crazy smart," McCormack said.
I suggested that maybe the fact that Canadians are both intensely proud and also suffer from an inferiority complex might be at the heart of it.
"I'll probably steal that," McCormack said. "You'll probably read that in (another publication) when I say it in about two hours."
McCormack stressed, however, that while Perception -- which makes its Canadian debut Wednesday, Sept. 5 on Bravo -- is somewhat light-hearted in tone, it does not make light of schizophrenia.
"I have to be careful what I say, because it's always in my nature to joke around," McCormack said. "But it's such a not-funny thing.
"We don't want to stigmatize it at all. My character's stigma is his own. It's his embarrassment that the thing he is supposed to be the master of is the thing he has the least control over. It's a professional embarrassment for him.
"But he actually does love the way his brain works. He doesn't want to mess with it too much."
In Perception, which is nearing the end of its first season on TNT in the United States, McCormack plays Dr. Daniel Pierce, an eccentric neuroscience professor with paranoid schizophrenia.
Dr. Pierce is recruited by a former student of his -- Kate Moretti, played by Rachael Leigh Cook -- to help the FBI solve complex cases.
Dr. Pierce has an uncanny ability to see patterns, but he struggles with hallucinations. There certainly are elements of the 2001 Russell Crowe movie A Beautiful Mind at play here.
"It's not on television much, certainly not in terms of a functioning person," McCormack said. "The truth is, I don't have anyone in my family like this, I really had to start from scratch. The researching of it was fascinating and eye-opening.
"Most of us are aware of schizophrenia only when we see people on the street who clearly are mentally ill and have lost their jobs and their homes. But there are people out there who are functioning, either on the meds or not."
McCormack is a Toronto native who became well-known to television audiences for his portrayal of Will Truman on NBC's Will & Grace, starring alongside Debra Messing. The sitcom aired for eight seasons from 1998 to 2006, earning McCormack an Emmy award and a Screen Actors Guild award.
While there are virtually no similarities between Will & Grace and Perception, McCormack said one of the things that attracted him to this new series was that it has a retro feel, structurally speaking.
"What I like is that it's a bit of a throwback in that it's not procedural, (Dr. Pierce) doesn't follow procedure, there are no forensics," McCormack said.
"It's about puzzle-solving. It's more Columbo and McMillan and Wife than it is CSI."
So if Perception isn't a procedural, could it be ... wait for it ... a perceptual?
I know, I know, leave the marketing to the experts.