Josh Holloway went into his first read-through for Intelligence thinking he was doing science fiction, yet the more he got into the assignment, he realized it was very current.
The high-tech CBS spy series — which has a special premiere at 9pm Tuesday, Jan. 7, before assuming its regular Monday night time slot on Jan. 13 — has Holloway (Lost) playing Gabriel Black, a seasoned soldier who agrees to have a microchip implanted in his brain that makes him the first human ever plugged in directly to the global information grid. This allows him to hack into any data center and instantly access key intel — pretty handy stuff for a spy.
“Everybody now pretty much carries around a supercomputer in their pocket,” Holloway says. “We have access to everything, and it’s amazing.” He also points to scientific advancements involving quadriplegics able to move robot limbs with the aid of computers as proof of Intelligence’s relevancy to today’s world.
Joining Holloway is Marg Helgenberger (CSI) as Lilian, Gabriel’s tough-as-nails boss — “Thank God for Marg!” Holloway says, calling her the “anchor” of the cast, and “so classy and fun”; and Meghan Ory (Once Upon a Time) as Riley Neil, the Secret Service agent recruited to protect him.
Aside from the neato spy stuff (Holloway proclaims himself a lifelong James Bond fan) the actor was also attracted to Gabriel’s humanity, and how his new abilities cause a struggle to maintain it. Gabriel only agreed to have the chip implanted in order to help find his wife, a CIA agent who has gone missing.
“He’s this cocky bastard, but in his heart he is looking for his wife,” he says. “It’s not just a one-dimensional character. Each character is opening up and becoming more three-dimensional. It’s not just about me. There’s a bigger picture and a deeper study of the characters, which is what I feel good TV and movies are about — relationships, not just blowing things up.”
After six seasons on Lost, Intelligence signals a bit of a shift for Holloway, who has spent his time since leaving the island largely on the big screen working with A-listers like Tom Cruise (Mission: Impossible: Ghost Protocol), Harrison Ford (Paranoia) and the upcoming Arnold Schwarzenegger vehicle Sabotage. Instead of a mythology-heavy show that could easily have newcomers, um, lost, Intelligence is much closer to a standalone episode structure.
“I’m used to a high-concept show that is very serialized, so that’s what I was attracted to more,” Holloway says. “I wasn’t really that into episodic, but this had both, and has continued to develop many other through-lines, not just my wife, that are appealing to myself and I think to the audience as well.”
It’s also a change going from being part of a large ensemble cast to being the main guy. But while it has its demands and drawbacks, Holloway says it’s the perfect time for him to take that step.
“I have a family, which I care very much about,” he says, “and balancing the two is challenging, but I feel very fulfilled. I’m at a time in life when it’s time to lead and take control of some things. So this is perfect. I’m ready. It feels good. I’m exhausted but fulfilled.”
Photo: © 2013 CBS Broadcasting, Inc. Credit: Robert Voets