Trust Your Gut — Alan Cumming Brings Fun To CBS’ Groundbreaking ‘Instinct’

Alan Cumming Instinct Jonathan Wenk /CBS
Alan Cumming stars in CBS' witty police procedural, Instinct.

Former The Good Wife favorite Alan Cumming returns to CBS on March 18 as the star of Instinct, a delightfully feisty police drama that is breaking new ground in television. “It’s the first ever drama on American television, network drama, to have a gay character as the lead,” says Cumming. “Which I think is an incredible thing and also a terrible thing at the same time.”

Cumming shines as Dr. Dylan Reinhart, a former CIA operative turned bestselling author and university professor of criminal behavior who is drawn back into action after helping solve a crime for the NYPD. “He’s sort of a fuddy-duddy professor, a bit of a dandy. He kind of is a former spy. He drives a motorbike. He’s gay,” lists Cumming. “And also, as you say in America, he opens up a can of whoop-ass sometimes. And that’s quite a nice thing to be able to do in your 50s,” he laughs.

Not only does Reinhart have a diversely interesting life history, but he’s also one of TV’s quirkiest leading characters, so his frame of reference is wonderfully bizarre. “I’m willing to make him a little odd and dare to be a little weird,” Cumming teases. “The biggest challenge is trying to make all these disparate things into one whole person.” A conversation with Reinhart might include a musical reference to his childhood as a musical prodigy, a cultural mention courtesy of his world travels or snippets from a presumed-forgotten conversation, as Reinhart possesses a phonographic memory and can recall everything he’s ever heard. “His quirks and his idiosyncrasies and his weird talents made him a really great spy,” the actor explains.

Dr. Reinhart is also a much sunnier character than TV typically sees on a crime procedural, and Cumming blithely admits, “I like to confound people’s expectations.” The relationships Reinhart has with his husband (Daniel Ings), his former CIA chum (Naveen Andrews) and his book editor (Whoopi Goldberg) are simply refreshing. But Reinhart’s charm is sublime when he’s with Detective Lizzie Needham (Bojana Novakovic), his tough new partner. “I am excited to have characters at the center of a series who don’t need to have sexual chemistry,” says Cumming, “where their relationship can be a different kind of brother/sister, slightly passive-aggressive, outsmart-each-other rivalry, but then they grow to love each other.”

Instinct delivers plenty of mystery and action, but with a light touch. Executive producer Michael Rauch says, “Hopefully when the show is over you feel satisfied watching a crime, but you also feel just a little bit lighter and happier from watching the characters and the humor.”

Instinct > CBS > Sundays beginning March 18 at 8/7c

2 Comments

  1. Thank you for the good article on this intriguing show. I enjoyed the extra insight from Cumming. By the way procedural is misspelled in the photo caption, which is ironic because I was a copy editor for Channel Guide magazine for a number of years!

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