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'Intelligence' producer talks new Josh Holloway drama

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Chris Helcermanas-Benge/CBS

It takes brains to know how to protect the U.S. from its enemies. And one way to do that is to trick out a brain with a computer chip. That’s the premise behind  Intelligence, a CBS midseason drama that stars Lost vet Josh Holloway as a former Delta Force stud named Gabriel who is outfitted with a microchip in his noggin that allows him to access the global information grid, and probably pay his bills online with his mind. “We wanted to do a modern day Six Million Dollar Man, but we kept asking ourselves the question of ‘What matters?’ Does super strength really matter anymore in a world where people push a button and a drone five miles up kills them?” says series executive producer Michael Seitzman. “It doesn’t matter anymore how strong you are physically. There’s another set of superpowers that seem to be popping up on the news every day, and that is a whole series of direct neural implants. It’s not really science fiction anymore. If it is, it’s five minutes in the future not five years into the future.”

Under the supervision of U.S. Cyber Command —  which is headed up by Lillian Strand (Marg Helgenberger) — and a Secret Service agent named Riley Neal (Meghan Ory) who is supposed to guard this reckless top-secret human project, Gabriel will try to stop a considerable threat to the U.S. every week, whether he’ll need to thwart a dirty bomb or get to the bottom of a conspiracy that involves a bioweapons company that has been testing on human subjects, or plant a virus in a nuclear facility in Iran. Among his superpowers is something called a cyber-render. “In his mind, he can step into a moment of an event and it becomes a virtual evidence wall where he can see the event frozen, he can walk through it, he can pull up documents, photos, and videos,” says Seitzman. “But the cyber-render is informed not just by the intelligence that he has access to — which sometimes can be accurate and sometimes can be inaccurate — but it’s also informed by his own imagination. So if he has an inkling about a suspect, it’ll appear in the cyber-render. Part of what he has to do is analyze it like a dream, and try to figure out what his mind is trying to tell him about an event, and try to decipher what is the real from what his brain is creating. It’s both an opportunity to present information to the audience in a really new way, and it also presents an Achilles heel for the character because he’s not always looking at things exactly as they exist.”

For more on Intelligence, which will screen its pilot episode at Comic-Con (before it premieres on CBS in February), pick up a copy of EW’s Comic-Con Issue, on newsstands now.