Jake McDorman breaks down the 'Limitless' midseason premiere — and Bradley Cooper’s return
Warning: This post contains spoilers from Tuesday’s episode of Limitless.
Bradley Cooper, 2016?
Limitless’ midseason premiere saw the return of Cooper as Senator Edward Morra, reprising his role from the 2011 movie that introduced us all to the brain-enhancing powers of NZT. After surviving an assassination attempt on his life, the small-screen version of Morra is now making a run for president — just as FBI agent Rebecca Harris (Jennifer Carpenter) is starting to piece together his connections to NZT.
We sat down with Jake McDorman, a.k.a Brian Finch, to discuss Cooper’s return, and what Morra’s presidential run could mean for the rest of the season.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: So Bradley Cooper’s back. How is it to have him on the show again?
JAKE MCDORMAN: I’m always just so excited when I see how enthusiastic he is because I think there’s still a little element of us all pinching ourselves, you know? It’s such a rigorous process in the first season of a TV series, especially network TV, where you’re constantly checking the overnights every day just to see if you’re going to have a show to come work on the next day. Then to have Bradley totally committed to coming in to act, it’s like, ‘Nuh uh! Get out. That’s crazy!’ So every time we have him back, it’s really great. This is the third time he’s back, and I know he’s already talked to me about coming back again.
I think he wants to be on the show as much as it makes sense, and as much as he can. Not only is he Bradley Cooper, who’s a busy man, but he’s playing a presidential hopeful. So this character wouldn’t have time to go hang out at the FBI with a 29-year-old pothead all the time either. He’s starting to run a campaign. So we have to use it sparingly, but it’s always exciting when he comes in because it moves your favorite chess pieces of the show forward the most. You’re like, cool, we’re getting into the real mythology of NZT and get to have another glimpse at a protagonist from the movie that started all of this — and where he is, and how he’s changed, and what are his intentions. So it’s always the best when Bradley’s there.
The last time we saw Edward Morra, he kind of established that he was on Brian’s side and that he would never let anything bad happen to him. And then in this episode, we start to question whether or not he’s telling the truth. Do you think we can trust him as a character?
I think the audience has actually had more an insight into the fact that things might not be as simple and comfortable as he let Brian believe from the last episode. Because you’re right, on the rooftop, it was, ‘This was a big morality test. Sorry to test you so thoroughly, but we’re talking about really important things, and you’d be naïve to think I’d just hire anybody… Don’t worry about that, that was a test. I’m making rice to save the world.’ I think Brian’s like, ‘Oh God, I hope I can believe that. That’s great.’ Anything to help quiet that narrative down in his mind. It’s when discrepancies like Piper start popping up, that kind of rekindles that nightmare of like, ‘Oh, s—. I might not be out of the woods yet.’
With Piper, it’s kind of interesting to see Brian face off against and then ultimately team up with someone who’s on NZT, since he’s used to being the smartest guy in the room. What’s that dynamic like? How is it different when you’re playing opposite someone who’s also on NZT?
It’s cool, especially because Georgina, I’ve been friends with her for a while. So it was great that she got to play Piper because you could immediately snap into having those fun, exciting, deep conversations without having to get to know each other from scratch. Which is great. And we did talk about that a lot. She was really interested for me to pass the notes that Bradley passed to me, just about your mannerisms and your behavior when you are on NZT, versus when you’re off NZT. So we had those conversations. Excluding Senator Morra, this is the first time where Brian has faced somebody who is in his same situation but is far more advanced. She’s just as many steps ahead of him as he feels as he is ahead of everybody else. The only time that Brian had ever been on NZT with somebody else was with Casey, and I like to think Brian is still in his freshman years with navigating the effects of NZT, and Casey certainly was taking way too much, and it was his first time ever. And that didn’t turn out great.
What were some of the things you passed on to Haig?
I think the three biggest things that have remained from the list Bradley gave me when we shot the pilot was that you stand up straighter because you’re just optimized. It’s not just your mind. And the show relies very heavily on the 100-percent recall and the genius aspects of the drug, but it’s also physical. You stand up straight and tall and make eye contact with people.
And it’s not that you’re delivering information at a rapid rate, like you’re on speed or something. Most of the time, what Bradley would always say is that it’s not that you’re having these epiphanies and all this information is just flying out of your mouth at breakneck speed. It’s more that everything is just all of a sudden so obvious. ‘This is how it works. I can’t believe I didn’t see this before. I can’t believe you didn’t see this. How can I show you how obvious this is?’ So it’s a very calm, relaxed pace of speech because if you’re on NZT, you understand that someone you’re talking to isn’t on NZT, and if you’ve got to explain a very abstract, complicated concept to them, you’re going to be able to do that in a way that they’re going to best understand it.
So at the end of the episode, when Brian meets with Morra, he raises this really interesting question of identity, which is something that Brian’s been struggling with throughout the entire show. Do you think Brian is every going to really embrace who he is on NZT, or is he still going to think of himself as a different person when he’s on the drug?
I think there’s this feeling of if he embraced the shortcuts and the kind of person you become on NZT that he’s losing his identity. I feel like Morra is to this post-human level of functioning on the drug. He doesn’t look at like morals. He looks at morals as another pressure point to manipulate, or to get people to do what he wants to do. But Brian, I think, is in direct objection to that. I don’t think he wants to lose who he is at all. And I think he probably feels, after taking the pill as much as he has, that that’s a very real possibility. And I don’t know where the show’s going to go… [but] I think that’s where it’s going. That’s the Brian-versus-Eddie-Morra scenario and arc, that Brian’s going to take this so much that he resists the urge to kind of become what Eddie was so quick to become and so willing to become.
We also see Rebecca starting to put the pieces together about Eddie Morra before and Eddie Morra after.
It’s like the one job Brian had was to not let that happen. But he can’t stop Rebecca from being a great detective. It’s no information that I think Rebecca has any pressure or any obligation to necessarily share with Brian. I mean, it has everything to do with him, but she doesn’t know that. So it’s a little bit scary because she’s moving into this minefield that he doesn’t have access to. In fact, the more he tries to meddle with those theories, I think the more suspicious she’ll become of him. So it’s very, very, very fragile, and it’s very, very, very dangerous because we’ve already seen what happens to people on the show who get close to that. Their house explodes or they get framed for murdering their boyfriend or something. It’s just, like, not good.
And then we finally see that Morra’s decided to enter the presidential race, which should bring about a whole bunch of new problems and issues. How’d you think he’ll do? Would you vote for him?
I don’t know. Would I vote for him if I was a citizen in this universe, who had no idea that he was on some drug, or would I vote for him as Brian? Bradley Cooper’s awesome. I’d vote for him for president. But if I knew that he was on this drug, it’d be a little scary. But it could still be attractive. I don’t know!