Choreographer John Carrafa describes the sequence as 'a sudden burst of unfettered joy'

By Devan Coggan
February 11, 2016 at 06:23 PM EST
Michael Parmelee/CBS
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In many ways, Limitless is your classic procedural: An average guy with enhanced intelligence partners with the FBI to solve crimes and catch bad guys. But over the course of its first season, the show has adopted a playful and often quirky tone, including trippy children’s show dream sequences, homages to Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, and now, an elaborate Bollywood dance sequence.

Tuesday’s episode, “Undercover!”, finds Brian (Jake McDorman) teaming up with an FBI agent named Lucy Church (Christina Vidal). When a list of the FBI’s undercover agents goes public, it’s up to Brian to seek her out and tell her that her cover’s been blown. She, however, insists on completing her mission, so Brian offers to help. But this, of course, is Limitless, which means that their undercover adventures are interspersed with lavish Bollywood scenes.

“I’ve kind of grown to expect the unexpected by now because every episode is so drastically different, and we don’t adhere really to any formula,” McDorman says. “We kind of just bend the rules, and [showrunner Craig Sweeny] has found a really unique sweet spot with our show, where it’s just the right amount of self-aware, where it can kind of make fun of and make light of the tropes of a standard procedural. So within that, we get things like a giant dinosaur or Bollywood dancing.”

To choreograph the scene, Limitless recruited John Carrafa, who’s worked on numbers in shows like Empire, Transparent, The Knick, and Nashville. In preparation, the Tony-nominated choreographer studied as many iconic Bollywood scenes as he could, paying special attention to how specific steps and hand gestures illustrate characterization, but he emphasized that there’s more to Bollywood dance than just technical perfection.

“It’s really about the joy and expression of it,” Carrafa says. “Which is so crazy in a procedural cop show, to have this sudden burst of unfettered joy.”

Michael Parmelee/CBS

The cast — including agents Mike and Ike (Michael James Shaw and Tom Degnan), James (Michael Devine), and Stavros the janitor (Musto Pelinkovicci) — had to learn and shoot the entire dance in just one day, and Carrafa says he was pleasantly surprised by how quickly they all took to it.

“Often I come to film sets or TV sets, and it can be like, ‘Ugh, do we have to learn this?’ ” Carrafa says. “Dance is often terrifying to people. I always joke that the first time they meet me, an actor will always say, ‘Now look, I’m gonna be the worst dancer you ever had, just so you know.’ And everybody tells me that.”

But even though the Bollywood scene is such a joyful, outlandish moment, McDorman cautions that Brian has some serious obstacles on the horizon.

“As the season goes on, this, I think, is going to be one of the last episodes where we get to have fun because a lot of the mythology and the Eddie Morra storyline and Rebecca finding out about NZT, all that’s kind of coming to a boiling point to launch us into the end of the season,” McDorman says. “So I think the Bollywood was one of our last big stunts before things get a little more serious.”

Limitless airs Tuesdays at 10 p.m. ET on CBS.

Michael Parmelee/CBS

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