Alan, what attracted you the most to Instinct?
It was a combination of things: to be able to play such a great character with so many different and seemingly disparate facets; to be in a good old-fashioned mystery show like I remember watching when I was a little boy; and the chance to make history and play the first ever gay leading character in a US network drama.
As you mentioned, Dr. Reinhart is primetime broadcast’s first leading gay character and also has a healthy same-sex marriage. Do you think that there is enough diversity on TV nowadays?
I think it is incredible to think that in America, in 2018, there has not been a network drama, ever, to have a gay character in the lead. It’s mind boggling to me. So, I am happy to take the mantle and hopefully, in our small way, do some good in terms of opening up people’s minds and erasing prejudice.
And no, I don’t think there is enough representation, but more importantly the correct kind of representation. What I love about Instinct is that Dylan’s sexuality is the fourth or fifth most noteworthy thing about him. It’s ‘oh and also he is gay’ and that is the direction we need to go. We have for too long focused solely on a gay character’s sexuality, and usually in a negative or problematic way. I don’t define myself by my sexuality purely, so why do we tend to do that with gay characters on TV?
What is Dr. Reinhart like? Do you share any similar traits and interests with your character?
I don’t think we are alike at all. He has trouble functioning in everyday social situations, he’s a bit of a loner and very in his head, and he has a brilliant mind. Then, one thing we share is the willingness to push or break the rules. Oh, and we look fairly alike, though he is a much snappier dresser than me, and also he dyes his hair!
What do you think audiences would most like about your character?
His eccentricity, his seemingly endless supply of skills and knowledge and experiences. I love how in each script there will be some new piece of background for him. In one episode he revealed he had once kept chickens in Egypt! And I think people will really like to see him trying to fit in to the different parts of his life, even though his default and most comfortable place is that of the lonely geek.
Your character teaches a class in Abnormal Behavior. How would you describe Dylan’s personality on the show?
It’s a huge personality, not in that he is particularly outgoing or gregarious, in fact he can be quite shy and finds normal social interaction difficult. But huge in that there are so many parts to it. He can be single minded and blinkered when he is focused on something, but also extremely witty and jokey at the most inopportune times. He is a true eccentric in that he walks to the beat of his own drum, and because he has so many different guises: professor/former spy/now NYPD consultant and also former musical prodigy, there are correspondingly so many different parts of his personality. But he is kind, and that’s the most important thing in my book!
Bojana Novakovic as Det. Lizzie Needham and
You are a professor of behavioral analysis as well as a former CIA operative in the series. Did you do any special kind of preparation or training for your role?
Alan Cumming as Dr. Dylan Reinhart - JEFF NEUMANN/CBS © 2017 CBS BROADCASTING INC. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.
I talked to some former CIA operatives and that was a real eye opener. I was shocked about the intensity of what they do in terms of going undercover in a war zone, and of course the resulting PTSD and other mental health issues is incredible. But aside from just chatting to people and reading up online about what some of Dylan’s past experiences might have been like, I just jumped off the cliff and became him!
In real life, what is your strongest instinct?
I think I have a pretty good bullshit detector! I think you need to when you work in this business and are constantly meeting people who want something for you!!
Instinct is based on James Patterson’s Murder Games. What are the main differences between the book and the series and is it more difficult to play a character from a novel?
Well, the novel is really what the first episode is based on and then we carry it on ourselves after that. I think the characters and the relationships between them are the focus of what we take from the book. And no, I quite like doing it this way, having some source material to look at before I play a character. But then of course you always have to play the script: even though there are many more details about Dylan or other characters in the novel, they may not come out in the show (yet) and there are so many more facets that the show writers invent, so you just have to be in the moment and play what is needed in each scene.
We saw Whoopi Goldberg in the trailer of the series. Who are some of the other guest stars on Instinct?
Well, since we shoot in NYC, there are quite a few people I know from Broadway like Nikki M James and Gabriel Ebert who have come on to shoot an episode, and also my father is played by the incredible John Doman who you may have seen on The Affair or The Wire among many other things.
Being that you are the lead and an executive producer, do you plan to direct or take on any other roles on Instinct?
I think I have more than enough on my plate as it is!