The new CBS dramatic thriller Intelligence tells the story of Gabriel (Josh Holloway), a high-tech intelligence operative enhanced with a super-computer microchip in his brain. As the first human ever to be connected directly into the global information grid, he can hack into any data center and access key intel. With an elite team, headed by Director Lillian Strand (Marg Helgenberger), Gabriel and his partner, Secret Service agent Riley Neal (Meghan Ory), fight to protect the United States from its enemies.
To promote the show, actor Josh Holloway spoke to Collider on the L.A. based set for this exclusive interview about why Intelligence drew him back to television, how he’s always wanted to play a spy, making use of the SWAT training that director David Ayer put him through for his role in Sabotage, that human enhancement is a real world issue, the relationships that Gabriel has with both Riley and Lillian, and why this is the next step in the evolution of action. Check out what he had to say after the jump.
JOSH HOLLOWAY: Well, it was a number of things. First off, I’ve always wanted to play a spy. I had three brothers, growing up, and we’ve been playing versions of that game, my whole life. So, there was that. And I had a skill set there that’s not really been used. I have a movie coming out, very soon, with Arnold Schwarzenegger and (director) David Ayer, called Sabotage, and David required us to go through SWAT school. It just trained me up. All of my skills are tight, for this type of role. So, I thought that was fun, too. There’s the fun being-a-spy side that I was very attracted to, but I didn’t want to do a rehash of what’s already been done, a thousand times.
And then, there was the adding of the computer chip and the technology, and the questions that poses today, in our everyday life. What is our relationship with technology and our own humanity? How do we communicate with each other? Do we need a gadget? If you’re a teenager, yeah, seemingly. You won’t look up from that thing. So, these are now questions about technology and how we’re going to push it. Where does our humanity lie, in that? When will technology surpass it? Is this the end of the world where, once computers start thinking for themselves, we’re done? So, these are real questions. It was just fantasy before, but now they’re developing thinking computers and drones. So, I thought it was very current without being sci-fi.
Are you much of a sci-fi fan, yourself?
HOLLOWAY: I love sci-fi. A few years ago, this was sci-fi. When I first started looking at the project, I was worried about it because I thought it was sci-fi, and I didn’t want to go too sci-fi. And then, I started doing research and was like, “Wait a second, this is now.” Scientific knowledge is exponential. The more knowledge we have, the quicker we will gain other knowledge. Every 10 to 15 years, it’s doubling. Think of double what now is. My god! We’re all gonna have chips in our heads, if we don’t watch out. Human enhancement is happening now, so it’s a current subject.
I liked the fact that they were very willing to and excited about exploring the problems of it. It’s not just, “Oh, he’s a super agent and he can do everything.” That’s so boring! So, I asked them right away, “What about viruses? What about hackers? What about dreaming? Can he stop information flow, or does it mess with his mind, all night?” These are questions that make it interesting and make it more human, and not just that he’s a super spy that can do everything ‘cause that’s not the case.
Was it important to you that this chip not make him super human and enhance his physical abilities, as well?
HOLLOWAY: I love that he is not physically enhanced. He can die, just like anyone else, ergo his partner Riley (Meghan Ory), who saves him from himself quite a bit. He’s just a man of action and reactionary and emotional, and she’s analytical and says, “Hold on a minute.” That relationship is really working and keeping them both alive.
What can you say about how the relationship between Gabriel and Lillian (Marg Helgenberger) develops? Do they butt heads?
HOLLOWAY: Yes and no. They have a deep respect and a history that will be explored. They knew each other pre-enhancement. She’s been in the military a long time, and so has he. They’ve crossed paths before. They have a deep respect for each other, and each other’s skills. And yet, they are different people, in different positions. I love Marg, and I love what she’s bringing to this character. It’s such a strong character, who has to be such a decision-maker. It’s so current, in that it’s a woman at the head of the political situation there. What she’s bringing to it is what I actually feel like women would bring to politics. What they do bring to a power position like that is empathy. They have a power in making decisions, but an empathy because, by nature, women bring life and make life, where men conquer conquests. So, to have a woman at the head and doing the decision-making is probably a wise thing. Let us go execute what you’ve come up with.
HOLLOWAY: No, because of evolution. And that is not, at all, to take anything away from Arnold. He is an icon I’ve been watching my whole life. But, we are much more advanced in our training than Arnold now. When we do a fight scene, we mark it close, and we’re fast and furious. And when we’re holding weapons, it’s actually tactically exactly correct. It’s not what looks cool. It’s what is. So, it’s the evolution of everything. Now, I think they look at us and go, “Wow!,” like with any sport. If Evel Knievel could look at what these guys are doing on a motorcycle now, doing flips and crazy things, he’d be like, “Wow! What’s going on now?!” So, it’s the opposite, in a way. We’re ready!
Intelligence premieres on CBS on Tuesday, January 7th, and then moves to Monday nights on January 13th.