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Rachael Leigh Cook – Miss Perception

Updated: Jul 24, 2023

Rachael Leigh Cook stars in “Perception.”

Rachael Leigh Cook

Miss Perception

by Jay S. Jacobs

Rachael Leigh Cook looks like such a sweet, charming, harmless sort that it is always entertaining to see her play a tough character.

That is doubly so in the case of her fascinating current series Perception. Cook plays Kate, who is trying to be a hard-boiled FBI agent against her own inner niceness. Kate has brought her friend Dr. Daniel Pierce (played by Eric McCormack of Will & Grace) to the Bureau as a specialist on mental disorders.

The problem is, despite the fact that Dr. Pierce is a brilliant, world-renowned authority on neurology, he also has his own mental issues, which make him quite unpredictable. As a former student of Dr. Pierce's, Kate feels a need to protect the man and yet she also needs him for her own career advancement.

As if the politics of the Bureau and fighting crime wasn't complicated enough, the second season returns Kate's ex-husband Donnie (Scott Wolf) into her professional life. Her intrinsic anger towards him is only slightly tempered by the fact that she must grudgingly acknowledge that he is something of a help in her job.

Soon before the second season of Perception debuted, we had the opportunity to have this exclusive chat with Cook about the return of the series.

Congrats on the second season. This year the show went from ten episodes to fourteen. Was it nice to see that TNT was so strongly behind the show to let it stretch out more?

Absolutely. We thought we were making 13 this season, which was going to be great. Then they bumped us up to 14. I don't know how we got that little extra credit assignment, but I think that the writers were definitely up to the challenge. I love our finale. I [also] love the winter finale (episode 10 of the season). I'm so glad that we're doing it.

In the season premiere, Daniel notes that he is so happy he's no longer even cynical. Can Daniel survive without his cynicism?

Oh, no way in hell! (laughs) He probably didn't make it that way until the commercial break. Yeah, he is who he is. That's his greatest asset and his Achilles heel as well, in some aspects. His cynicism is going to keep him questioning everything, which will hopefully continue to make for a great show for us.

The first couple of episodes look at Daniel's relationship with Caroline, who is of course the real-life inspiration for his hallucination of Nicole. Do you think that there would ever be a chance that the real woman could live up to the one in his head?

Oh, man. Can a fantasy ever [be] lived up to [by] what someone can be in reality? Probably not. That's probably the case for our heroes as well. I don't know how she would be able to pull that off. As irresistible as Miss Kelly Rowan is, it would be tough.

In last season's finale, Daniel kissed Kate. It turned out to be one of his hallucinations, but it was obviously on his mind and there have been hints of romantic tensions previously as well. Do you think they will ever try a romantic relationship or that there is too much to lose on a personal and professional level?

They both know there's a great synergy there between the two of them. Whether or not it could ever turn into something else is not something that I think either of them would take exploring lightly. So, in that sense, and in the sense that we want to have a job a few seasons from now, I don't see that happening anytime soon. But you can definitely expect varying levels of tension to appear throughout the season – with a serious wedge thrown in the works played by Scott Wolf, who plays my ex-husband.

Scott Wolf as Donnie is obviously pushing Kate's buttons. Do you think working with her ex will mess up her career path in the agency?

Kate is pretty good at wrenching things, situations or people who get in her way right out of the road. The problem with Donnie is that he shows himself to be a professional asset pretty early on. He gets to stick around under those auspices.

They seem to be trying to make Kate a harder character in the first couple of episodes. Like I noticed when she referred to an opposing lawyer as a "lefty anti-death-penalty" type.

I know...

Obviously, members of the FBI can be conservative, but part of the dynamic that I found interesting in the first season Kate respected and understood Dr. Pierce's anti-government leanings. Do you think the two characters will be more at odds in their beliefs this season?

I really didn't know what to do when I read that particular line. I didn't want to seem like I was pushing my own agenda and say something to the writers. I would have found it a little bit more interesting if we could keep where she stood politically neutral until it became a story point. But I didn't want to interfere if what the writers were trying to do was lay groundwork for where she stands, so I was really kind of in a tough spot there. Do they want her to be more of a hardline person? That's possible. I think they, and I, see Kate as someone in law enforcement. There can be a tendency to see people and situations in a black and white way. As good or bad. As guilty or not guilty. That's where her partnership with Eric's character, who is a master at seeing the gray area in everything and everyone, can really keep things interesting.

Will Dan Lauria be coming back this season?

Yes. He's back. He's American's dad. We love Dan.

I was hoping he'd have more to do last year, but I know he's also doing Sullivan and Son. What's he like to work with?

He is just as lovely as you could ever imagine he is. He will not hold back. If you want to talk about Wonder Years, he will talk Wonder Years with you. He will talk theater. He is just the warmest, kindest person. I didn't think we were going to get him back at all this season. I guess someone on Sullivan and Son got into a fight outside a bar (laughs) and they can't shoot the show for a little while. We were lucky to be able to scoop him up again.

You are pregnant. Did that affect the filming of the new season?

Not for a while, but now, yeah. (Chuckles) Now we've run into a bit of an issue now that I'm almost six months and it definitely shows. And I look stupid running. So, yeah, it's been a little bit of an issue. But we're so close. We only have two episodes to go.

How are they working around it?

I carry a leather folio that my character has had since the first season. I don't know how big this thing is, maybe 12 by 15 inches. I just hold it as casually as possible over my midsection. We call it "the folder of secrets." (laughs)

It's hard to believe it's almost been 15 years since She's All That was a big hit. What was that movie like to be a part of and could you have imagined back then you'd still be working years later?

Well, I'm relieved to know I'm still working this many years later. Everything seemed pretty uncertain at that stage. When we made that movie, it wasn't a big-budget film by any stretch. Miramax had made its name in smaller films, but this was I believe their most commercial venture so far. Nobody knew that it was going to perform the way that it did. We didn't know what to expect. The way that pop culture works is just that – it's a pop. By the time you hear the gun go off, it's already passed. I was already busy trying to make my way in the indie film world after that happened, because I found actresses that I really started to look up to, whose careers I wanted to mimic creatively. So I started going in that direction pretty soon after.

You've done both comedy and drama in your career. Do you find one or the other easier or harder or more enjoyable?

I only like to do comedy that is well written, because the hardest thing to do of any genre is badly written comedy. (laughs) That's impossible. I don't know. My best work experience I would have to say would be making the drama that my husband [Daniel Gillies] wrote and directed [Broken Kingdom, which came out in 2012]. I learned the most from that. But, yeah, I'm definitely going to be craving a comedy fix after this season is over.

Copyright ©2013 All rights reserved. Posted: July 1, 2013.

Photo Credits:

#1 © 2013 Trae Patton. Courtesy of TNT. All rights reserved.

#2 © 2013 Trae Patton. Courtesy of TNT. All rights reserved.

#3 © 2013 Trae Patton. Courtesy of TNT. All rights reserved.

#4 © 2013 Trae Patton. Courtesy of TNT. All rights reserved.

#5 © 2013 Danny Field. Courtesy of TNT. All rights reserved.

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