Emmy contenders: 'Manhattan's' John Benjamin Hickey is no physicist

Playing a theoretical nuclear physicist? Sure, no problem, jokes 'Manhattan's' John Benjamin Hickey

In his latest TV turn, John Benjamin Hickey plays the professor enlisted to help build the first atomic bomb in Los Alamos, N.M.

The 51-year-old actor stars as lead scientist Frank Winter on "Manhattan," the 1940s-set drama on WGN America that centers on the people behind the Manhattan Project — the U.S. government's enterprise that birthed the first atomic bombs during World War II.

When Hickey stopped by the Los Angeles Times on Monday, he noted there was a bit of a learning curve in playing the mysterious and uncompromising scientist in a believable way.

"Remember physics? I was so stoned," Hickey joked in recalling his dalliance with the subject as a youth. "Science was after lunch in [high school], that meant only one thing in the '70s in Texas.

"So, it scared me," he continued. "This material scared me to death. And I loved that as an actor. I love being scared by something.... The science part of it was the most challenging. But when you're dealing with physics, theoretical nuclear physics -- it's hard for me to say that! -- it's sort of like if your left leg is hurt, you favor your right leg. If there's something about a character you're playing that you don't know much about, you tend to go to the things you do know about, which are matters of the heart and matters of what are the things that drive him that's based on the people he loves most in the world or what he wants to do to help save the world."

Check out the video to see what else Hickey talked about, including his gig on "The Good Wife," in which he has a recurring role as Internet mogul Neil Gross. 

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