Fans of the television series “Lost” are licking their lips in anticipation of a new cyber-themed spy thriller called “Intelligence.” The show, which premieres on CBS on Tuesday, stars Josh Holloway, who stole hearts and won accolades for his portrayal of the rakish con man James “Sawyer” Ford on “Lost.”
“Lost” intrigued viewers with the ominous mysteries of a mythical island for six seasons, and aired its controversial finale in 2010. After that, Holloway strayed from television in favor of film, appearing in “Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol,” “Paranoia” and “Battle of the Year.” A fourth movie, “Sabotage,” with Arnold Schwarzenegger, will be released this spring.
“Intelligence,” which was created by Michael Seitzman (“North Country”), represents what fans hope will be Holloway’s triumphant return to the small screen.
He plays Gabriel Vaughn, an American cyber-crime intelligence operative with a super-computer microchip implanted in his brain. This makes him the first human to be connected to the worldwide information grid. He can hack into any computer system and access almost any type of information to help the U.S. government fight its enemies at home and abroad. It’s a scenario that would make the current flap over the U.S. government’s penchant for spying on foreign governments look downright quaint by comparison.
And although he isn’t physically enhanced, Vaughn can also whoop some serious butt.
“I’ve been doing martial arts all my life, and I grew up with three brothers and James Bond,” Holloway says on a recent sunny afternoon at Disney studios in Burbank, where the show films. “We all wanted to be James Bond and we played spy games our whole lives. So with this it was like, this is fun. It’s like Disneyland for dudes!”
Dressed in loose Army-green pants and a soft, cream-colored sweater, Holloway is easygoing with a ready smile and laugh crinkles around his bright blue eyes. His voice is low and steady, and he stretches his vowels with a slight Southern drawl. Although he is 44, his mannerisms are boyish, and he becomes particularly excitable when talking about stunt work.
There’s lots of running and fighting and rolling over cars, most of which Holloway does himself. He even broke his hand and kept right on fighting. The hours are insane too — sometimes 65 or 70 a week. That’s a big difference from “Lost,” which had 14 cast members and many rotating story lines.
“I had a lot of time off, and I’m living on an island and fishing and I’m like, ‘Oh, this is a great job playing Sawyer,’ ” the actor says of his “Lost” experience. “But this show is no joke.”
Also no joke are the moral issues that “Intelligence” raises about our new high-tech era.
“I love the questions it’s bringing up because they’re questions we face every day,” Holloway says. “What’s the relationship between our humanity and technology? Do we need a gadget to communicate now? If you’re a teenager, the answer is ‘yes.’ It’s changing the way we relate to the world and how patient or impatient we are with information.”
In the show’s pilot, one of the characters opines that “technology isn’t revolution, it’s evolution.” And that’s what “Intelligence” is getting at as it turns the typical spy-crime procedural on its head, using neat digital tricks that essentially endow Vaughn with a sixth sense. He can transport himself to international crime scenes with his mind and examine the evidence with every digital-imaging tool in the kit.
His co-star is Meghan Ory, who plays Riley Neal, the Secret Service agent assigned to protect Vaughn. Despite his mental enhancement, Vaughn is still very much a human being. He is rash, unpredictable and prone to dangerous bouts of pure instinct. Neal is analytical and by the book. Theirs is the classic oddball partner paradigm.
There is also a cyber-enhanced foreign super-adversary in the mix, which makes the whole thing feel very “Terminator 2.”
Ironically, Holloway is the outdoorsy type and says modern technology is not his bag.
“I think I’ve sent two e-mails and one said, ‘Test,’ ” he says, smiling proudly. “I don’t tweet, I don’t Facebook. I like my privacy, what little I have I try to protect.”
His brothers, all of whom have computer-based jobs, think his new role is a riot.
“I’m like, ‘Yeah, I have a super-computer in my head,’ ” Holloway says. “And they’re like, ‘Yeah, that’s the only damn way you would use a computer. And it’s probably more of a skull fracture than a chip.’ ”