CBS’ thrilling new adventure series Limitless has a familiar launching point — its source material is the 2011 sleeper hit — but they’ve also got something even better: Bradley Cooper.
The show, like the movie, follows a struggling burnout who comes across a dangerous super-drug that drastically raises his IQ and grants him temporarily heightened mental abilities. In the film, the protagonist was a frustrated author named Eddie Morra, played by Cooper; in the CBS series, it’s Brian Finch (Jake McDorman) who uses the drug to help local law enforcement crack cases.
“We knew Bradley Cooper was going to be involved, and so it seemed like if we wanted the option of having him on screen, we shouldn’t recast the role of Eddie Morra, and that informed it to a certain extent,” executive producer Craig Sweeny said. “But we would have done it that way regardless … why not tell the story of somebody else’s direction [with the drug]?”
The pilot makes good on the promise that Cooper will appear on the series, as his character — now a presidential hopeful — visits Brian and helps him come to terms with the precarious power of NZT-48. Art imitated life, as McDorman revealed that a conversation with Cooper was instrumental in talking him into the role.
“I got the scripts from my agents with a note [that said] Bradley thinks you’d be great for the lead, and I totally didn’t believe them at all,” said a bashful McDorman. “I actually got to meet with Bradley about it and he pitched the show. His enthusiasm was contagious. He was really, really excited to reprise his role as Eddie and really excited where Craig was taking the universe. We kind of nerded out about expanding the universe of the movie into something that you can now explore and play with for hours and hours, week to week.”
Cooper isn’t just a producer on the series in vanity; executive producer Alex Kurtzman explained that the actor, despite enjoying a busy film and theater season this year, received every script and, especially in the pilot phase, was instrumental in crafting Brian’s journey. “We always liked the idea [that Brian] has to save somebody in the pilot and make this deal with the devil,” he said. “Originally it was a girlfriend, and Bradley said it’s a really interesting idea but it’s not as emotional as saving a father. And that was a big turn. He was very involved in real, critical DNA of the show.”
However, the two protagonists are starkly different in their approach to their new abilities. In the film, Eddie is at first more intent on finishing his novel with his heightened abilities, while Brian almost immediately realizes he can use his power to help his ailing father. Now, Eddie has set his sights on the White House, which can conveniently help explain why Cooper will only recur on the series sporadically.
“He’s about to be a presidential candidate,” said McDorman. “He wouldn’t have the time to be sitting in a safehouse all the time.”
“Bradley really has been so committed to the show. He has every intention of coming back. We’ve been talking quite a bit about how,” added Kurtzman. “A lot of the pilot sets up for you [that] he will be this mysterious figure. You can’t tell if he’s good or if he’s bad … but Eddie will return.”
Limitless premieres on September 22 on CBS.