THE IRRATIONAL Boss Arika Lisanne Mittman Explains Why the NBC Series is 'Not a Whodunnit, It's a Whydunnit' - Give Me My Remote : Give Me My Remote

THE IRRATIONAL Boss Arika Lisanne Mittman Explains Why the NBC Series is ‘Not a Whodunnit, It’s a Whydunnit’

October 9, 2023 by  

The Irrational Arika Lisanne Mittman interview

THE IRRATIONAL — “Dead Woman Walking” Episode 102 — Pictured: (l-r) Arash DeMaxi as Rizwan, Jesse L. Martin as Alec Mercer — (Photo by: Sergei Bachlakov/NBC)

THE IRRATIONAL debuted on NBC on Monday, September 25 at a strange time for the industry: hours after the WGA and studios came to a deal to end their strike, while the actors remained (and remain) on strike.

“It was definitely an odd time to premiere—we premiered the day after the writers strike ended, so we at least felt like we had two reasons to celebrate that day,” THE IRRATIONAL showrunner Arika Lisanne Mittman tells Give Me My Remote in the video below. “So that was exciting. We got to shoot seven of our episodes before the strike shut [us] down, and then we’re going to be coming back to finish the rest of the season. So, yeah, it’s definitely not something that happens every season—to be split up by five months in between [filming episodes]. But there [was] a lot of time to think about the show and how excited I was for it to finally premiere and for people to finally get to watch it.”

The drama follows behavioral scientist Alec Mercer (Jesse L. Martin) as he is consulted on unique cases—murder investigations, a mysterious poisoning, and a plane crash in the first handful of episodes.

Alec has been instantly compelling at the show’s center, balancing genuine insight into human behavior with humor and care for the people in his life. “I think it is the perfect marriage that works well together,” Mittman says. “I created the character of Alec, who is very intellectual, almost to a fault. [He] is always using his brain, not always using his heart; he’s so focused on work that he’s neglected his personal relationships. And what Jesse Martin has done with this role is taken that character and brought so much empathy to him.” 

“I think Alec is a more empathetic person, that his curiosity is not only intellectual, but there’s a real caring about other human beings that comes across,” she continues. “And Jesse brought so much of that. I think…every character I’ve ever written becomes kind of an amalgamation of the character we first created and what the actor is bringing to it, and in this case, I think I brought a lot of the character’s magical, intellectual superpowers and his passion for his work; [that] is something that the character started out with that I created. And his phenomenal empathy and making him that guy that you want to watch every week, that you wish was your mentor, I think Jesse brought that.”

Surrounding Alec is a fascinating ensemble, including his research assistants Rizwan (Arash DeMaxi) and Phoebe (Molly Kunz). Oh, and he’s still working with his FBI agent ex-wife, Marisa (Maahra Hill), whom he met on a case and he’s definitely not over.

“As the season goes on, we will definitely be getting to know all of these characters more,” Mittman says. “As we see in episode 2 we give a little bit more of who Phoebe is, we learn a little bit more about her. In episode 3, we’ll learn a little bit more about who Rizwan is…as we get through the season, all of these characters will have mini-arcs of their own.”

“Marisa’s arc, we have a woman who is trying to separate herself from this marriage,” she continues. “She [is] trying to move on, who’s meeting somebody new, perhaps, and trying to figure out, ‘Who am I without Alec?’ And at the same time, still be with Alex trying to solve all these cases. So that’s going to be really fun.”

And then there’s Kylie (Travina Springer), Alec’s sister and confidant. “[She] is going to go through a journey of her own,” Mittman previews. “What does she want to do with her life? I like that we have some of these characters who are really, really work-driven, that are just really driven by all of their work. And then we have other characters who are kind of still figuring it out. So there’s somebody for everybody to relate to a little bit in there.”

The Irrational Arika Lisanne Mittman interview

THE IRRATIONAL — Episode “Pilot” — Pictured: (l-r) Jesse L. Martin as Alec Baker, Molly Kunz as Phoebe, Arash Demaxi as Owen — (Photo by: Sergei Bachlakov/NBC)

The show is also leaning into the motivations behind the crimes—and behavioral cues that might go unnoticed.

“I think that’s one of the fun and, dare I say, unique things about the show,” Mittman says. “We think we’ve seen every kind of procedural on the planet, and to a certain extent, the format does not reinvent the wheel. But at the same time, we’re doing something a little different. I like to say it’s not a whodunnit, it’s a whydunnit.”

“We come to all of our cases through Alec’s lens, which is through a human behavior lens,” she continues. “Why would someone do this in the first place? And how do our brains work? So every case, we’ll have some kind of experiment. We have some kind of way that that case illuminates human nature for the audience. And I think that’s something the audience will find really different and interesting and not something that they’ve seen before in every show.”

THE IRRATIONAL, Fall, Mondays, 10/9c, NBC


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