CBS’s ‘Scorpion’ Cast and Producers Discuss the Agony of Genius

PaleyFest 2014: Being wicked-smart can be an impediment, in real life as well as in the television industry

paleyfest scorpion panel
Kevin Parry for The Paley Center for Media

It ain’t easy being super-smart — or, at least, that was the message at the panel for the upcoming CBS drama “Scorpion” at the Paleyfest on Sunday night.

The series, based on the real-life experiences of computer expert/hacker Walter O’Brien (who serves as an executive producer on the series), centers on a group of super-geniuses who are enlisted by the government to solve modern threats.

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But to hear the show’s stars and executive producers tell it, at its heart the show is about people whose intelligence alienates them from coming together and forming a common bond.

“These people have been walking alone on the earth, and now they have people they can have a conversation with,” noted cast member Eddie Kaye Thomas, who plays expert behaviorist Toby Curtis on the series, noted.

Adding that the mentally enabled — e.g., those who have an IQ that falls well outside of the norm — have a 20 percent higher chance of suicide and unemployment, executive producer Nick Santora said that being exceptionally bright can bring its own difficulties.

“It’s not necessarily the standard way that you look at people being challenged, but it is a challenge,” Santora said.

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Nonetheless, the series will have plenty of action, such as a nail-biting sequence in the pilot episode that features a Ferrari going up against a jumbo jet to retrieve crucial information. Despite the series’ high-brow aspirations, O’Brien cited a  pair of classic action series as inspiration for “Scorpion.”

“I grew up watching ‘The A-Team; and ‘MacGyver’,” O’Brien —  who has the fourth-highest IQ ever measured — recalled.  “So if kids today grow up watching us, then maybe they’ll be in the same situation.”