Dollhouse's Tahmoh Penikett offers up a few clues about his FBI agent

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Dec 14, 2012, 3:54 PM EST

Former Battlestar Galactica cast member Tahmoh Penikett takes on a completely different role as troubled FBI agent Paul Ballard in Joss Whedon's upcoming Fox sci-fi series Dollhouse, and he told SCI FI Wire his character is kind of obsessed with uncovering the truth.

"Paul is ... really trying to get some solid information about the Dollhouse, and he's running into walls," Penikett said in an interview last month in Hollywood. "And when he gets a lead, ... there's powers that be that are preventing him from making any progress."

The series centers on the title operation, a top-secret group that wipes the personalities of its operatives, called "actives," then implants them with new ones that execute missions for paying clients, only to be wiped blank anew when a mission is completed. The show was created by Whedon (Buffy the Vampire Slayer) and stars Eliza Dushku as Echo, one of the actives.

Following is an edited version of our interview with Penikett. Dollhouse debuts Feb. 13 and will air Fridays at 9 p.m. ET/PT.

Your character is kind of complex. He's got his own issues, clearly. He's not just a straight FBI guy that you might expect.

Penikett: I've said this a couple of times. ... I personally think at one time Paul was being groomed for a long and successful career in the FBI. I think he had all the makings of a leader, of a very successful agent. He's intelligent, capable, hard-working, driven. And who knows where he went down a different path? ... Maybe his ambitions; ... sometimes he may have rushed in. I think there's something about him that I'm very curious about, too, and hopefully we're going to explore [it]. ... He's somewhat self-righteous. He alienates himself. And I think that might be part of the problem, where he made the mistakes in his career. So he's given this case, [with] nobody really thinking that he's going to get anywhere with it, and the thing about Paul that a lot of people have underestimated is that once he starts something, he's not quitting it. He won't quit until he's found stuff. ...

Will we see Paul interact with Echo right away, or has that not happened so much?

Penikett: We've seen some of it. I mean, I try not to give away any spoilers here, but, you know, I've been given hints about her character and who she might be. Paul really doesn't know. He doesn't know how accurate the information is from the anonymous source. ... At this point he had some interaction, in many different ways.

Do you get to do a lot of action stuff with Eliza?

Penikett: Yeah, definitely. I mean, Eliza and I have had a couple of fight scenes, which have been great. She's awesome. I love that stuff.

Does Echo kick Paul's butt?

Penikett: Well, I can't give you that. I get some bruises, though. I get some bruises. I'll give you that. I get a little beat up. Sore ribs and the whole deal.