Four years ago, Limitless made a solid impact in theaters positing what might happen if humans could take a drug that would allow them to access all of their brain power. Bradley Cooper's character, Eddie Morra, was a down-on-his-luck writer who took the NZT-48 designer drug and turned into a financial whiz and, eventually, an assassin's target.
The intricacies and impact of all that knowledge at our fingertips were barely touched upon in the two hours of the film, and now the questions get to be explored episodically in the upcoming CBS drama Limitless, which is a direct sequel to director Neil Burger's film. In fact, Burger and Cooper are joining veteran series producers Alex Kurtzman, Bob Orci, Heather Kadin (Sleepy Hollow), showrunner Craig Sweeny (The 4400) and pilot director Marc Webb (Amazing Spider-Man) as the powerhouse creative team ushering the mythology to the small screen.
In the TV series, Morra is now a senator and shows up in the pilot to mentor Brian Sinclair (Jake McDorman), a musician with no life compass. Taking the drug makes Brian one of the smartest people on Earth, and for FBI Agent Rebecca Harris (Jennifer Carpenter) a resource to help her find out who is murdering other NZT users.
Asked what about Limitless' central conceit lends itself to more storytelling, executive producer Alex Kurtzman enthused to Blastr, "I love the movie, but it doesn't dig too deeply into the moral repercussions of the drug. I think what we were excited about was creating a scenario where a guy, through the best of intentions, ended up in a situation where he has to continue taking this drug. Brian is in a situation that isn't of his own choosing. He really has a vise around his neck, and he has to lie to everyone around him. While, yes, there is wish fulfillment to the idea of 'I could have been a musician and I hoped it worked, but it none of it worked out and suddenly I'm going to exceed even my wildest dreams,' how much of that is him and how much is the drug? I think it's a question the show will ask of him over and over again. And that feels like a much longer-term goal than the movie and its two-hour length could really tackle."
Director Marc Webb added that Brian Sinclair's lack of direction in life makes him the perfectly relatable hero for so many who can't figure out their true potential. "I think [his plight] is something we as humans are always searching for, and when you find that, it often presents challenges that you do not foresee."
Webb said actor Jake McDorman, who worked with Cooper in American Sniper, is the perfect mix of vulnerability and swagger that fuels the show. "We had worked with him and we were, like, this guy has something special," Webb explained. "I remember when we were shooting this guitar solo [of Brian's] in Union Square, and at the end of it Jake says, [nonchalantly], 'I dabble.' It was a throwaway moment that ended up in the pilot," Webb laughed. "[It proves] this guy can play and he's having fun doing it, which was so important for us to have."
Limitless debuts on CBS Sept. 22.