‘FBI’ Offers Unique Peek at Law Enforcement

Dick Wolf’s FBI premieres on CBS Sept. 25. It’s a procedural about the inner workings of the FBI’s New York office, “bringing to bear all the Bureau's skills, intellect and mind-blowing technology to keep New York and the country safe,” in CBS’ words.

The cast includes Missy Peregrym, Jeremy Sisto, Zeeko Zaki, Sela Ward and Ebonée Noel.

We spoke with Noel, who plays analyst Kristen Chazal, at TCA’s press tour. She said her favorite moment of the season—and they hadn’t shot much when we spoke last month—was a scene where Kristen diffuses a bomb. “It’s fun to play a character who’s thrown out of their comfort zone right away,” she said.

Noel—and Chazal, for that matter—had never diffused a bomb before. “I did a little research,” she said, “to try to do the best I could to show that sort of high-stakes situation.”

FBI has gotten mixed reviews. CNN’s Brian Lowry gave it low marks creatively, but acknowledged the show is timely. “Producer Dick Wolf brings his Law & Order formula to CBS with FBI, a series made more notable -- given the bureau's long history on the screen -- by the current criticism directed its way from the White House,” he wrote.

Hollywood Reporter’s Daniel Fienberg said, “Following a general Dick Wolf Productions blueprint, the FBI pilot is full of headline-mining lip service, including lots of paranoia about MS13 gang members and also about the threat of the alt right, embodied by a deliciously reptilian Dallas Roberts in the sort of juicy nemesis part that a cable drama would surely stretch across a full season.”

Noel said FBI offers some things you won’t find on other law enforcement procedurals. “Like Dick said, we try to do things you’re not going to see on a cop show, you’re not going to see on other law enforcement shows,” she said.

Noel mentions all the things FBI agents do on a daily basis that the public doesn’t even know about. “The show tries to lift the curtain on that,” she said, “which I find incredibly interesting.”

We wrote in the new issue about CBS’ efforts to be more diverse in prime, and FBI achieves on that front, too. There’s a Muslim agent, played by Zeeko Zaki. Noel is African-American. She describes “a different face to law enforcement” on the show—not only more diverse, but younger than what viewers are used to seeing in a cop drama.

Noel and Dick Wolf go back a bit. She said her first job in television was on Law & Order: SVU, playing a rape survivor. She mentions her character getting interviewed in her apartment as the detectives searched for the perpetrator, which she calls “a classic SVU moment.”

“I’ve watched a lot of Law & Order in my life,” adds Noel.

Michael Malone

Michael Malone, senior content producer at B+C/Multichannel News, covers network programming, including entertainment, news and sports on broadcast, cable and streaming; and local broadcast television. He hosts the podcasts Busted Pilot, about what’s new in television, and Series Business, a chat with the creator of a new program, and writes the column “The Watchman.” He joined B+C in 2005. His journalism has also appeared in The New York Times, The Philadelphia Inquirer, Playboy and New York magazine.