PaleyFest: O’Brien — Chose to Go Public With CBS’ ‘Scorpion’ to Help Others

Walter O’Brien, the inspiration behind CBS’ Scorpion, didn’t take his story going public lightly.

“I’m going to lose some privacy but I will help more people,” said O’Brien during the Scorpion panel Sunday at CBS’ portion of PaleyFest Fall TV Previews.

O’Brien, who serves as an executive producer on the show, was joined on stage by executive producers Alex Kurtzman, Nicholas Wootton, Heather Kadin, Walter O’Brien, and Scooter Braun; Nick Santora, creator and executive producer; and stars Elyes Gabel, Robert Patrick, Katharine McPhee, Eddie Kaye Thomas, Jadyn Wong, and Ari Stidham; and moderator Lindsey Bahr, correspondent for Entertainment Weekly.

Scorpion follows a team of geniuses, who use their intelligence to help the world. The team is based on O’Brien’s company, which he describes as “an orphanage for smart people.”

“I grew up watching The A-Team and MacGyver and now I run a team of oddballs saving the world,” said O’Brien. “So if kids today grew up watching us then maybe they’ll be in the same situation in the future.”

Thomas, who plays Toby Curtis in the series, said that everyone can relate to the show, even if they aren’t a genius.

“This show is about how difficult it can be to be this smart and how lonely it can be to be different than everybody else on Earth,” said Thomas, explaining that that idea of loneliness even he can relate to.

O’Brien added: “They [the team] look like they have nothing in common but they do have this bond that Eddie [Kaye Thomas] eloquently pointed to, which is that whether they like each other or not, each other’s all they’ve got. They’re the biggest minority on the planet.”

Other highlights from the panel include:

—O’Brien said that the show is rooted in reality. The pilot, he said, is 70% real, but that the percentage varies per episode. “I think when people watch the show, they’ll see that truth is stranger than fiction.”

—Every character is based on a person who O’Brien has worked with. For example, Ari Stidham’s character Sylvester Dodd is a combination of O’Brien’s friend from University and a system O’Brien’s team created that calculates probability.

—O’Brien explained that through Scorpion he is trying to reach the geniuses who may feel alienated from society. “Most companies have an HR department. We have a harvesting department,” said O’Brien. “We believe IQ and intelligence is a precious commodity that’s thrown out by most people on the planet. We collect it and run a home for the mentally enabled. An orphanage for smart people. And our harvesting has started running dry.”

—Patrick opened up about what made him want to take role of Cabe Gallo in the series. “Well, it’s a great story. It’s sort of a culmination of a lot of characters I’ve played in the past. It’s to a new heightened level right now.”

—Santora hinted during the panel that there a romantic relationship may develop between Paige Dineen (McPhee) and Walter (Gabel).

—On why the show looks at larger stories, Santora said that these types of stories are “Super cool” and “it gives our team, who are not necessarily heroes the opportunity to be heroes.”

Scorpion is very L.A. centric, said Kurtzman. But he added that the show will take the audience to some to the city’s grittier areas. O’Brien chimed in that the fact the show is based in Los Angeles, gives him the chance to visit the set more.

—Kadin revealed that Patrick’s character has a “killer” fight scene in one of the early episodes of Scorpion.

Scorpion premieres on CBS on Sept. 22 at 9/8c.

Jessika Walsten

Jessika is content engagement director of Broadcasting + Cable, Multichannel News and NextTV. She has been with the brands in various roles since 2013. In her current role, she works primarily behind the screen, keeping an eye on the website and fixing any site bugs. A graduate of USC Annenberg, Jessika has edited and reported on a variety of subjects for NextTV, including profiles on industry leaders and breaking news.