Bojana Novakovic (Westworld, Shameless) returns as NYPD detective Lizzie Needham on Sky Witness this Monday 26th August at 9pm in the second and final season of the US crime drama Instinct. Novakovic stars opposite Alan Cumming who plays a former CIA operative turned college professor Dr. Dylan Reinhart, who’s lured back into his dangerous past by Needham.
While the second season of Instinct was being shot on location in New York, James Kleinmann spoke to Bojana Novakovic about returning to the role for HeyUGuys.
James Kleinmann: We are finally seeing more female characters in positions of power in traditionally male fields on US network television aren’t we? [Instinct airs on CBS in the US].
Bojana Novakovic: “Yes! We have a show with the first gay lead on a US network drama, we could have completely discounted the female stuff. They could’ve gone ‘we’ve got that, we don’t need anything else. We’ve got that card, we can play that card. We’re doing so much for gay marriage and for that community by putting this couple into people’s homes who wouldn’t otherwise see a couple like this, we’re done.’ But then on top of that there’s a female lead in a position of power in a work place that’s surrounded by men and we’re doing that on network TV with two lead characters. I think that’s a pretty big deal and we’re letting them fight each there, they are arguing with each other. It’s sort of like the Michelin star of intellectual debating! It really is a good thing to be doing on a network procedural show. So when people don’t want to tune in to a show like The Handmaid’s Tale, because they don’t have the emotional capacity for it and they just want to put something on that’s entertaining, they’re still gong to get fed that; a woman who’s leading a man who has a husband and who are both really smart and who have purpose.”
“I forgot how many people watch network TV and I also forgot how many people just have TVs on in their homes, all over the world. So it does make a difference. And social media has changed everything, you can take a little bit in a show that might be a kooky gesture and it becomes a meme, and I know that in the US network TV has a big part to play because people do watch it. Network TV is simpler, more people tune into it. These are complex relationships that we’ve simplified, to make them really accessible and that’s why I think the show is so special. And there’s also comedy in it, the show is so funny.”
And what about the dynamic between your character Lizzie and Alan’s character Dylan, they’ve been compared to Holmes and Watson haven’t they?
“Well, I don’t know about that because I’m the boss, right, Lizzie is the boss. Secondly Watson’s a little bit not quite with it! I mean I’m not judging any actor who’s played Watson! And Dylan and Lizzie are both so smart, so I think the comparison is great in terms of the eccentricity of Alan’s character, but I also think the dynamic is really different. She’s the boss and she’s constantly having to tell him that she’s the boss. She’s constantly having to tell him that she’s as smart as him in a different way. He’s not listening because he thinks he’s the smartest thing in the world and I actually do feel like that on set sometimes! I get the script and I go to Michael Rauch our showrunner, ‘can she solve something, can she do something behavioural and be really smart?’ And he’s like, ‘Bojana she is smart in her own way’ and I say, ‘yes, but I want to be smart in his way! I want to be smarter!’ So he did give me one episode where I’m smarter.”
“As a crime solving duo there really isn’t anyone like them. There isn’t a man with a husband and a woman with a dog solving crimes together. Both of them are as neurotic as fuck. She wears her neurosis on the inside and he wears his on the outside. They are so different externally, but internally they are similar creatures like we all are. But I’ve read ‘Sherlock Holmes meets CSI’ or something and I’m like ‘we’re really not Sherlock Holmes’. I like the comparison, believe me, but I think that it does forget the woman. It forgets the intelligence of the woman in there and I think people are very quick to make those comparisons and need to just look at the female component of this and be like, ‘oh, that’s a female boss, that’s a different dynamic.’”
It’s certainly a fun dynamic to watch on screen anyway. What it’s like creating that on screen partnership with Alan Cumming?
“It’s such a delight, it’s so good, we have so much fun on set. Even our worst moments have been some of the best moments I’ve had with people, that’s how good it is! Firstly, we problem solve in similar ways and so it’s rare that he and I will have a conflict about something in the script and when we do it’s really easily solved, because neither of us wants to fight with the other. And there’s not really ever a fight, because it’s always a collaboration, but on top of that we have a lot of fun. Actually, last night when we were filming I pushed him before a take and then he got something wrong! I didn’t even say sorry though! He would do something like that even if he didn’t think it worked for the show, but I wouldn’t participate in it if I didn’t think it worked, because I’m a bit of a nerd, I’ve always got my head in the script, he’s got his head in his phone. It’s part of the work on Instinct to have fun, so I can have fun! Whereas normally I’m very serious on set, so it’s really lovely. He also started that vibe, I remember one of the first takes we did, he was like ‘oh, fuck me that’s not it!’ And I was like ‘oh, we can make mistakes’ and we do and we fix them. And so it’s really fun and also we have a lot of music on set. We play music between takes, we dance. Although I broke my toe kicking someone in the shin in a rehearsal and I didn’t want to tell them and so now I can’t really dance that much on set because it hurts. It also hurts to have it in these heels! But I didn’t want to tell them because I thought they would make the stunt double do the take. So I was pretending like it didn’t hurt and I did the stunt for like two hours and then I went home and cried!”
Lizzie’s had a difficult life hasn’t she, does that resurface in season 2?
“In Season 2 it’s just something that she wears with her and I think it’s just part of her personality rather than something we explore too much, because she has other stories apart from that one. The past comes up now and then but not too much. By virtue of her being the more closed off one, she just wears that, that’s just part of who she is. You can’t get over what happened to her, you can’t forget that. No ones is ever ready to move on, but she’s just choosing to move on. In Season 2, Lizze’s personal and professional lives converge and that’s really fun and you see her vulnerable.”
Instinct Season 2 premieres in the UK this Monday 26th August at 9pm on Sky Witness. The show’s series finale airs in the US this Sunday 25th August on CBS at 9pm/8pm CT.