Katharine McPhee stars as Paige Dineen in SCORPION - Season 1 | ©2014 CBS/Sonja Flemming

Katharine McPhee stars as Paige Dineen in SCORPION - Season 1 | ©2014 CBS/Sonja Flemming

SCORPION, on CBS Mondays at 9 PM, is a fictionalized version of the life and career of the real Walter O’Brien, a consultant who works with the FBI and, according to IQ tests, is one of the five most intelligent living people on the planet at present.

In SCORPION, we first meet Walter at age twelve when he’s living in Ireland with his parents. Walter is arrested by the FBI for hacking into NASA’s computers – but they let him go when they find out that he’s telling the truth about just wanting to get the blueprints for the space shuttle so he can decorate his bedroom wall with them. The FBI quickly deduces that a twelve-year-old smart enough to hack into NASA is worthy of further attention.

Asked if the hacking NASA at age twelve is a true story, SCORPION executive producer Roberto Orci says, “Yes.”

When his reply is met with a “Wow,” he agrees. “Wow.”

In the series, twenty years after the space shuttle wall paper incident and some subsequent work for the FBI, Walter (played as an adult by Elyes Gabel) is disillusioned with the Bureau and has formed his own small company with three other exceedingly brilliant but mostly socially maladroit comrades. His old FBI handler, played by Robert Patrick, comes calling when there’s a life-and-death crisis that requires Walter’s skills to solve it.

Orci executive-produces SCORPION with his longtime work partner Alex Kurtzman, show runners Nick Santora and Nick Wootton (“We call them the two Nicks,” says Orci), director Justin Lin and Heather Kadin, who heads up Orci and Kurtzman’s K/O Paper Products production company. Orci and Kurtzman also have Season 2 of SLEEPY HOLLOW premiering Monday at 9 PM on Fox, directly opposite SCORPION; their series MATADOR, renewed for a second season, continues to roll out on El Rey Tuesdays at 9 PM. This doesn’t count Orci and Kurtzman’s film projects, which include STAR TREK 3, which the two are writing for Orci to direct. Saying he’s busy is an understatement.

Orci makes time to attend the Television Critics Association press tour session for SCORPION. After a Q&A panel where he does little talking (most of the questions are directed at others), he takes time for some private conversation about the new series.

ASSIGNMENT X: In the SCORPION pilot, the solution to saving the planes is very complex. Will the solutions to problems on all the episodes going to have this Swiss watch/Rube Goldberg construction?

ROBERTO ORCI: Every problem is going to have its own solution, so in terms of saying it’s a Swiss watch or a Rube Goldberg device, we wanted it to be something that you believe only the smartest people could solve, otherwise, why are you watching it every week? But on the other hand, you want the stories to have different solutions. And so it depends on the problem. Some things will be crimes, some things will be what you saw in the pilot – which is a giant mess – some things will be medical. Every problem is going to have a different solution, but you always want to believe that only geniuses can solve.

AX: Will they all be that intricate?

ORCI: No. Sometimes genius comes from pure simplicity, right? I don’t know yet. I don’t know. I just want it to be things you believe only geniuses can solve.

Roberto Orci at the 31st Annual Paleyfest | ©2014 Sue Schneider

Roberto Orci at the 31st Annual Paleyfest | ©2014 Sue Schneider

AX: The cast of  SCORPION is ethnically diverse. In writing for Walter’s associates, is it difficult coming up with emotional diversity within the team of four people who are somewhere on perhaps the Asperger’s scale in terms of how they relate to other people?

ORCI: [laughs] That’s interesting. I think that will be a challenge we’ll want to keep our eyes on. Obviously, when you have an ensemble show, you’re meeting them slowly, but we saw Walter in Ireland at his home. As long as you’re true to some of the backgrounds of the diversity of these characters, it’ll find itself.

AX: How do you divide your time as an executive producer and writer?

ORCI: Well, one of the things we [Orci and Kurtzman] do, and I think very few people recognize this, is, it’s not typical for screenwriters to invest in their own company – we really do. You saw the [Q&A session]. I barely had to say a word, because we have amazing executive producers, we have amazing people, so we try to be the easiest company to work with, so that people will come and they will help us out, because we couldn’t do it alone. Alex and I met when we were eighteen years old, and so the only way we know how to do things is to be as part of a band. That’s how I like to think of it. We’re part of a big band and sometimes we get more credit than we deserve.

AX: Do you have anything you’d like to say about SCORPION that wasn’t asked on the panel?

ORCI: That it’s tough to have two children on at the same time. Alex and I have SLEEPY HOLLOW on [Mondays] at 9 and SCORPION [on Mondays] at 9, and so some people will wonder, “Well, how can they – do they really care about both their kids?” And I just say, “If you have two kids, that’s how we feel.”

Related: Exclusive nterview with GOTHAM creator Bruno Heller on Season 1 of young Batman

Related:Interview with SLEEPY HOLLOW Executive Producers Mark Goffman and Heather Kadin on Season 2

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Article: Exclusive nterview with SCORPION executive producer Roberto Orci



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