Benjamin Bratt and Dennis Hopper Benjamin Bratt and Dennis Hopper

With the new fall series E-Ring (airing Wednesdays at 9 pm/ET, beginning Sept. 21), NBC promises a behind-the-scenes look at the global crises and critical decision-making that keep Pentagon intelligence officers on their toes. The drama boasts silver-screen luster not only in Benjamin Bratt (Miss Congeniality, The Great Raid), as U.S Army Major "J.T." Tisnewski, but also in two-time Academy Award nominee Dennis Hopper (of Easy Rider and Blue Velvet fame), who plays Colonel McNulty.

Although largely associated with his many counterculture film characters, Hopper says that, aside from having to "stand a little straighter and get a haircut," stepping into the Colonel's spit-shined shoes was not as difficult as some might think. Stepping away from filmdom, however, was. "I'm probably dropping about a million-and-a-half dollars a year taking this job," he says with a laugh, "so it's maybe not the smartest move in the world, economically, for me. But it is a terrific part in a really wonderfully written series by the best producer in television [Jerry Bruckheimer of the CSI franchise, Cold Case etc.]."

What's more, Hopper continues, "the pilot was shot by one of the best directors and creative men in the business, Taylor Hackford [Ray's Oscar-nominated director and producer]. Between that, [cocreators] David McKenna and Ken Robinson, and my fellow thespians, we're going to rock and roll."

Interestingly, it was a happenstance encounter with Hackford that led Hopper to E-Ring. "I went up to congratulate [Taylor] on Ray," he recalls. "He looked at me and said, 'Wow, you look terrific. Have you ever thought of doing episodic television?' I said, 'Absolutely not.' He said, 'Well, I've got a script I really think you should read. The good news is you're perfect for this; the bad news is we start shooting in two days.'"

Luckily for NBC, Hopper was ready, willing and able. "I still think of myself as a 13-year-old," says the veteran actor, known for his hard living as well as his colorful career. "I haven't started thinking about my age, because I feel terrific. I'm going to create until they cart me away, so I am really stoked about this. It's a wonderful opportunity to work with some terrific actors, and this is a perfect time for people to look and see how the Pentagon works. I feel it's [their] obligation."

And E-Ring may deliver TV's most accurate and unprecedented look ever at the venerable military facility's operations, if only due to cocreator/exec producer Ken Robinson's input as a 20-year military man whose assignments included stints in Ranger, Special Forces and clandestine special-ops units. "The inside of the Pentagon is an incredible place and a dramatic set," observes Hopper. "We do [travel] outside, but the inside workings of the civilian oversight of the military inside the Pentagon is really about as exciting as anything you ever want to deal with. It is really amazing."

Check out video previews, photos, premiere dates and more from fall's new and returning shows right here.