On the hit CBS drama Numbers (Fridays at 10 pm/ET), Rob Morrow plays Don Eppes, an FBI agent who is constantly picking his math-genius brother's brain in order to solve cases. Well, when TVGuide.com spent a few minutes picking the actor's brain for a change, the down-to-earth Morrow happily chatted about Numbers' Emmy chances, his golf game and all that math jargon.
TVGuide.com: Numbers always seems very intense, with a lot of locations and running around.
Definitely, and I like that. We set the bar. I don't think the show was intended to be that, but we just got into the action side of it and decided to expand on it. The family scenes are great because they are almost like one-act plays, while the action scenes are just play. It's like being a kid playing cops and robbers.
TVGuide.com: With a bulletproof vest.
Totally! I love it. Half of the time when they say "Cut!" you just see me standing there with a big grin on my face.
TVGuide.com: Are there FBI people on set to help you?
Oh, yeah. We have great technical advisors from the FBI who are there any time we do anything procedural or action-wise. I went and did some training with them, which was really helpful.
TVGuide.com: Do you understand a word of the math jargon that comes out of costar David Krumholtz' mouth?
If you watch, in most of the scenes when they are talking about the math, you'll see me sitting there with kind of a quizzical look on my face saying, "Say that again?" "What was that?" "Put it in English." [Laughs] I kind of like physics and science, so I do know some of it, and some of the theories I've heard of, but I certainly don't know them well.
TVGuide.com: That's better than the average viewer.
It might be. It's funny, a lot of people come up to me and say things like, "We love the show! We have no idea what you are talking about, but we love it."
TVGuide.com: Do you think it is just the math that makes Numbers different from all of the other procedurals out there?
It's that and the family drama. I don't think any of them, except maybe Medium, really deal with a family dynamic. And we've only just skimmed the surface of where we hope to head with that. A lot of people tell me that their favorite scenes are the ones that end the show, with the family joking around or something. I think it puts it in perspective.
TVGuide.com: I especially enjoy the scenes between brothers Don and Charlie, who seem so comfortable together.
They are, and I love that. You know what is weird? I didn't know Krummy, as I call him, before, but I knew his work. So when I was deciding whether to do it, I was like, "OK, I'm doing it because I know he and I are going to groove." It is easy, and I'm always glad to come into a scene when it is just he and I because I know the egos aren't going to get in the way and we are going to have fun. He is kind of like the little brother I wish I had.
TVGuide.com: Are any of those scenes ad-libbed based on your friendship with him?
Yeah, we definitely ad-lib a fair amount.
TVGuide.com: Don seems very different from you on paper he's single and alone, you are married and have a kid. Is it a weird juxtaposition going back and forth between real life and work?
It isn't weird, but it is interesting for me to think about. I'm definitely a family guy and I love being married and I love being a father and I'm not interested in putting my life at risk, but Don is a shadow side of me in certain regards. He is like the archetype hero, selfless, and he does what has to be done at the sacrifice of his own life. I grew up watching those kinds of characters in movies, so a part of me wishes I could be that. But the other side of it is the sacrifice and loneliness. Having read about and talked to a lot of people who do these kinds of jobs, I know that it is a huge burden. The idea of having a family is so frightening for them because they are never home. In a recent episode, Judd Hirsch is talking to me about relationships and says, "Why don't you ever have relationship that lasts?" I'm like, "You try coming home and when your wife asks, 'How was your day?' you say, 'Well, I saw a decapitated kid. How was yours?'" That burden to me is really interesting.
TVGuide.com: Don seems different from a lot of characters that you've played. Was that one of the reasons you took this role?
Definitely. Every time out and I don't always necessarily succeed I'm looking for something different. Especially when it comes to a series, I look to do something radically different.
TVGuide.com: It seems like the FBI is a big well for stories.
With crime dramas, it offers a lot of mileage. I had done a series right before this called Street Time, and that was a hard show. It had great potential but it was a hard show to "find the franchise," if you will, whereas Numbers was right out of the gate. We knew we could have a franchise as long as we could get the elements cohesive.
TVGuide.com: Having watched you on Northern Exposure, that was my initial reason for tuning in to Numbers. Do a lot of people still recognize you from that?
For sure. With DVDs, now, it is really on people's minds. I get recognized a lot for Numbers, but also a lot from Northern Exposure still.
TVGuide.com: Watching you play Fleischman, it would have seemed like you were a better fit for Numbers' Charlie.
I had the choice [of which role to take] and for that very reason I chose the other.
TVGuide.com: Emmy nods are coming out July 6. Are you nervous?
I don't know. Actors... when you do anything, you think and you hope and you think and you hope. I can't say I spend a lot of time thinking about it, but it is always nice and it is always flattering. Either way, I am good.
TVGuide.com: Numbers just won a Carl Sagan Award for public understanding of science. That sounds really cool.
One of the variables for me in deciding to do this show was that I love doing things that have the potential to edify. Not to be pedantic, because it is not an academic show at all. But kids come up to me and say they watch it, and their teachers tell them to watch it because of the math. The idea that it could be helpful... I love that.
TVGuide.com: Father's Day is this weekend. Got big plans?
My daughter, my wife and I are on vacation right now in this amazing place in the Bahamas. I don't know what they have planned, but I'm hoping to play golf. I played today, and I've confirmed my status as the worst to ever play the game.
Yeah. I've decided I really feel comfortable with that title because I think it gives me a little room to take the pressure off.
TVGuide.com: I've now got this vision of you, Judd and David all playing together.
It's funny. At the beginning of last season and we're going to do it again this year the whole cast and some of the producers went to Vegas for a "night of debauchery." The day after, Judd and I played, and Krummy came out way, way hung over. He left after like five holes.
TVGuide.com: Maybe you could get one of the math consultants to help you with the angles and such of golf.
Anything. I'll take anything! It is crazy how bad I am.
TVGuide.com: Any plans to come back to the theater?
God, I really need to do a play. I was offered a play on my break, but I couldn't make it work date-wise. I have this fantasy that I'll do Numbers for five, six, maybe seven years, and then I'll go back to New York and do five years' worth of plays. We'll see if that happens, but I'm hungry to do one. It has been a while.
TVGuide.com: Any chance you'll be back in the Numbers' director seat next season?
Yeah, I'll do one a year. I loved it, but it is completely and utterly consuming for five weeks.
TVGuide.com: Is there any chance for a little love for Don?
I think there is a chance for a lot with Michelle Nolden, who played my wife on Street Time, and appeared in two episodes this year.
TVGuide.com: She's the lawyer, Robin Brooks?
Yes. I think the plan is to explore that a little, among other ideas. We definitely will go into more depth in Don's personal life. There is a lot more going on there that just hasn't made it in.