Byrne may look familiar from his role of Rugrat in Oscar nominated, Wolf of Wall Street. He shot that film in New York, he told me, before signing on to the CBS drama. He pinned Intelligence down well with one simple sentence, "Nothing is ever what it seems on the show and that's exciting for me."
Read on for more from my conversation with PJ Byrne.
What interested you in Intelligence?
I think what's cool for me personally. I guess the answer is two-fold. One - Every kid wants to be in a sort of James Bond show if you would, but the way it's written with the twists, turns, and hooks. And you sort of deal with the complicated problems that actually America has with these huge monster dilemmas of dealing with terrorists and nuclear meltdowns and power grid outages and all these problems and like the CIA and FBI has to deal with. That's an interesting world to get in. So it's sort of like Homeland in that sense.
But on the other hand, it's sort of like a James Bond or Bourne Identity-type of show which is action-packed and also very smart and high intensity. For that one level of being a guy and a kid, I wanted to do that.
And in the role of Nelson?
What's cool of it for me is essentially everyone in these worlds of being a CIA Operative or FBI show or even if you're the forensic guy on an FBI show. Those people are trained professionals who are trained to be in that world and they probably knew that they were going to do that and were trained to do that, whereas my character sort of falls into this world just because he's incredibly smart and good with computers. He never grew up dreaming about that. His father put the chip into Gabriel's brain and by default found himself in this world.
Gabriel's is a trained Delta Force guy. Riley is a Secret Service Agent Lillian came up in this world. Her father was a big CIA Operative if you will. So I'm sort of the guy at home. I kinda love that attitdue of like what is going on? This is crazy. I can't believe this. It's also the fact that they asked me to be -- to add a little humor to the product. I kinda get to be myself on some level and sorta be the person at home and that sorta excited me.
What is Nelson's main role within the team?
I can essentially do anything Gabriel can do except Gabriel does it like 1.6 billion times faster than me. So when he's not around I'm sort of doing that. That's another point of contention like have jealousy of my brother if you will.
I guess the best way to describe it is I'm the "Q" character. I come up with all of these interesting, cool inventions that aren't associated with the chip that are just some other things tht we can play with mess around with. I'm also incredibly smart and know how to get Gabriel through the problems with the chip. And, when he's out in the field, I'm taking over the rest of the -- anything computer or technological or helping solve these intricate problems.
Just because he has a chip in his head and has access to information doesn't mean he knows all the answers. Just like because we can get to places faster, we still have to shift through everything and figure out what the heck is going on.
Is there a sibling rivalry between Nelson and Gabriel?
My father looks at Gabriel as a son because he kind of created Gabriel and I'm actually his DNA son. I watched my father dote on my pseudo-brother and that's sort of hard on me because he can do everything I can do on a computer except he does it billion times faster so that's a little annoying.
The fact that I think I'm good looking and he's like godly looking that's a little annoying. I'm sure he's infinitely better with the ladies so that's going to annoy me. I feel like I can get into fight too but he's also a trained Navy Delta Force guy so everything he does it's just better than me. That's a massive point of contention and then my father dotes on him a lot. That's going to get under someone's skin. That's one side of it.
The other side is that I really do love my brother if you will. It's like the dynamic in any family. He's your brother and you love him, but when he's amazing there's some jealousy there. At the end of the day, we are brothers and we have each other's back so it gives a nice little family spark.
If Nelson had the necessary gene, would he want the chip?
Yes! Yes. He'd do that in a second. For sure. I think Nelson's so smart he already tested his genes and I wouldn't be surprised on side he's trying to figure out another way to get it in his head. If there's another way to go around the gene. That's not in the show or anything, but that's my internal character bio. That's awesome. So I wouldn't have to use my fingers any more I can just think.
Gabriel was never trained to be a computer genius, so imagine if you had someone who has a mind that kind of already thinks that way and then gets a chip in his head. That would be spectacular.
Does Nelson ever get out of the building?
You bet he does! Totally. I call it "in the field" and on those episodes where I go, I'm always walking around the set going "in the field." I go out quite a bit. It's exciting. That's another reason I wanted to do this show. It was a conscience thing. I'm not just gonna sit behind a computer and I'm now the guy at home who's not trained to do this but finds himself in the field. And that is awesome. Maybe I pick up a gun. Maybe I pickup that gun. I don't know.
Intelligence airs on Mondays at 10 pm ET on CBS.