I became a journalist right around the time that Rachael Leigh Cook was getting big, yet somehow I never got to meet her until now. At the Television Critics Association press tour earlier this year, I found Cook by herself in the hallway after the “Perception” panel.
In the TNT original series, Cook plays FBI agent Kate Moretti, who enlists Dr. Daniel Pierce (Eric McCormack) to help her solve crimes. She doesn’t quite know the extent of his condition. He actually sees and talks to imaginary people who help him solve the cases. Cook was a total sweetheart, sharing her popcorn from the green room with me, and joking about her legendary Say No To Drugs commercial (look it up) and ‘90s movies.
CraveOnline: Does kicking so much ass on this show remind you of your great Say No To Drugs commercial where you smash the entire kitchen?
Rachael Leigh Cook: No, I never thought about it but now that you mention it, it kind of does remind me of that. God, and I can’t believe how long ago that was. That was I want to say ’98, maybe ’97.
CraveOnline: It used to play in movie theaters.
Rachael Leigh Cook: Really? I had no idea. Do you do heroin, Fred?
CraveOnline: No, I got the message just from the old school frying egg commercial.
Rachael Leigh Cook: Me too.
CraveOnline: How badass do you get to be on “Perception?”
Rachael Leigh Cook: Pretty badass. Pretty badass. I think that they realized the direction that the character was going to go is not necessarily, the show is not an action show. Doing stunts like that are pretty expensive, and there’s also the minor detail that when I got up to the second story and I was supposed to jump, I cried a little. So maybe they thought that that was an indicator that it’s a bad idea.
CraveOnline: Did you actually do the jump from the top?
Rachael Leigh Cook: Mm hmm. I had wires on but I don't think that they used mine because I blacked out after I jumped.
CraveOnline: Does Pierce need someone to be the muscle for him?
Rachael Leigh Cook: Oh man, I hope not because I would be terrible. Yeah, I was telling him it’s too bad “Numb3rs” isn’t on anymore because we’re officially the two least intimidating crime fighters on television.
CraveOnline: Are you a TV fan that you know references to “Numb3rs?”
Rachael Leigh Cook: Yes, I’m a definite TV fan, absolutely. I’m disappointed they cancelled “Hung.” Was really loving that show. What are you watching right now?
CraveOnline: I watched “House” ‘til the end. I watch “Touch.” “Dexter” of course.
Rachael Leigh Cook: Amazing.
CraveOnline: On TNT, “Falling Skies,” “Southland,” “Dallas.”
Rachael Leigh Cook: That’s a great show.
CraveOnline: What interesting cases are coming up for Pierce and Moretti?
Rachael Leigh Cook: Not to brag, but I’m a pretty amazing FBI agent. I solve a lot of cases. Pretty much every week. Especially I really figure things out towards the third act. There’s one that explores Prosopagnosia, face blindness, which is really interesting.
There’s one about a doctor who believes that he has the cure for being gay and he ends up getting killed, he’s trying to prescribe this drug and all this crazy stuff. I’m not good at summarizing, Fred, I’m sorry.
CraveOnline: But those are really relevant themes out of the headlines.
Rachael Leigh Cook: Really topical.
CraveOnline: How patient is Moretti with Pierce’s imaginary visions?
Rachael Leigh Cook: They’re really careful about what my character sees him perceive as it were. I mean, he doesn’t have full on conversations with his hallucinations when she’s around because he doesn’t want her to see that. It’s definitely a part of the show that he doesn’t want my character to think that he’s nuts.
So she knows about his diagnosis, finds out rather. I think he’s told her it’s something a little bit less than what it is, so he shares that with her. That’s a cool part of the relationship. Yeah, he’s really super careful around her which I think is kind of sweet.
CraveOnline: It seems we’re entering a phase of ‘90s nostalgia. How do you look back at the ‘90s and the phenomena you were a part of?
Rachael Leigh Cook: Oh man. I’m all for ‘90s nostalgia, especially if it helps me get a job. I think it’s a great thing. The movies I did in the ‘90s…
CraveOnline: She’s All That, Josie and the Pussycats…
Rachael Leigh Cook: Josie was 2001. It just makes it out of that. I did a really fun movie called Strike! with Gaby Hoffman and Kirsten Dunst. That was a lot of fun. My memories of the ‘90s are being in Minnesota where I’m from, and then my career beginning. So I have very good memories of that time but it definitely makes you feel a little bit old when you meet someone who says, “Your movie was the first one I ever saw in the theater.” It’s crazy.
CraveOnline: You joked about whatever helps you get work, but were there rough times?
Rachael Leigh Cook: Yeah, in the sense that I think what was difficult for my career was that Josie and the Pussycats didn’t make a lot of money. If it had, I think I would have maybe been considered more bankable as it were. It didn’t matter to me much at the time because I was suddenly convinced that I wanted to be just like Parker Posey and I went headfirst into the indie world with everything I had, doing the most nonstudio.
There would’ve been a way to do some of those if not the lead but I was just so hell bent on being “different.” Then what happened was the bottom sort of fell out with the financial crisis. People financing independent movies all of a sudden were gone. It just wasn’t a good idea anymore. Then that sort of dried up. I still found things to do here and there but that’s where TV started sounding like a greater and greater place to be so that’s when that started.
CraveOnline: Did “Perception” come at a time when you were ready to reinvent yourself?
Rachael Leigh Cook: Yeah, I definitely recognized this as an opportunity for me because it was the opportunity to play someone incredibly brave and strong and independent but still layered, still very human. That seemed like a great idea to me because aside from being cast as a young mother once, I was definitely having trouble getting cast as, for lack of a better way of putting it, someone who has a job. Like an adult. I was still getting “You’re somebody’s funny sister or cousin or girlfriend.” Always the girlfriend.
CraveOnline: How do you feel about the people who thought you were hotter at the beginning of She’s All That than after the makeover?
Rachael Leigh Cook: They should come to my house in the morning.
CraveOnline: Isn’t that the dirty little secret that guys prefer the before picture?
Rachael Leigh Cook: That’s nice. What people forget about that movie is people remember the makeover but the truth is that she’s not the brainy one. He’s the one who’s the class president. I can’t believe I’m going over the finer points of She’s All That right now.
It’s hilarious. But she’s just sort of antisocial. She sort of pushes people away and she’s cagey. She’s a very deliberate loner so that’s the real transformation that goes on.
CraveOnline: It’s very fun to analyze it with you.
Rachael Leigh Cook: [Laughs]