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“We Call Ourselves a Whydunit, Not a Whodunit:” The Irrational’s Showrunner Teases New Series

As the behavioral science professor was “coming alive” in the writing and production process, The Irrational’s creative team thought of Jesse L. Martin as the star.

By Stephanie Gomulka

Finding the killer may be the focus of several hit crime shows, but the minds behind NBC’s new drama The Irrational wanted to examine why perps do what they do.  

How to Watch

Watch The Irrational on NBC and Peacock

Showrunner and executive producer Arika Lisannne Mittman (La Brea, Elementary) spoke with NBC Insider about the writing's emphasis on human behavior and motive for each storyline.  

"In pretty much all of our episodes, finding out who did it is not the end of the story,” Mittman told NBC Insider. “It’s like now, we find out who did it, but there’s always another piece ... how do we solve this problem or how do we make these people’s lives better?” 

What is The Irrational about?

Alec Mercer sitting at a table with his hand raised and eating takeout food.

The main character of the procedural show is Alec Mercer (Jesse L. Martin), a behavioral science professor who’s working cases often in tandem with the FBI and his ex-wife, Marisa Clark (Maahra Hill).  

With personal trauma and relationship drama, Mittman notes that for Mercer, his role isn’t so clear cut, referring to the show as a “whydunit, not a whodunit.” 

“It’s a very familiar format for people who love procedurals and are used to that format, but it also, you know, twists it a little bit and says hey, we’re not doing the same thing as every other show,” Mittman said. “We’re not just slapping handcuffs on the guy, and you know, case over because he’s the bad guy, we’re the good guys, we’re done.” 

RELATED: Psychological Tricks to Help You Ace Your Next Job Interview — Like the Ones in Jesse L. Martin's New Show

Mittman foresees that a lot of viewers may be able to guess who the killer is before the very end of an episode. 

"That's intentional," Mittman said. "That's because there's more story to tell after you find out who did it."

Who are some of the guest stars on NBC’s The Irrational

Alec Mercer and Cj standing face to face having a conversation.

“I’m a Gen Xer who loves Rent,” Mittman told NBC Insider. “We all just felt like, you know who would be great for this? Jesse Martin.” 

RELATED: Who Did Jesse L. Martin Play in Rent? Learn What He Says About the Broadway Hit Today 

The casting director, Kim Coleman, reached out to him and Martin “really responded” to the script. “The rest is history,” Mittman added. 

As fans of procedural crime dramas may know, the genre lends itself to a plethora of guest stars or recurring characters to fill in each episode’s latest cast of victims, family members, or perpetrators. Take Law & Order’s staggering list of well-known actors who have appeared on the show over the years — Martin himself had a stint as Detective Ed Green for eight seasons.  

ForThe Irrational, they cast a wide net in Los Angeles and Canada (where the show shoots) “for pretty much every role,” according to Mittman.  

Episode 2 featured CJ Right (Amy Aquino), a journalist looking to Mercer for help in finding out who poisoned her and why.  

“We have a guest spot with Malcom-Jamal Warner coming up, who you would never guess in a role like this,” Mittman teased. 

Other guest stars set to appear are “formidable actors” even if you’re not familiar with their names or past work, according to Mittman.  

Watch The Irrational Mondays at 10/9c on NBC and the next day on Peacock.