‘Instinct’ gives its ‘superhuman’ cops the chance to be ‘more human,’ actress says

Actors Bojana Novakovic, left, and Alan Cumming star in CBS' "Instinct."   Photo Credit: CBS

The Manhattan-set series’ second season gives actress Bojana Novakovic the outlet to explore her tenacious character’s life outside of the NYPD.

Actors Bojana Novakovic, left, and Alan Cumming star in CBS' "Instinct."  
Actors Bojana Novakovic, left, and Alan Cumming star in CBS’ "Instinct."   Photo Credit: Getty Images/GeorgePeters

In the sophomore season of CBS’ NYC-set crime drama "Instinct," actress Bojana Novakovic has become more than an NYPD detective.

Her character Lizzie Needham balances tracking down serial killers with serving as a confidant to Alan Cumming’s Dr. Dylan Reinhart, a friend to Lt. Jasmine Gooden (Sharon Leal) and secret lover to Julian Cousins (Naveen Andrews). 

Lizzie becomes "more human, than superhuman, as that’s what can happen in police shows," Novakovic, 37, says. While she spent much of the debut season nailing the portrayal of a female police officer, the series’ second stint gives her the outlet to explore the tenacious character’s life outside of the NYPD.

Bojana Novakovic plays Lizzie Needham, an NYPD detective on "Instinct." The show's second season will explore more of her life outside of work.  
Bojana Novakovic plays Lizzie Needham, an NYPD detective on "Instinct." The show’s second season will explore more of her life outside of work.   Photo Credit: CBS

"We delve more into the private lives of everybody," she says, assuring that the shift still leaves room for "a bit more drama and excitement." 

Below, the actress talks playing a fierce female character and teases what’s to come for season 2.

The diverse casting in "Instinct" is so representative of New York City. What does it mean to you to star in a series that celebrates diversity in its storyline? 
Oh, thanks for asking me that! And, thanks for mentioning New York because it really is one of the lead characters in our show. It should be like that on every show. The fact that we have that diversity just feels right and makes it a really enjoyable show to watch. It creates dynamic and color in the metaphoric sense and real sense, lots of color. I can only be thrilled to be a part of a team like that. 

"Instinct" is also boasting strong female characters — your Lizzie being one of them, and Leal’s Jasmine. How will their friendship evolve in season 2? 

It’s really funny actually. Their friendship continues and they become more normal, and in that, I mean, they just become more themselves. That’s where their strength comes from. We have these two women, who have regular problems with life and love, too — an unhappy marriage or a strange relationship. They share that and in the sharing, they become badass, for want of a better word.

On the show, Novakovic's Det. Lizzie Needham shares a friendship with Lt. Jasmine Gooden, played by Sharon Leal.
On the show, Novakovic’s Det. Lizzie Needham shares a friendship with Lt. Jasmine Gooden, played by Sharon Leal. Photo Credit: CBS

It’s also really important to consider the fact that with a groundbreaking premise of a show — where you have the first gay lead on network TV — you can surround that person with the most normal of characters. But "Instinct" doesn’t do that. The creators have these incredibly eccentric, interesting characters to surround Dylan with. I think that speaks to the courage of the filmmakers. 

The first season left us with the cliffhanger of wondering if Lizzie and Dylan would ever work together again. But, that didn’t last long. What does their dynamic bring to the series? 

The chemistry between them, it’s a really multifaceted relationship in terms of television itself. And then, within the context of the story. You have two leads who are never going to consummate their relationship and they have chemistry based in intellect and in feeling, emotions and friendship. It’s an attraction other than sexual. I think it sizzles with that. There’s a richness to it, that fosters positive, normal sexual chemistry that you see on television. There’s a strength to that, and excitement. People want to come back and see us. 

The relationship between Lizzie and Dylan may be platonic, but Lizzie does get a romantic storyline this season. 

She has had a pretty traumatizing past. When you can move on from that, even though it still exists, she’s never going to forget what happened, I think that’s really fun. I love emotional storylines and I’m glad she gets one, too.

Lizzie has plenty of action scenes this season, chasing perps down New York City streets. Were you looking for the opportunity to add a bit more action to Lizzie? 

I enjoy action. I enjoy hand-to-hand combat. I tried in martial arts; I studied Muay Thai, and I love that stuff. I’m not so much into the choreographed action sequences, because I love what’s real. I just don’t like running in heels, so I get Kylie, who’s my stunt double, to do that. Though, I think I did all the running in this [episode 1 sequence]. I was in makeup, then I did some running, so we shared the load of it. 

Have you incorporated your martial arts experience in the series? 

Yes. They’ve actually filmed a few scenes of me training, based on my own training. We shot a scene, I think in episode 7 or 8 of this season. I actually broke my toe before we shot it and didn’t tell anyone. I just taped it up and went along with it because I didn’t want them to stop me from doing it! There are a few MMA references actually this season, and they pretty much all come from me. I’m the MMA expert on set. The MMA captain. 

Meghan Giannotta