A 'Bull'-Centric Premiere, TAC Member Arrested & More Season 5 Teases
What virtual background would Dr. Jason Bull use for a Zoom video call? Michael Weatherly, the actor who's played the esteemed trial consultant since 2016 on Bull, has opted for a whimsical beach bonfire setting as he joins TV Guide Magazine to preview the CBS drama's fifth season.
It's especially effective when he turns in his chair and pretends to warm his hands by the fake flames. Also when he stands, backs up about six feet and shouts, showing us how the experts at Bull's Trial Analysis Corporation (TAC) might conduct their business now that the series — set and shot in New York City — will incorporate this year's pandemic.
But "this isn't a show that will make you feel like it's about coronavirus," the NCIS veteran quickly adds. "It's gonna make you smile and think, 'What a crazy time.'"
The season opener, "My Corona," will be particularly wild as it showcases the team's changed lives since the day in March when TAC, alongside the country's courts, closed its doors, to when they return months later (masks and all). "It's also a uniquely Bull-centric episode in that we pretty much live in his head for the whole hour," executive producer Glenn Gordon Caron teases.
"It breaks the fourth wall," adds Geneva Carr, who plays plucky neurolinguistics specialist Marissa Morgan. "It is so weird, so fantastic and personal. I shouldn't say too much, but it's genius."
Understandably, workaholic Bull isn't comfortable being apart from his staff, which also includes bulldog attorney and former brother-in-law Benny Colón (Freddy Rodriguez), tough ex-NYPD detective Danny James (Jaime Lee Kirchner), skilled hacker Taylor Rentzel (MacKenzie Meehan), and stylist turned law student Chunk Palmer (Christopher Jackson). "Bull's a mastermind at solving everyone else's puzzles, but his own life is teetering on disaster at all times," Weatherly jokes.
At least the dysfunctional psychologist has his on-again ex-wife, lifestyle maven Isabella "Izzy" Colón (Yara Martinez, now a series regular), at home. The couple will be addressing some unfinished business this season, such as deciding if and when they should retie the knot after welcoming baby girl Astrid in February. "It's going to add this warmth and heart to the show that we're all looking for during this time," Weatherly says of the storyline.
Another happy development: Chunk has graduated and passed the bar! We'll learn his (more professional) real first name and see his mettle tested. His opposing counsel in the season's second hour? None other than pal Benny, when TAC ends up with the unusual task of arguing both sides of a case involving squatters and a fatal building collapse. "This workplace is a family, and there are few things more entertaining than watching a family fight with each other," Caron says.
Weatherly, who directed the episode, reenacts a Sergio Leone–inspired gag in which Chunk and Benny squint at each other "like they're in a Western town on the edge of danger." Their courtroom battle brings a serious coming-of-age for Mr. Palmer, and the episode leads to a turning point for Benny, who previously expressed a desire for more control over the cases he takes. Hints Caron, "An opportunity falls into Benny's lap that nobody could have anticipated — but it changes everything."
More personal drama awaits the rest of TAC. Single mother Taylor is rattled when her son calls the new woman in her ex's life "Mom." Danny goes through what Caron cryptically describes as "unexpected family challenges" (hey, that means we'll finally meet them!). And then there's Marissa's divorce from ex-husband Greg Valerian (David Furr) — yes, she married him twice — which proceeds with at least one huge twist.
To recap: Greg pulled away from Marissa after she told him she'd changed her mind and no longer wanted children. Then he learned she'd been lying to protect him from test results showing he would have trouble conceiving. "When [a marriage] doesn't work out, it's sad, disappointing, shocking, embarrassing, shameful," says Carr, who is divorced in real life, adding that her own experience helped her understand Marissa.
Bull can commiserate; his (first) marriage to Izzy dissolved after they each grieved a miscarriage differently. Count on him to be there now for the friend who's long had his back — and Marissa will need all the support she can get. Caron let slip that her divorce trial takes a surprising turn when she's arrested on charges of tax evasion, money laundering, and fraud. That's news we broke to the actress: "Oh, God, I don't want to go to prison!" she says with a laugh, noting the exec producer had mentioned she'd have a big Christmas episode this year.
Truthfully, Carr doesn't sound too concerned about Marissa's fate. Maybe it's because she trusts the TAC team to circle the wagons as they always do. Or perhaps it's the scoop she scored herself: "One of the writers called me over the hiatus — it was a secret call — and said, 'We are trying to get you a happy ending.' I love knowing a room of people think Marissa needs her due." We'd drink a piña colada on the (virtual) beach to that.
Bull, Season 5 Premiere, Fall, CBS