New line of work for Rainn Wilson

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Rainn Wilson’s initial reaction to the TV series Backstrom was far from positive.

“I literally got a call from my agents as I was finishing the last three or four days of shooting on The Office, our 200th episode over nine or 10 seasons. And they said, ‘We really want you to read this TV script,’ and I almost fired them on the spot,” Wilson told The Fresno Bee. “I’m like, ‘Are you crazy?’ But they implored me, ‘Just read the script. This character is really special.’ And I did. It really hooked me in.”

In the new FOX series that launches at 9 p.m. Thursday, he stars as Everett Backstrom, an alcoholic train-wreck of a detective who works for the Portland Police Bureau. What he lacks in social skills is made up with brilliant detective work. It may take him several tries, but he eventually can crawl into the mind of any suspect to ferret out the truth. The series is based on the books by Swedish author Leif G. W. Persson.

Wilson jokes that roles this good don’t come along often for “weird looking, 48-year-old pasty white dudes.”

Backtrom’s skill is being able to size up people quickly. He may come across as a total jerk in the beginning, but Wilson promises that he will be less annoying through the initial order of 13 episodes as more is revealed about the detective. But, don’t ever expect the title character to become a poster boy for political correctness

“Backstrom really wears his heart on his sleeve, and his life is unraveling. And watching a brilliant detective at work while things are just not working for him anymore and just falling apart, I think, is really interesting,” Wilson says. “I would much rather hang out with that person than, like, a slick procedural detective who’s got all the answers and effortlessly speaks in these kind of quips as their CSI team looks at every microfiber, and everything resolves perfectly every single week. It’s human. It’s frail. And it’s interesting.”