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Alan Cumming on his groundbreaking character on "Instinct"

Alan Cumming charmed viewers on "The Good Wife," and nearly two years after the end of that series, the actor is returning to TV for a lead role. Cumming stars in the CBS drama "Instinct" as Dr. Dylan Reinhart, a university professor and former CIA operative who ends up helping New York police after a killer starts planning crimes based on his book. 

The actor told CBSN that was one big draw of a role with "many different facets" -- including one that makes television history.

"It was really this character -- I wasn't, sort of, looking -- I got presented with the James Patterson book," Cumming explained. "I'd never been asked to play someone who's got so many different facets, seemingly so desperate as well. All these different characteristics, as well. He's a fuddy-duddy professor, but he's a former sort of CIA spy. He rides a motorbike, but he's kind of a dandy. He used to be a child musical prodigy. He's gay. It's the first ever network drama to have a gay character as a lead."

Cumming said of the game-changing show and character, "I feel that it was another interesting part of the -- but in terms of a historical thing, of playing that first ever gay lead character on an American network is kind of amazing and also to show America -- a lot of people who are watching this I'm sure will hopefully not have seen a same-sex relationship portrayed this way." 

He added, "I think it's about time America got used to it." 

The actor said he talked to real-life intelligence officers in order to prepare for the role and said that life undercover is much less glamorous than it sounds. 

"The idea now of going into the Middle East and being undercover -- it's such a traumatic thing to do. Warfare is such a different thing," said Cumming. "It's different from James Bond and John le Carré." 

In fact, Cumming called it a "horrible lifestyle" weighed down with post-traumatic stress disorder. Luckily, playing a former spy on TV sounds a lot more fun than being one. He joked that doing stunts on set basically just means getting on and off of a motorcycle seat. 

"Instinct" premieres on CBS Sunday, March 18 at 8 p.m. ET / 7 p.m. CT.

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