Star Apps: P.J. Byrne

Actor P.J. Byrne chats about "Intelligence," being jealous of Josh Holloway, the ethics of microchipping, and his favorite apps.

As technology moves from desktop to handheld to wearable (connected fitness bands, smartwatches, Google Glass), one might wonder if microchipping is the next step in our tech evolution. The answer is an emphatic yes, according to CBS's "Intelligence," a new suspense series that airs Mondays (10 p.m. ET/PT). Josh Holloway plays Gabriel, a high-tech intelligence operative enhanced by a supercomputer microchip in his brain, which gives him unfettered access to the Internet, Wi-Fi, telephone, and satellite data -- info he uses to protect the US from foreign enemies. On the show, actor P.J. Byrne ("The Wolf of Wall Street," "Horrible Bosses," "Final Destination," "The Legend of Korra," and "The Game") plays Nelson Cassidy, whose father developed the chip. Byrne chatted with me about "Intelligence," being jealous of costar Josh Holloway, the ethics of microchipping, and his favorite apps.

Intelligence." credit="Robert Voets/CBS" alt="P.J. Byrne in a scene from Intelligence" creditUrl="" targetUrl=""/>

How would you describe your Nelson Cassidy character on "Intelligence"?
I'm like a tiny, skinny little human who wears glasses and never thought in his life that he'd get to be an action star. Josh plays a superagent with a computer chip in his brain, and I get to hang out with him. In some cases, I get to go out in the field and play James Bond -- and that's awesome.

On the flip side, Nelson can do everything Gabriel can do; he's just a million times slower. I can get into fights, too, but Gabriel's a trained Navy SEAL, so he's clearly better at that than me. I think I'm good-looking in character version, but Gabriel is godly looking, so that's a bummer and makes me a little jealous. And you've gotta remember that my dad invented Gabriel by putting the chip in his brain, so my dad considers him a son, as well. So when he dotes on him, that's another point of contention for me. So I have a really big brother complex going down.

Josh Holloway's Gabriel character is chipped in "Intelligence." That seems to be the next step for us after wearable technology. Do you ever ponder the moral or ethical issues around this?
I think it's not as far away as people might think. That's a good thing to debate: If this does happen, how do we keep people -- their abilities to hack things and know things about other people -- in check? On the show we're a superagency trying to protect America, and as long as it's in the right hands and you're doing it for moral and ethical reasons, there are so many things you can use it for.

From my perspective, I think it's awesome and exciting. Technology like Google Glass does make everything faster and easier. But from a governmental perspective, if someone's trying to hack into a mainframe or power grid in America, you have to build up security as much as we're building security in another way.

What's it like working opposite Josh Holloway and Marg Helgenberger?
Josh is the best No. 1 that you could ever have on a call sheet, because he's such a dude, never down and always funny. The character is a pseudo-brother character, and you could fall in love with him and take him as your brother very easily. Like, "You're the man, bro." Marg is probably one of the classiest women in America, and I always thought if we had to send someone to meet the queen of England, we'd send Marg, because she's such a classy woman. She's also cool as heck, super down-to-earth, and very funny.

You've worked opposite a lot of great talent. Were you ever intimidated by anyone?
As far as Martin Scorsese, you know how there are great coaches, who've maybe never played that game but are great communicators, because they've gotta get their team ready, and they've gotta communicate their vision and what they want? That's what Martin Scorsese does. He prepares you so well. But the greatest gift is that he makes you feel that you're the guy he might call to make that winning shot. He makes you feel so empowered.

As far as actors, I'll use Leonardo DiCaprio as an example. You know that thing you'd hear about Bill Clinton, where he'd make you feel like you're the only person in the room? That's what Leo does. Whatever you do, you feel like you're doing something bigger than yourself. When they call "Action," there comes this wave, and he's able to take you on this fun journey all the way till they call "Cut." You feel this electricity in the room when you're working with iconic actors like that.

P.J. Byrne in a scene from Intelligence
"Patient Zero" -- Just another day at the office: Nelson Cassidy and his team head to Texas to help contain an outbreak of a deadly, rapidly spreading virus. (Credit: Michael Desmond/CBS)

Switching gears, are there ways that you use software in your personal life that make you feel more intelligent?
I don't know about ways, but God bless the Waze app, because you save a lot of money on shrink bills in Los Angeles with that app.

What are your top five apps? Waze, 100 percent, lock it up, thanks for coming. It saves you so much time and stress. Twitter is great, because not only do you get to tweet about your stuff and communicate with fans, but also if the power went out in the neighborhood or a crime happened, people tweet about it. It's amazing as far as a security thing or transferring info instantly. Instagram makes me an infinitely better photographer. It makes my night look like I had a 70 percent better time than i did.

That's great, but I need two more.
All right, just for you, Josh, but you're killing me. I use Nest, which can save on my energy bills. I make sure my home is not being heated while I'm not sitting there. I use WeMo, which is hooked up to Belkin, so I can control the lights in my home and stuff like that. So before I get there, I can turn on the lights on my deck.

I use Baby Monitor. Don't pay hundreds of dollars for a baby monitor. Pay a little money for this app, and you have the best baby camera going. There's also an app called Presence, where I can be on set and watch the baby camera. It doesn't have night vision, which is the only speed bump, but you can talk through your phone and iPad to your baby. Oh, I love me some Vimeo, of course, and, I'm looking at that a lot, and iMovie. Songza is great, Pandora's great. I pay the extra bit for Pandora, so I don't have to deal with commercials. I have the Costco app. The CVS Pharmacy app: If I have a prescription for the baby, it lets me know that it's ready. Jetsetter and StubHub I love. Yelp is great. Tumblr, of course. Is that enough? I don't want to let you down.

You have exceeded expectations. In fact, out of all the celebrities I've interviewed thus far, you came in second, after actress Taryn Manning, in terms of listing the most apps.
Oh, well then, hang on. I got more for you. Kayak, Flight Tracker, which is No. 1 when I go on trips, and Trip Advisor and Embark NYC for subways.

I really let myself down. LA Times, Yahoo Sports, CNN, gotta rock those. All my things for Instagram: Camera Plus, Camera 360, Instaplus, Photobucket, Pixeet, Snapseed, and instaCollageIt, etc. So screw you Taryn, screw you [laughs]. I'm kidding.

How many of these apps do you regularly use?
All of these.

Oh, here we go. and E-Trade, for sure. I use all of them all the time. I only listed one-tenth of the apps on my iPhone. Oh, HBO Go, Evernote, Blackboard Eats, White Noise for the baby, Netflix -- done. Flixster, for sure, to see how we are doing on Rotten Tomatoes. Voice Memo because I do voice-overs. And when my wife was pregnant, we had the Pregnancy Smiles app to know what's going on in her stomach other than a cantaloupe. Now I know.

Do you think you'll be using Pregnancy Smiles again anytime soon?
Well, the baby's three months old, so give us a minute. But I'm thinking about getting back in there.

About Joshua Rotter

Joshua Rotter is a copy editor for and covers iOS.