"BrainDead" star on the show's "slightly twisted" view of politics

Tony Shalhoub on new CBS show "BrainDead" and career
Tony Shalhoub on new CBS show "BrainDead" and... 06:15

The new CBS show "BrainDead" has a crazy explanation for the constant political gridlock and dysfunction in Washington, D.C. - a bug invasion.

The bugs break out amid a government shutdown, after a meteor that crashes into the sea in Russia - an event that actually occurred in 2013 - is shipped to be studied at the Smithsonian Institution. A congressional staffer discovers the bugs are eating the brains of various government employees, including a Republican senator from Michigan.

Three-time Emmy-winning actor Tony Shalhoub plays Senator Red Wheatus, who becomes "much more politically savvy" after he is infected.

"He's a guy who's been a career politician and he's become a heavy drinker, chases women and is kind of thrown in the towel in terms of his job... until the infection, or as I like to call it, the enhancement - of bugs go in and eat part of his brain," Shalhoub explained. "He was a Republican senator but he moves much further to the right and becomes a hardliner and it ups his game in a big way."

In what he describes as a scene "unlike any I've ever done in my life," Senator Wheatus gets attacked by the brain-eating bugs.

"Your head is having a bowel movement. I mean, that's - there's no better way to put it," Shalhoub said, laughing.

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The show's creators, Michelle and Robert King -- the husband-and-wife duo who also produced CBS' "The Good Wife" - were inspired by the 2013 government shutdown and spoof other real-life current events on the show.

"The producers very smartly have put flat screen TVs in a lot of the Senate offices on our sets and they're all green screen so they can matte in current news cycles, news events," Shalhoub explained.

Shalhoub also drew inspiration for his role from the "whole array" of candidates of the 2016 election cycle. Shalhoub said his character shares some "Donald Trump qualities" but noted that unlike Trump, Wheatus has been in the political scene for a long time.

"This parallels our current political situation. I think it's a slightly twisted, somewhat distorted view, but maybe not really that distorted, if things seem to be moving in a very bizarre direction," Shalhoub said.