No Limits
With a recurring role on the hit CBS drama “Limitless,” actor Tom Degnan builds a bright future
by Lindsey Getz

Acting wasn’t even on the radar when Tom Degnan left home. He made haste for South Bend, Ind., where he studied finance at the University of Notre Dame. It wasn’t until an Introduction to Theatre class, taken for the “fine arts requirement,” hooked him.

After acting school and a move to Manhattan, Degnan first made a name for himself in the world of daytime soaps, starring as Joey Buchanan on “One Life to Live.” But it’s been his role as Agent Ike, a recurring character on the hit CBS show “Limitless,” where he’s truly evolved. This follow-up to the 2011 box office hit starring Bradley Cooper (who reprises his role in the TV show), follows Brian Finch, an ordinary, not-living-up-to-his potential type of guy, who stumbles upon the brain-enhancing drug NZT-48 and is hired by the FBI to solve cases. As one of two agents hired to follow Finch’s every move, Agent Ike is a likable character brought brilliantly to life by Degnan.

On a day off from taping the final three episodes of the season, Degnan took some time to chat about his role on the show, his acting career and his memories of spending his early years in Philly.

You’ve been cast in roles on numerous shows, from “White Collar” to “Madam Secretary” and, of course, “One Life to Live.” Has there been any particular character or genre you’ve liked most?

Honestly, it’s just getting to explore different characters that I love most about acting. Any time you get a script, you have to figure out who the character is and what you are going to do to bring that character to life. It’s very fulfilling. I don’t have a favorite, but there will always be the challenge of breaking the mold of how people perceive you.

You’ve certainly done a lot of drama, and while “Limitless” is a drama, Agent Ike is pretty funny. Is comedy in your future?
I certainly would like it to be. I enjoy comedy as much as drama, and having an opportunity to do a little bit of comedy through this role has been a really nice balance. The show absolutely has strong dramatic aspects to it, but it also allows itself to be light and fun—and the writers and producers have given us the ability to have some fun as we bring the characters to life.

Do you have a lot of childhood memories of the area?
I was born in Bristol and spent the earlier part of my childhood in Yardley, where I have wonderful memories of our house in Bucks County. My earliest memories include family trips to Sesame Place. We then moved to South Jersey and I grew up in Moorestown and lived there until I was 18. I still very much have connections to the area. I was just back with my fiancé to catch the NCAA games, and we got cheesesteaks and walked around Rittenhouse Square. Whenever I get back to Philadelphia I enjoy going for walks down South Street or around Old City. I have always had so much respect for Philadelphia—particularly the arts. My parents were always members of the Walnut Street Theatre, and there’s no question that a lot of talent comes out of Philly. In 2012 I also had an unbelievable opportunity to perform at the Pennsylvania Shakespeare Festival in Center Valley. It’s incredible there—something everyone should get out to see.

Can you tell us a little about what your future holds?
In terms of acting, my focus right now is definitely on “Limitless.” (At press time, Degnan was shooting the final three episodes of the season, which wrapped up in April.) Being on “Limitless” has been a dream. It’s a wonderful cast, and I can’t say enough good things about what it’s been like to work with them. I’m also getting married this summer [to “The Astronaut Wives Club” star Erin Cummings], so wedding planning and my wonderful fiancé are the focus of a lot of my attention. My mind is always on the future, though, and my goal is to continue to evolve as an actor.

Photograph by Lelund Thompson