Last year the procedural boom came from network TV to streaming, and one of the biggest hits was The Irrational on Peacock.

The Irrational follows a world-renowned behavioral science professor, Alec Mercer, who uses his unique expertise to help solve difficult, high-stakes cases.

What I love about the show is that it has a distinct look and feel that set it apart from other procedurals on TV, and that's thanks to Vincent De Paula, CSC certified cinematographer.

His work on the show is extraordinary, and we were excited to sit down with him to talk about how he broke into his industry and his work on the series among a slew of helpful insights into the process of establishing yourself in the camera department for big and fancy shows.

Check it out below our interview with De Paula below.

Editor's note: the following interview is edited for length and clarity.

The Irrational Season 1

No Film School: Can you tell us about your journey into cinematography and what initially drew you to this field?

Vincent De Paula: I was born in Galicia, in northern Spain where the film industry is almost non-existent. There is no film background in my family at all, so it wasn’t the expected path my parents probably expected for me. When I mentioned my desire to be involved in the movies it was pretty clear that I would have to move elsewhere.

I moved to London and I started working mainly on documentaries. This taught me so much about the use of natural light and how to use what was available there for me to tell a story. This allowed me to develop a naturalistic approach that I still always prioritize today.

When I started doing more narrative work, commercials, and music videos, I was able to apply that naturalistic approach and tried to enhance it to help the story in a more dramatic way, which I call a poetic realism approach. I knew that I wanted to do this for the rest of my life, being able to paint and write with light and composition as ways to tell a story.

NFS: Can you tell us about the episode of The Irrational that is up for Emmy consideration?

De Paula: “Reciprocity” is the title of the final episode of season one, which is up for Emmy nominations. There is a lot going on in that episode.

It starts with a look back at Alec Mercer 20 years ago at the university of Virginia before the church bomb attack that left him scarred for life, we continue with the funeral of Marissa Clark’s FBI partner/romantic interest, we see Phoebe getting a new research apprenticeship with a new professor, and Kylie getting a job at the FBI. So we did indeed cover a lot of plots in this episode. The team will finally figure out who was behind the church bombing attack 20 years ago.

I shot the episode with Ernest Dickerson directing. I couldn't be happier about that. He has such a huge history as a filmmaker and former cinematographer, and has an incredible knowledge of cinema. Working with him definitely feels like being part of the best School of Film Education. Ernest has always been a huge inspiration to me, so this was a dream come true.

We were mainly referencing Hitchcock as our main source of inspiration for this episode.

Notorious (shot by Ted Tetslaff, ASC) and Vertigo (shot by Robert Burks, ASC) were constantly in our daily conversations as well as the camera work and blocking of another masterpiece, Sweet Smell of Success, shot by the great James Wong Howe, ASC. We also pay homage to a scene from “All the President’s Men”, (shot by the great Gordon Willis, ASC) at a car parkade location.

We “borrowed” some ideas from those films and incorporated them into our vocabulary.

Ernest and I designed some scenes where the camera was moving from a wide shot to an extreme close up, without cutting and without adding any additional coverage. We really liked how the camera could end up at a higher angle for those closeups in given circumstances, it just added an edge to them. We have been incorporating those high angle close ups on Alec Mercer often throughout the show.

We also played with some “older” techniques like split diopters on a couple of occasions.

Vincent De Paula, CSC Cinematographer on set of The IrrationalPeacock

NFS: : Can you discuss any scenes where the cinematography plays a crucial role in enhancing the suspense or drama of the series?

De Paula: We use the camera pushing into extreme close ups from wide shots in a particular scene between Alec Mercer and Senator Sanford, played by James Tupper, who is one of the main suspects of the church bombing attack 20 years ago.

This particular scene was set at the Senator’s office. Alec Mercer shows up unexpectedly in a mirror reflection right behind the Senator who will turn around to face him. We played fire in a fireplace right next to them, to add some drama to this scene, especially with the flames reflected in Alec Mercer’s glasses on those high angle close ups.

The Senator eventually moves away from Alec Mercer, placing himself in a wider shot and then we would move to him with the dolly, very slowly, all the way from a cowboy shot to an extreme close up, never cutting for additional coverage. I thought it was a great way to expose this character, while Alec Mercer is talking to him in an extreme high angle close up. Really powerful.

NFS: How did you approach the visual style for The Irrational? Were there any particular influences or inspirations?

De Paula: I joined The Irrational right after the strikes were called off, so the show already had an established look. I was joining the team eight episodes into the first season. So in season one I shot episodes 9 and 11, the last of which was the season one finale.

The series had an inherited slight dark look that I really liked, and I also wanted to play with color contrast and some creative framing compositions as much as possible. Most of our characters are african-american and I have always loved using a slightly warmer color palette in darker skin tones.

The Irrational is oftentimes compared to other shows like “The Mentalist” or “House” but we are definitely trying to go for a cinematic approach as much as we can, playing with light, contrast, color and composition, while dealing with the usual pressures of shooting network episodic TV on a very tight schedule and budget!

We are currently halfway through filming season two, and in my opinion, our stories have become more ambitious than those in season one.

This brings even more challenges to us in regards to filming them, but at the same time I really welcome those challenges, I never like it when it is too easy!.

NFS: Can you talk about your experience working with the cast, particularly Jesse L. Martin, and how you captured his performance?

De Paula: Jesse L. Martin and I had worked together before, and he was one of the main reasons I wanted to do The Irrational. He is incredibly talented as an actor, but he is also one of the smartest persons I know, and he has a great vision and understanding of the filmmaking process.

He is also a producer on this show, and he is so passionate about what we do, so respectful towards the crew and the rest of the cast. It amazes me everyday when I see him deliver those performances, often times having to remember such long dialogue scenes with so many technical words. And he brings it day after day!

He is pretty much in every scene of this show. I have nothing but huge respect for him. With so much dialogue we tend to block scenes with camera movement in mind, where we may have them walking and talking at the stages or on location.

His character, Alec Mercer, is always present in all scenes we shot, we strive to always show Alec’s perspective to the story we are telling. Even though every episode is a stand alone with its own plot, Alec Mercer’s story takes us back to his days in college where a bomb attack at a church he was at left him scarred.

Alec’s personal journey is to find out what happened back then and who was responsible for that bomb attack.

'The Irrational'Peacock

NFS: Can you share any particular scenes from The Irrational that you found especially challenging or rewarding to shoot?

De Paula: I did talk earlier about that scene between Senator Sandford and Alec Mercer and the Senator's office. And only exclusively talking about the episode “Reciprocity”, there was another scene we had in our interrogation room that Ernest and I designed around reflections in the glass from the observation room while we still had our suspect in the background in the interrogation room. So we were able to have all these characters on the same screen.

It was great because I remember in pre production, Ernest and I walked into that set and we looked at each other and said the word “reflections" at the same time.

NFS: How do you balance the artistic and technical aspects of cinematography in your work?

De Paula: I am always trying to stay closer to the artistic side of my job as much as I can, even though I need to have a pretty strong technical knowledge of everything around it.

I don't want to be thinking so much about the technicalities of my job, which would distract me from what I am trying to achieve from an artistic and emotional standpoint.

I have a very large collection of photography books that I mainly refer to when I am finding inspiration while in pre production.

The first time I read a script, I never think of it as something I will have to translate into images, I just want to immerse myself in the story, as the reader and future viewer of this story. It is later on, when I read the script a few more times that I get more specific about how I want to approach it, from a technical and most importantly artistic and creative standpoint.

I see myself browsing those photography books more often than not, as well as watching a bunch of movies that I choose in every project I work on, as a source of inspiration. And of course on this show, I have a great team of collaborators from my gaffer Trevor Crist, key grip Gary Brook and my wonderful camera team lead by camera operators Sean Elliot and Francoise Archambault.

'The Irrational'Peacock

NFS: What advice would you give to aspiring cinematographers who are just starting their careers?

De Paula:Never give up.

I come from a very small town in Northern Spain where mos of my family and friends still don’t know what it is that I do. With no film industry or many film references at all, I knew I had to go elsewhere to find my voice in the film industry so I packed my bags and moved to London, UK where I started my personal journey to become a cinematographer.

It is not an easy path and it can take a very long time, but what I always say to everyone who wants to make it in this industry is to never give up. If you really want to do something, whatever that is, if you work hard and keep yourself busy creatively and always learning you will get where you want in the end.