Michael Cudlitz and Lucy Liu Talk ‘Southland’

Southland, perhaps the best (and only) non-procedural cop show on TV, comes back tonight at 10 PM on TNT. It’s no secret that I’m a big fan of this show. I’ve already seen the first episode, and it’s really great. I’ll have more thoughts on it tomorrow morning, but in short, the writing is as sharp as it’s ever been, and Lucy Liu looks to be a great addition to the cast.

A few weeks ago, I got to sit in on a conference call with Michael Cudlitz and Lucy Liu, who got to talk a bit about their character’s new partnership and what’s in store for both of them this season. Some selections from the call are below the jump. Be sure to watch tonight at 10; you won’t be disappointed.

*****

Southland, I’ve been watching the repeats recently, and it just stands the test of time. It’s a fantastic show, and it’s one of the best shows on television. I guess [out of] both of you, Michael, you’ve been on there since the beginning, so two separate questions, how has the program changed over the four seasons for you, your character and both for you? – Wireless Digital Journal

Michael Cudlitz: I think the show has sort-of spent the last four years defining itself, being exactly what it hopes to be, which is showing how crime and the life of being a police officer affects the officers themselves on a personal level. You have to remember that we’ve done four years, but only up until this year, we’ve only shot 23 episodes which is typically a single season for a show.

That season would typically be spent finding its legs, finding out what the voice of the show is, and finding out how best to show that voice, and I think we’ve gotten to that point now. I think the show is extremely representative of what we set out to do, and we’re all extremely proud of it.

*****

My first question, Lucy, is actually for you since you’re the new one on the show. I was wondering if you could talk a little bit about how, coming into this, her partnership with Cooper is really going to affect the dynamic of the squad. –  L.A. Examiner

Lucy Liu: I think it’s going to change the way that John Cooper is able to show himself on a different dynamic. I think Michael can probably speak more about that, but I think working with somebody who’s not somebody that he needs to train allows him to show different colors about his character, and you’ll see in the first episode…

…They have the ability to have a certain banter that gives them a nice familiarity and also shows that they’re equal. You kind of get to see how their dynamic will blossom and how it sort-of starts with both of them having undercurrents of emotional weight that they don’t want to reveal, but you can kind of feel it with their connection.

Michael Cudlitz: Yes, and they’re both coming back from something major in their lives, and that being said, they’re coming back from a very similar thing. They both have very strong differing opinions about what it is to be on the force at this particular moment in time.

*****

Michael, last year your character was in a pretty dark downward spiral and finally ended up checking into rehab at the end of the season. Are we going to be jumping ahead or past his rehab experience, or are we going to see him struggling to get better from last season? – TV Is My Pacifier

Michael Cudlitz: Well, what we’re going to do is we’re going to see, time is going to jump forward, and that helps all of the relationships. It moves Ben forward in his relationship because as we saw him, he was just finishing up his probation, and he was just jumping into a car with Sammy, kind-of moving into his next phase of training.

Jumping forward, what it allows us to do is reset basically the entire show and every single partner relationship. Ben is no longer training. Ben is an officer. He is full-on deep into being an officer because we’ve told the training story. Now he’s going to actually be doing the job as an officer. Same thing for John Cooper. John Cooper has — he checked in to get his back fixed which is the main thing that was connected to the prescription drug abuse.

You have to remember that John had a back problem before he had a drug problem. The two are extremely connected. Now his back is fixed. What does that mean for John? John has to reenter the force. He has to be re-qualified. He is now riding with a seasoned officer, Lucy Liu, who will bring out different things in John that we’ve never seen before.

He is just happy to be back on the force and it’s going to be very interesting to see what a physically fit John Cooper has to bring to Los Angeles.

*****

Is there going to be any piece of mind, any sort of healing in John’s soul this season? – Starry Constellation Magazine

Michael Cudlitz: I could be really mean and just go, yes.

You wouldn’t do that to a fan.

Michael Cudlitz: Yes.That is the short answer. We will see John in many ways like we’ve never seen him before. A lot of that is just by way of him being physically fit, but a lot of that is he is experiencing, because he’s been a training officer, let’s remember that Ben was the trainee or the boot that we saw John with, but John has been doing this for years.

John has been training boot after boot after boot after boot. Now we get to see John back as he was when he was a cop, when he was out on the streets, not worried about his partner completely screwing the pooch, but concerned about his partner in a very healthy partner relationship. So you’re going to see John putting a lot of his past to bed, but new stuff will come up, and he’s going to be dealing with a partner who has this other life issues going on other than all he has to be concerned about which is in the past.

All he had to be concerned about was look you’re my trainee, and that’s all I really want to know about. There’s a different relationship, this is more of a partner relationship. This is a give and take relationship. So yes, John’s feeling pretty good these days.

*****

Now, can you talk about your relationship as new partners, and what we have to look forward to from that? – lenalamoray.com

Lucy Liu: I think that what’s wonderful about the relationship is that they’re equals, and they’re both P3, and they are both experienced and have been on the streets and have been cops for a while. The dynamic is that John Cooper does not have to train her, and she’s actually driving this time for a little while, so you get to see a little bit of a changing character, and you get to see a little bit about who she is because she’s introduced in the first episode obviously, and John’s character gets to reveal a little bit different colors, different areas of his life that he hasn’t been able to show before because he’s been so busy either trying to get out of rehab or get into rehab or get healthy and also that he doesn’t have to be the training officer in charge.

*****

Michael, almost from the start of your career, you’ve been on pretty much iconic television shows from NYPD Blue and Band of Brothers of course to now Southland. Are you just an incredibly lucky actor or do you just really pursue just the quality projects? – mediamikes.com

Michael Cudlitz: I’m incredibly lucky. I don’t think people actually, we laugh, it’s the truth. A lot of it has to do with luck. Obviously, you can hopefully position yourself to take advantage of opportunities when they come along and surround yourself with good, positive people, but I have been extremely, extremely lucky in my career, and I feel every day, on Southland especially, is a gift to be able to work on the kind of material we have, to be able to have creative input when there’s something that we don’t agree with, and to be able to fight rigorously with that and not have some sort of voice from above — whether it be a studio or a network or a producing company — say you know what, shut up and do your job. That’s not the case. We have wonderful creative conflict since the beginning on this show, and it’s just been a really wonderful sort of pot of creativity to be in and its luck. It really is. A lot of it is luck.

So thank you for acknowledging that, but yes, everything else we’ll just give over to a higher power because all I can do is worry about what I’m doing and the rest is just happening. So I’m very pleased to be along for the ride.

*****

Hi Lucy, I missed you last time. I was going to ask you, how is this doing a television series different from doing a movie as you’ve done for quite a few years? Do you enjoy it better? – Wireless Digital Journal

Lucy Liu: First of all, I think that doing this show is very similar to doing an independent movie because they shoot so quickly, and it’s sort of like guerrilla film making which is really fun, and you feel like you’re getting away with something, but you do have permits which is lucky, so nobody is running you off the street. Secondly, I think that it’s wonderful to be able to jump back and forth to do films and also television. I think that’s something that I love doing.

I think with television, you hit a different audience, people that are able to be at home and watch it with their families, or they just don’t have time to go to the movies, or they just — it’s just too much money at this point. You get to just sort-of do kind of all of it. I’ve got three movies coming out at the end of March, and I think, two of them are independent — well, they’re all shot as independents, and some of them may be more commercial than others — but I think that television is something that you know will always come out and you know will be seen.

*****

Don’t forget to watch the season premiere of Southland tonight on TNT!

*images courtesy of TNT

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