Exclusive Interview with Southland’s Shawn Hatosy!

If you can believe it (I hardly can), Southland is back tonight at 10/9c with a brand-new season. With last season’s big moment still spinning around in my head, I can hardly wait to see what happens next.

As a little teaser, I was able to talk to Southland star Shawn Hatosy, who plays Sammy on the show. He tells us a little about what we can expect from his precarious partnership with Ben, his crazy ex Tammi, and what keeps Sammy going.

southland23082_001_0024_RFirst of all, I am in a weird state of both disbelief and absolute excitement that we’re already starting the fifth season. It feels like this show just ended and now its back and I’m just so excited.

Well, thank you. I’m excited, too.

Anything you can tease us about the coming season?

Well, you can see in the first two episodes…I know that they sent out some kind of screener. Were you able to see any of it?

Yeah, I saw the first episode.

Oh cool. Well, so you know, that season five Southland, Ben and Sammy are still riding in the car together. Michael’s character, John Cooper, is… his partner from last season has left, and he’s riding with a new boot who is an Iraqi [War] veteran, at least for the first two episodes, that’s what’s going on with him. And then Lydia is still riding with Reuben. Last season, Sammy and Ben had a situation that created a ton of tension and conflict in their relationship where Ben went after this pimp off-duty, and the pimp ended up getting killed. I think Sammy is still questioning if the protocol that Ben used was the right one… There’s a ton of tension still in the car with these guys and here we are. It’s season five, and we’ll kick it off.

It’s very clear in the season opener that the partnership we see between Ben and Sammy since last season at the beginning is completely different than what we see at the beginning of this season. How is that going to play out over the course of the season?

?????????Well, I think that what the writers have done a nice job of is creating a character in Ben Sherman who started out as this very wide-eyed rookie who thought he was going to come in and save the city in this very heroic manner, but the job has changed him. He has some skeletons in his closet from his past that are surfacing, so he’s become a character who is willing to do things that are a little bit more suspect as far as police work, and he keeps climbing, and he keeps being rewarded for this kind of behavior. Whereas Sammy is this guy who is inherently a decent guy, and I’m not saying he doesn’t make mistakes or is a perfect cop, but… I don’t think the job will change him. I think he’s been around long enough and that’s the way he’s going to stay. And I think the contrast between the two characters is significant…

The contrast is really great. I was also very excited to see that Tammi’s back in the picture. She always adds a great point of drama for Sammy. I’m curious to know what’s going to happen with that? What can we expect? Is there going to be craziness? What can we look forward to?

There is some craziness, and I enjoy that aspect of the story. It’s always been one of the things that attracted me to Southland in the first place… That we get to see these guys when they go home and what their lives are like, because let’s be honest, that’s how characters develop. It’s not just about solving crime. So, I think that Tammi and Sammy have had a history, a very dysfunctional relationship, but they did decide to have a kid together… but they’re no longer together, and as Sammy and everybody else in Los Angeles knows, Tammi is a little bit unstable and irrational. So now she’s with the kid, and I think that Sammy feels a lot of guilt and responsibility. He’s very worried about his son being with Tammy so as the season progresses there is the threat that he may lose to her in custody battle. Sammy’s always been very good about compartmentalizing work and his personal life, but it starts to really bleed into the work and it goes so far…that his career becomes slightly in jeopardy.

?????????You mentioned this earlier, and I’d love for you to expand on it. You’re exactly right; Sammy’s one of the most decent, caring characters on the show. What do you think keeps him going?

I just think that he has this center… From the pilot you can see that when it came to these kids who were gangsters in this really dark world and not being able to come forward and talk about what they’ve seen. To me, it breaks my heart as the actor and that was actually what I connected to in the pilot. I always go back to that when I decide what his motives are and what his point of view is. He always looks through things with that lens.

Are there any other projects that you’re working on that you wanted to talk about for us to keep an eye out for?

For me right now it’s just this. I’m very proud of the show. I’m glad it’s still on, and I’m glad that TNT has given us a season five. The four main actors and Christopher Chulack, our executive producer and director, we love doing this. It’s a lot of fun. I appreciate it. I can’t imagine being more satisfied than I am on Southland.

As a viewer, I’m loving every minute, so thank you so much.

Thank you.

*****

Don’t forget to catch Shawn Hatosy tonight when Southland returns at 10/9c on TNT!

*images courtesy of TNT

Southland: Thursday

SOUTHLAND: 4.10 “Thursday”

Southland finished its far too short fourth season last night. It was another very good season overall, the standout being Cooper and Tang’s partnership. Lucy Liu was a great addition, so I’ll be sad to see her go. Cooper and Tang didn’t leave on the best of terms; Cooper was angry at Tang for covering up her accidental shooting of a child a few weeks ago (in one of the episodes I missed, unfortunately) and for putting both of them at risk with her reckless actions in the car wash. In the end, Cooper’s back on the beat with a young rookie who looks even more green than Ben did a few seasons ago.

Speaking of Ben, he’s come a long way since his idealistic beginnings. At the beginning of the episode, an injured Sammy implores Ben to not seek revenge for the attack that almost killed them both. Ferguson, his temporary partner, suggests the same. Ben promptly ignores the advice of both men and spends the episode tracking down the pimp who tried to kill him. He winds up chasing the man into and alley, and shooting him. We don’t see the actually shots fired, but when Ferguson catches up, we see a gun on the ground next to the suspect. The suspect’s gun, though, looks suspiciously like a gun we saw on Ben’s workbench at the beginning of the episode. Did he shoot an unarmed man, and plant the gun on the suspect to justify the killing? At the end of the episode, Sammy looks at Ben with a face full of concern and distress, and Ben just seems to look back with an empty expression. It seems to me like Ben has taken a dark turn, and I wonder if Sammy will wind up blaming himself for his partner’s seeming corruption.

I found Lydia’s storyline this season to be a bit boring. Her cases just weren’t that dynamic, and I wasn’t quite as drawn in to the story of her pregnancy either. She ends the season by taking herself off the streets for the rest of her term. I’m hoping the writers can make things a little more interesting for her in the next season; I think it would be interesting to see her try to balance a new baby and her work as a detective.

I don’t think renewal for a fifth season has been confirmed yet, but from what I’m hearing it seems likely. Let’s hope so, because this season just continued to prove that Southland is the best, most realistic cop show on TV. Next year, I’d really like to see the three major storylines intersect a little bit more, but I’ll take whatever I can get.

Southland: Risk

SOUTHLAND: 4.09 “Risk”

I’m a bit embarrassed to say that I missed the last two episodes of one of my favorite shows on TV, and still haven’t caught up to them yet. Southland‘s a bit less serialized than many shows out there right now, though, so I didn’t have much trouble jumping back in to the daily lives of our friends in blue. As the title suggests, the idea of risk plays a big part of this episode. Tang looks like she may be promoted to Sergeant, but first she and Cooper are grilled on her accidental shooting of a young boy, which must have happened in one of the previous episodes. Both Cooper and Tang maintain that the boy’s toy gun didn’t have an orange safety cap on it, leading Tang to think it was a real weapon and consequently causing her to shoot. Since I didn’t see the episode that this happened in, I don’t know if it’s true, but Cooper looked very tense in his interview, so I can’t help but wonder if he’s taking a risk by covering for his partner.

Meanwhile, Lydia still hasn’t told anyone in the department that she’s pregnant. While trying to arrest a suspect, she gets overpowered, stabbed a few times in her protective vest, and nearly killed. Her partner arrives in time to save her, but at a doctor’s appointment later in the day, Lydia notices that one of the attacks must have gotten through her vest, because she has a puncture wound on her pregnant belly. We don’t yet know what this means for the welfare of her unborn child, but we see that Lydia takes it pretty hard. The risk of keeping her pregnancy concealed for the sake of her job may finally have become clear to her.

Finally, Ben tries to help a prostitute (who I’m assuming has made an appearance in one of the episodes I missed) get her daughter out from under the thumb of her pimp. If I’ve learned one thing from all my years of watching cop shows and movies, it’s that pimps rarely take it well when they’re source of income is being tampered with. The pimp in question rolls up to Ben and Sammy’s patrol car at a stop light and opens fire. From here, we’re treated to a great chase scene, which ends when the patrol car spins out in an intersection and gets t-boned by another car. Like many other great Southland scenes, the violence was swift, brutal, and came out of nowhere. The episode ends with Sammy lying unconscious or dead in the driver’s seat, and Ben stumbling out of the car while frantically calling for an ambulance. We’ll have to wait until next week to see how the consequences of the risk Ben took will fully affect his partner.

Two quick notes:

  • Tang does get promoted to Sergeant, and I heard Lucy Liu has been cast in an upcoming pilot, so it seems likely that she’ll be leaving the show. That’s disappointing, because I have really enjoyed her interaction with Cooper. Here’s hoping they can find another good partner for me.
  • The crazy guy in the golf ball suit was highly entertaining.

Southland: Integrity Check

SOUTHLAND: 4.06 “Integrity Check”

I don’t have a whole lot to say or consider about last night’s episode of Southland. It was very good, like much of the season has been, but didn’t contain anything particularly earth shattering (though there were a few scary close-calls thrown at some of our heroes). I just want to touch on three points:

  1. Ben’s by the book attitude: While Ben’s personal life doesn’t seem to be very conventional (hello, threesome with a married woman and her friend) his attitude towards policing is still very by the book. This has caused some minor tension with Sammy, who tends to be a little more flexible, earlier in the season and this time leads to a big problem. He thinks that Sammy planted evidence on a suspect and confronts him about it, only to learn later that it was an honest mistake and the evidence was left in the squad car by the guys on the last shift. But for Sammy, it’s all about loyalty; his last partner, Nate, was a close friend, and earlier this season, Sammy reminds Ben how important it is to always have your partner’s back. Instead, Ben openly questions Sammy, causing a rift between the two that probably won’t heal too quickly.
  2. Lydia gets pressed into uniform duty on the streets as a Sergeant, and quickly finds out that her pregnancy really slows her down. In a particularly scary moment, she gets shoved to the ground on her stomach, and eventually winds up in the hospital. She and the baby are fine, but the doctor encourages her to get off her feet and behind a desk. That’s probably not advice she wants to hear, but based on the way that she turns back on the fetal heart monitor and stares off wistfully into the distance, I’m guessing she’ll be bound for some safer work at least for the time being.
  3. I actually liked the documentary crew following around Cooper and Tang, and how many of their scenes were shown to the audience through the eyes of the camera crew. We got to see some weird stuff, like a father insisting his son’s birthday cake be decorated with swastikas, or a crazed knife wielding mini-van driver, but the biggest shock came at the end when Cooper and Tang responded to a late-night call, and some crazy guy took Cooper down to the ground and either tried to bite off his ear or his neck. John was bleeding pretty bad at the end and looked like he was in shock, but based on the previews from next week, I think he’ll be okay. Still, it was a stark reminder how things in this show can go from normal to completely chaotic in no time at all.

Southland: Legacy

SOUTHLAND: 4.05 “Legacy”

It’s been a busy few days lately, so I’m writing about Tuesday’s episode of Southland a little later than usual, which is bothersome because my addled brain is already starting to forget some bits and pieces of the episode. It’s even more frustrating to me that I’m forgetting some little details from this episode because I think “Legacy” was one of the best episodes I’ve seen from the show in a long time.

I really enjoyed Sammy and Ben’s escalating practical joke fest, and Sammy’s final victory over Ben with the “pregnant” waitress was just hilarious. It’s good when the show can throw a little bit of humor into the mix, especially when there are grim stories elsewhere in the episode. Lydia and Ruben investigate a home invasion turned murder case, in which a lazy twenty-something was killed in his father’s home. It turned out, in the end, that Dad was the murderer because he believed his son was on the verge of turning into a serial killer. The outcome of the case had Lydia and Ruben again debating on the possibility of laws protecting bad people, with Lydia firmly coming down on the law and order side, and Ruben continuing to harbor doubts about arresting someone who took justice into their own hands; I wonder if this tension between partners is going to become something more than theoretical before the end of the season.

I really loved how the writers dealt with Cooper and the troubled gay teen. There were so many ways this storyline could have been overdramatized or over the top, butSouthlandkept low-key but real. Sure, Cooper was concerned about the boy, and he tried to share some advice that he learned about how to grow up gay and survive, but he kept a piece of himself hidden at the same time, and refused to allow himself to become emotionally invested in the case. When Tang told him the news at the bar, I think she expected him to be very upset, but he shrugged it off. No way, he explains, would he have made it twenty years as a cop without learning how to disconnect himself a little bit. No matter how much of himself he may have seen in that kid, he couldn’t really let a connection develop. He’s a cop first, and tomorrow will be a new day with challenges that he has to stay sharp for.

Southland: “Identity”

SOUTHLAND: 4.04 “Identity”

The big news in this week’s episode of Southland is that Detective Lydia Adams is pregnant. We’re not sure by whom, which I think is actually an interesting twist on what we might usually see in a show like this (i.e. we would have known who the father is, or at least seen a few potential fathers). I like how we see little parts of our character’s lives outside of their jobs, like Lydia’s conversation with her mother in the kitchen or Ben’s brief scene in the suburbs with the real estate agent, but not much else. We tend to see just enough so we know how their personal issues might be affecting them on the street. This episode didn’t have quite as many crazy, bizarre events as the last few, but I’ll touch on each storyline below.

  • Tang and Cooper spend the episode trying to get a confused yet harmless homeless man and former Marine placed into a shelter. They even take the extraordinary step of paying a visit to a counterfeit ID maker; instead of busting him, they force him to make the homeless man an ID so he can return to the shelter. I really liked this storyline’s focus on compassionate policing. Sure, it’s great to see our heroes chase down violent bad guys, but seeing them spend so much time and effort in the attempt to help one of the most vulnerable members of society was really heartwarming.
  • Lydia and Ruben were busy investigating the murder of a local man who takes in troubled kids. Turns out he was sleeping with two of his young charges; one of them found out, and the other killed him in a jealous rage. The murderer’s mother tried to take the blame to protect her child, which made Lydia wonder about her impending motherhood. Right now, it looks like she’s going to keep the child, despite the many problems it will probably cause in her career.
  • Ben and Sammy spend most of their time tracking down some wanna-be gang bangers, though there’s also a small storyline about an injured dog mixed in there. Sammy really does have a soft heart for animals, though maybe that’s because his ex-wife got custody of the dog. For some reason, I don’t remember too much of this story, but I do recall Sammy explaining to Ben that he needs to move out to the suburbs to be around “his people.” It seems like Ben, after his off duty run-in with his contemptuous neighbor, is ready to take his advice, as the episode ends with him and a realtor viewing a house in some sunblasted, suburban cul-de-sac.

 

Southland: Community

SOUTHLAND: 4.03 “Community”

Last week, I mentioned that the cops and detectives of Southland see crazy things every day, but none of it ever seems contrived. Unlike every other police procedural on television, everything in Southland seems like it could really happen. I was thinking about this a lot this week because I happened to watch Castle on Monday because there was nothing else on. I don’t mean to hate on the show, but Castle is like any other police procedural out there; two mismatched partners use their smarts and a little bit of luck to investigate a crime that ties up in a neat bow by the end of the episode. The most obvious suspect usually isn’t the guilty one; instead, the guilty party has a convoluted, well hidden motive that our heroes usually only uncover in a House-like epiphany, like so:

Minor Character: Can you get me a glass of water?
Our Hero: Water….? <far off look in eyes>
Minor Character: Yeah, do you mind? Just out of the tap, it doesn’t need to be filtered.
Our Hero: Of course! The killer hid his gun in the pool filter? <dashes off>
Minor Character: Never mind, I’ll get it myself.

I know that most procedurals like Castle aren’t aiming for the same level of verisimilitude as Southland, but the contrived formula that they follow is just so boring to me, especially since it’s followed, to a greater or lesser degree, by almost any show related to cops, detectives, or crime on television right now. This is why Southland is so refreshing to me. This week, Lydia and Ruben investigated the murder of a corrupt mortgage lender who was ripping off people in her own neighborhood. They immediately assumed the killer was one of her victims, and they were right; she was murdered by the son of one of her victims. In any other procedural, the dogwalker would have done it because the victim stiffed her on a tip six years before. In any other procedural, the murderer wouldn’t have been a damaged, drunk, homeless war veteran who stumbled so pathetically away from Lydia and Ruben that they merely waited until he tripped on his own feet, then walked casually down the street to catch up with him. In Southland, we see cops going about their work days and seeing all sorts of weird, dangerous things that seemingly happen at random. We see detectives follow natural, logical leads that point to suspects who are flawed, sometimes sympathetic people rather than devious criminal masterminds. And all through this, we see how Sammy, Ben, John, Jessica, Lydia, and Ruben react to the stress and brutality of the world around them. Southland feels like a living, breathing show; the rest of the police procedurals might as well be mannequins.

Southland: “Underwater”

SOUTHLAND: 4.02 “Underwater”

Since the move to TNT, and the slimming down of the cast, Southland has shifted to focusing more often on the day to day experiences of its four main cast members, and less on overarching or deeply personal stories. Underwater was a very good, “daily event” focused episode in which we saw a good bit of weird stuff through the eyes of Cooper and Tang, most notably:

  • Naked guy casually jogging down the street.
  • A woman hit by a car and killed; her head winds up caught in the car’s wheel well.
  • Meth head running down the street while on fire. He apparently burst into flames while watching porn in an X-rated video store.
  • Giant roidhead guy shrugging off a taser shot and facing down three cops at once.
  • Crazy old lady with two guns and a bulletproof vest shooting at her neighbors and the cops for no good reason.

All these weird, dangerous situations pop up suddenly, but in a way that’s not contrived at all. It really drives home to the viewer that cops out on the beat face all sort of weird, bizarre, dangerous situations that suddenly interrupt their lunch or their daily banter with their partners, or any other routine moment in a normal looking day.

Sammy and Ben spend most of the episode teaming up with two other beat cops, one of which is an even greener rookie than Ben. She makes a mistake and lets a suspect escape, and while Ben, Sammy, and the rest eventually find him, he nearly takes off Ben’s head with a baseball bat in the process. I liked the explosive anger Ben shows towards the woman who was sheltering the suspect; Ben’s always viewed himself and his fellow police officers as helping hands in the community, but the woman he argues with looks at them more like an invading force than anything else. The conflict sets up a nice scene in which Ben, Sammy, and the two other cops share their reasons for becoming police officers. Ben, of course, was driven by idealism, but his idealism is fading fast, as we certainly see when he loses control and punches out the fifteen year old girl who spits on him in the parking lot. Unfortunately, the girl’s friends caught everything on video, so I have a feeling that we might see Officer Sherman show up on YouTube in the next few episodes. It will be interesting to see how Ben reacts to to some of this negative attention.

I wonder if Ben’s experience on the streets will turn his idealism to cynicism. We see from Lydia’s plotline that even though she’s been through a lot, she is not a total cynic and still believes that the system usually works. Disposing of the evidence in her murder case, as her new partner subtly hints at, would be wrong; it’s not her job to decide a suspect’s fate, no matter how much she might understand his reasons.

Southland: Wednesday

SOUTHLAND: 4.01 “Wednesday”

Southland is finally back. This has been one of my favorite shows of the last few years, and I’m so glad that it still has a home on TNT. The end of last season shook up the dynamics of the cast a little bit. Sammy, now a street cop, is out on the beat with Ben, who’s no longer a boot but still very much a rookie. Lydia is now partnered up with junior detective and war veteran Ruben Robinson, and Cooper, now out of rehab, is riding with Officer Jessica Tang.

Just a quick note on all three of the partnerships: So far, I like each one a lot. There’s some interesting chemistry between Cooper and Tang, especially because both of them have something to prove to the other (Cooper wants everyone to know he still has what it takes to be a cop, while Tang wants it to be clear that despite her previous run-in with a dangerous criminal, she can handle what the job throws at her). Sammy and Ben get along like brothers. We didn’t see a lot of Lydia and Ruben working together in this episode, but I already like him more than her abrasive older partner from last year. Lydia’s first partnership with Russ was one of equals; she took more of a junior role in her partnership with Ochoa from last season. This year, she’s the older, wiser detective, so I’m looking forward to seeing her teach the newbie.

Ben is still very much a rookie, and follows regulations to the letter which causes some friction with an older, less strict officer. Sammy tries to mediate between the two as best as he can, but the intra-cop squabble is interrupted when some crazy guy rushes into the police station and starts shooting. We’re not given much of an explanation as to why this happens (which actually makes thematic sense with the rest of the episode; think about the perp getting hit by the truck, Lydia’s CI turning up dead inside the cooler, or the crazy man who tries to hang himself in front of Cooper and Tang. There is senseless, almost insane violence all around) but it’s a tense, heart-pounding scene.

I’m very glad Southland is back, and I can’t wait to see how the dynamics between the new partners evolve this season. Based on one episode, Lucy Liu was a great addition to the cast. I think it’s going to be a good year.