Southland is a procedural drama that focuses on the lives of LAPD officers. It was dropped by NBC, then picked up by TNT, in a great move by the network. On March 2nd, TNT will air 6 new episodes of the show, and I can tell you that from the first few I have seen, they are pretty fantastic. I have loved Tom Everett Scott since “That Thing You Do,” so I was thrilled to be able to speak with him. He plays Detective Russell Clarke now, and has come along way since his boy band movie days. We talked about his career, working with Regina King, and a scary ride-along moment.
You’ve had quite an extensive career. What was so special about Southland?
I think that just I’ve always been a fan — I was such a big fan of ER. And literally, it was one of my favorite shows ever. And then just being an actor and looking for meaningful work that also helps pay the bills, it’s challenging and I think when I read the pilot script for Southland — which at the time was called LAPD — I just got this great feeling, and strong desire to be a part of it. So I just kind of focused all my energy, and got my agent to get in there and battle for me, and then I became a part of a show that I really am proud of.
Your character, Detective Russell Clarke, is severely injured last season, and possibly not returning to the force this season. Can you talk a little bit about that?
Well, my character does return to the show after the final episode of last season, when he got shot. But his role – he faces a challenge physically after the surgery. And it’s difficult to return the police work.
And your partner on the show is played by Regina King. What has it been like working with her?
Well, she’s just one of the most wonderful people that I’ve ever met, and we hit it off right away. We really do get along, and it was such a pleasure to have that kind of relationship on and off camera, so I just love working with her. Bottom line.
Before you came on this show, did you do any research about detectives? Did you meet any members of the LAPD?
We did. We did quite a bit of it actually, and I think that’s kind of the way that John Wells and his producing team do this kind of thing. You know, with ER, where they did all that medical research, and made sure that it was a very accurate show. They did the same thing for Southland. So we got right out there in police cars, and going on shifts with them, they’re called ride-alongs. So you do ride-alongs with like a Sergeant. And I did about four or five, maybe six…over all different parts of the city, and it was really eye-opening. It was interesting to see that side of the city that I live in. And I never really spent any time with cops, you know, other than negative experiences when you get pulled over for speeding or whatever it is, rolling a stop sign…it was a really cool way to meet them, and learn about the people we’d be playing. And it was a very rich, rewarding experience. I learned all the stuff to make it look good — also, it’s my job, to make it look good, so we learned how to shoot, we learned how to cuff people, just the whole attitude.
Do you have a favorite story from one of your ride-alongs?
Yes, I do. There’s been so many. There were a lot of crazy things that happened, it was a lot of fun. One of my favorite things that happened was the first ride-along I went on, was in South Central, and my cop asked me if I wanted to wear a bullet proof vest. I asked him if he was wearing one, and he said yes absolutely. And I was like, well, yeah I mean, I’m going to be sitting in the car with you, right? I mean, you have one on! I want one. And then he talked me out of it! He was like, if I were you I wouldn’t wear one. And I was like really? And he was like yeah, you’d probably find it really uncomfortable, and you know, so I said okay. And we rode around, and like the first call we responded to was pursuit of a suspect with a gun.