February 24th, 2010 by thetvchick
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.
And he floors it, and we’re flying down the middle of the street going 80, and my heart just starts pounding. I just got so nervous, and I’m thinking, my God, I’m not wearing a bullet proof vest. This is crazy! This is what my wife told me not to do! My wife was like don’t go down there and get in any kind of trouble. So we got there, and they had already apprehended the guy, and so on and so forth. And he actually didn’t have a gun, or maybe he did, but anyway there was no danger when we got there. And one of the other Sergeants saw me and she said where’s his vest? It was like the first thing she said when she saw me. And my guy said, oh I forgot to bring it.
Oh no! (laughs)
He left it back at the station, so I made him go right back to the station and get my vest.
Yeah, I would have wanted to wear one, for sure.
Yeah, I wore one every time after that.
In the 2nd season premiere, Regina King’s character is calling you a lot, consulting with you, and leaning on you for support when you are in rehab, and not quite back yet. Are we going to see more of that as the season goes on?
Yeah, she does. She’s keeping tabs on me. She wants to make sure I’m okay, you know what I mean? There’s definitely still a connection between the two characters.
Are you anything like your character? How do you relate to him?
My character, there’s not a whole lot but I always like to try to make some kind of parallel so that it’s a nice thing to do when I’m acting to try to make those correlations, and I think the one that I found the most useful was trying to identify with things outside of work can sometimes be difficult. And not to the same extreme as my character, but Russell is having a tough time with his marriage, and it’s because his work — I think — a lot of the policemen were confirming this, [is] so intense, with such long hours. And you come home and they’re talking to their wives, and a lot of them they say just don’t understand the world they’re in. But I don’t have that experience. I probably spend more time with my wife and kids than I do actually on a set, which is the beauty of being an actor. I actually do get to spend a lot of time at home. It’s the opposite for me, I can’t get people at work to understand. It was tough, because there weren’t a lot of things there, but I think just because he’s an adult just trying to make his way in the world, and we can all relate to that.
Absolutely. And do you have a favorite moment from filming the show so far?
Oh man, yeah there were some great moments prior to shooting, me and Michael Cudlitz, who plays John Cooper, we went out in a helicopter together. That was pretty hilarious, we actually were with them when they apprehended somebody using that spotlight, it was crazy.
Yeah! One of the scariest but funniest things that happened, we were shooting a driving scene, like a chase scene, where I was sitting shotgun and Regina King was driving, and we were just going so fast, flying through cars that were being driven by stunt people, and chasing after the bad guy who was also a stunt driver, and just so close to objects, other cars, and just really being on the edge of my seat thinking I was going to die, and looking over at Regina and she’s just like leaning back, one hand on the wheel, you know what I mean? Like she’s off on a Sunday drive. I was like wow, you’re awfully comfortable.
Yeah, you were like this is a little fast…
No, she was like enjoying it.
And have you gotten to see a lot of different parts of LA filming that you never would have seen before?
Yeah, definitely. The full experience has taken us to all different parts of the city, through the not so great parts. Yeah, it’s definitely been an eye-opening experience.
And there are a lot of procedural dramas out there. One thing I think Southland does so well is focus on the characters and their lives as opposed to just the cases. What do you think makes Southland so unique?
Being a fan of television my whole life, and really as an actor, reading a lot of scripts and being exposed to a lot of it, I think one of the things that sets Southland apart, it just tries to be very realistic, and have that feel in the way that it’s shot, the way that it looks, and just the attitude of the characters I think it gives you probably a more realistic view of what it’s like to be a police officer in Los Angeles. And although it’s television, something’s have to happen quicker than it would actually take to solve a case. There are some conventions that you have to go along with, but I think a lot of people would agree, it’s pretty realistic and gritty.
Absolutely. The show was originally canceled by NBC, then picked up by TNT. What does it mean to be a part of this new network?
I really like TNT. I’ve been on there before. I think they do a really nice job of promoting their TV shows, and I think that Southland fits in really well with their whole “We Know Drama” brand and I think that they’re just really supportive of the show, so you know that’s always a good thing.
I know you can’t spoil too much, but can you give us a little teaser of what’s coming up this season, for your character specifically?
It’s going to be difficult for him, so part of the storyline with my character is trying to get back to a job. Like I said, I think he connects better with the job than with the home life, and so once that’s taken away from him, that really puts a lot of pressure on him. So that’s what he has to deal with.
Be sure to tune in to TNT on Tuesday, March 2nd at 10 pm for the 2nd season premiere of Southland.Tweet