EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW: Kevin Alejandro (Jesus) from True Blood

June 13th, 2010

Happy True Blood premiere day! Waiting sucks, but the wait is just about over. I am ready for some amazing vampire action! True Blood kicks off its third season tonight and I will be posting a spoiler-free advance review but I will say this: It is amazing. In addition to our old favorites, there are many new characters coming our way. I am always a little wary of being introduced to so many new characters, but last year, Jessica became one of my absolute favorites. One of those new characters is Jesus (played by Kevin Alejandro), who is Lafayette’s new love interest. I recently had the chance to chat with Kevin Alejandro about his new character, working with Nelsan Ellis (Lafayette) and the big differences between his character on Southland and Jesus. He was very tight lipped about season 3 but he still gave some interesting insights into the show.

How did you originally get the part of Jesus?
I had to go through a series of auditions. It was actually quite a long process. I think it was about a month before I finally found out whether or not I was going to be a part of the show. I went through several auditions with producers and call backs and stuff like that, but I think the deciding [factor] was the last audition where they had to narrow it down to a handful of guys, and we all had to go into the room and have what’s called a chemistry read with Nelsan [Ellis, who plays Lafayette] and whoever fit the best [got the part]. I was glad to feel that they thought that I was that one.

We haven’t been introduced to your character yet, but he is the caretaker for Lafayette’s mom. What more can you tell us about him?
That. And he is the love interest to Lafayette, played by Nelsan. There’s a really strong connection that they develop. You can just look forward to a lot of really interesting things that happen. I can’t really tell you too much about it. Other than what you already know.

Had you seen the show before you got the part?
Oh yeah, definitely. That’s what made this whole process really cool is that it was this show that I had already gotten into, and just to get the audition was like “Oh yeah, that would be awesome.” Further d0wn the line, as steps got closer and closer to it, I was like “Wow, this might actually happen.” It’s really super cool to be a part of something that you already know, and that you’re a fan of.

Absolutely. And have you read the books at all?
I have not, actually no. A buddy of mine, who is actually the Godfather to my kid, he works on the show, his name is Luis. He’s a camera assistant. So when it first came out, he was like “This is such a great show…” so we got into it for that.

So you have been for the past few seasons been playing Nate on Southland. How different is it going from playing Nate to Jesus on True Blood?
It’s completely different, like two different worlds. But that’s part of the decision making, what helped me decide to do this was that I’m coming off Southland as a gang detective, as a husband with a couple kids, and dealing with that sort of hard-core life. And then to play a character like Jesus who is going through a completely different hardcore world and life. His sexual preference is different, it’s such heightened – they’re just two extreme worlds, and that was so challenging and very inviting. That’s part of why I wanted to do it.

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Shows on the bubble: What should get renewed?

March 24th, 2010

There’s a little bit of a lull in news lately, but I’m excited that my favorite shows will be back on TV soon. However, it got me thinking: one of my favorite shows in particular has not been renewed yet, and there are quite a few more that are at risk for another season. Here are the ones I am thinking about, and feel free to weigh in with any shows which you are eagerly awaiting pickup orders for.

  • Life Unexpected: If you read this site at all, you know how much I adore this show. I truly believe it represents a new age in CW television — returning to its quality roots from the days of Gilmore Girls and Dawson’s Creek. Each week, it continues to get better and delve deeper into some truly amazing, real, refreshing and genuine characters. I will be so sad if it only gets one season. Given the fact that it seems to be consistently beating several other CW shows that have already been guaranteed another season, I see no reason why the CW shouldn’t pick this up. Although I can never get into Dawn Ostroff’s head (I would love to, though) so I really have no idea.
  • Parenthood: While only four episodes of this new NBC drama have aired, I can already say I am hooked. The show has a wonderful cast, with a powerhouse creative team behind them. Lauren Graham is one of my favorite actresses and it is such a joy to see her back on television. I’d love to see more from this show, so I hope that NBC does the right thing and picks it up.
  • V: Only four episodes of this show have aired, and more are to come next week. I think it was a weird move on ABC’s part to have such a huge hiatus, but it did make me waiting and eager to see more. Even though V was essentially done before, I think this show is innovative and the acting is great. I want to know more about the Vs, and I don’t know if everything can be resolved in one season. I think there’s a pretty decent chance this show will get renewed though.
  • Southland: There was a huge campaign to save Southland once it was dropped from NBC. TNT came to the rescue and has been running a fantastic promotional campaign. They are currently airing the 6 already filmed episodes from season 2, but the ratings aren’t that great. I think it’s a really good, and gritty show that deserves another chance. TNT tends to get behind good shows so I hope that they will look past the ratings and pick it up, but I feel like it could go either way.
  • Chuck: This show probably isn’t as much on the bubble as others, but it took a big Subway sandwich campaign at the end of last season for Chuck to return for some more kick-ass spy action. It has a cult following, all of whom (myself included) would be very disappointed if this show wasn’t given a 4th season. There’s so much great writing and hilariousness that it really deserves more episodes.
  • Flash Forward: The pilot of this show was one of my favorites last fall. However, it quickly went down hill from there. I gave it a few episodes and then it just kept piling up on my DVR, and I would let it get deleted. I feel like there were too many characters, too much going on, and not enough direction. Lost is a show that has probably just as much crazyness going on but I care about all the characters and their fate, whereas in Flash Forward, I don’t really. The show came back last week and many watched but I can’t really get behind it. Even the original showrunner left, and during a first season of a show, this is not a very good sign. For me, I could take or leave this show but for those enjoying it, if it improves with the new staff, perhaps ABC will give it a chance.

What do you think should/should not get renewed? Are there any that I missed that you want to see come back? Weigh in!

INTERVIEW: Ben McKenzie (Officer Ben Sherman) from Southland

February 25th, 2010

Southland is a wonderful, gritty, in depth look at the lives of members of the LAPD. It doesn’t follow the traditional formula that most procedural dramas adhere to, rather it focuses on the work and home life of all of the characters. It has an outstanding cast, and I was so glad it got picked up by TNT after NBC dropped it. I loved The OC, so I was thrilled at the opportunity to talk to Ben McKenzie. We talked about his former OC persona Ryan Atwood, the many layers to his new character Ben Sherman, and what makes Southland so unique.

Ben is on the brink of moving on to Phase 3, and finishing his probationary period to become a full member of the LAPD. Can you talk a little bit about what that’s been like.
It’s another sort of mini milestone in his experience in the LAPD. I think it’s one of the more gratifying experiences, because everyone who joins the LAPD starts out as a P1 — phase one of their probationary period and then rises through the ranks, as far as they want to rise. But you have to go through the first three phases as a probationary officer to join the force in a full position. It’s like I don’t know — graduating from high school or something or college…or whatever your last educational thing is. You’ve now done all of the homework, and you’ve been given some responsibility, but now you’re out and you’re actually going to do it on your own, as a full member. So it’s cool, and I think it was a nice way to kind of jump in to the new season — he needs sort of one wrap around, bigger event to happen within the episodes — I think that’s kind of a cool one, because it’s kind of nicely juxtaposed at the end of that episode, I’ve just passed a test basically, and I’m celebrating a new phase of my life, where Regina King — her character — is bemoaning a loss of a chapter in her life, with her partner in the hospital. And it’s a nice juxtaposition there of one rookie who’s still a little bit got his head in the clouds, a little kind of on cloud 9 about the excitement and joy over all the possibilities, and a veteran who’s experiencing the opposite.

Absolutely. And Ben has been through quite a journey from the beginning of season 1 until now. What has that been like for you?
It’s been fantastic. I love making the show, shooting it, the actual process of filming it, being out on the streets of LA all over town, working with a fantastic crew. I’ve done a lot of my work really with Michael Cudlitz — 75 percent or more of my work is with him, and he’s really a joy to work with. And then I also like all the other stuff in addition to the shooting of it — the training, the preparation, I don’t know there’s just a lot of aspects of the show that I can relate to and the character that I can relate to. I’ve found it a rewarding experience and I hope it can keep going on.

Are you anything like your character?
Yeah, actually I think I’m quite a bit like my character. I think I’m more like Ben Sherman, than I am Ryan Atwood…far more so. I grew up in a pretty well off family. My father is a lawyer, like Ben Sherman’s father is a lawyer. My father’s a nice guy (laughs) but I grew up a nice upper middle class kind of existence, and there are aspects of Ben Sherman’s personality: his ambition and his intelligence and his work ethic that I would certainly like to aspire to (laughs) I would certainly like to believe I share with him…sometimes I do and sometimes I don’t…but I can definitely relate to him. And I can definitely relate to him seeing stuff on the street and being completely blown away by what’s happening in front of him because I didn’t grow up in Beverly Hills but I was sheltered in the same way that everyone is sheltered, from the realities of being on the street as a cop, you just don’t see this kind of stuff every day. It’s really powerful stuff. Some of it’s very sad, some of it’s very disturbing, some of it’s very inspiring–it’s the whole gamut of emotions–and some of it’s very funny.

You are best known for playing Ryan Atwood on The OC, and Ben Sherman’s a very, very different character. Are there pieces of Ryan Atwood in Ben or are they totally different and you keep them completely separate?
I’m not overly protective (laughs) of my work. I think the reality of acting, particularly acting on film or on screen in television or film, is that you’re always bringing yourself to the character. And you’re always using whatever your natural innate kind of talent and skills and/or just your personality to the part. So you know, it’s not as though I’m playing a one-legged pirate with a lisp. I always bring myself to the part and that’s the only way you can do it I think. Because particularly on our show, we’re shooting with hand-held cameras that’s maybe six inches from your face, if you’re trying to do a [English accent] performance [end English accent], you’re going to look like a freaking idiot. Just keep it natural, and keep it relaxed and stay within what feels reasonable and right to you, while still kind of pushing the boundaries and making sure that whatever your motivations are, whatever your objectives are in the scene, are being played to the fullest of their ability if that makes any sense. I don’t think you have to do a lot of high level, analytical Ben Sherman stands up straighter or walks different from playing football in 3rd grade, you know, it’s me. He’s me, and I’m him, I just happen to be a cop. I happen to have a certain history, psychological profile here, and what he did, and that’s what happened.

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INTERVIEW: Tom Everett Scott (Detective Russell Clarke) from Southland

February 24th, 2010

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.

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Watch Southland Tonight: Extended 1st Season Premiere

January 12th, 2010

Southland was canceled by NBC in the whole Leno mess (whew boy), but was picked up by TNT. It’s a great cop drama that let’s viewers get an inside look at the lives and cases of a Los Angeles police force. The show stars Ben MacKenzie (The O.C.), Regina King, and Michael Cudlitz. It really wasn’t given enough of a chance on NBC, so I’m glad it has found a new home. TNT is handling the show in a very unique (and great) way. Tonight they are airing the first season premiere, with about six minutes of never-before-seen footage. In addition, every Tuesday night, TNT will air each subsequent episode from the first season of Southland. This is a great way for the network to gain new fans of the show, and for old fans to re-watch the season or catch up.

And beginning Tuesday, March 2nd at 10 pm, TNT will air six new episodes. So if this was a show that interested you but you never had a chance to watch (the cast is fantastic!), you have the opportunity tonight. And because the fate of the show might be unknown, you might just help it get another season. Southland is a great drama that doesn’t feel formulaic or overdone, so tune in tonight at 10 pm on TNT to see what all the buzz is about.