"Regina King, Michael Cudlitz and Ben McKenzie Talk <i>Southland</i>

Regina King, Michael Cudlitz and Ben McKenzie Talk Southland

To say that Southland has had an intriguing journey thus far would be a vast understatement. The show debuted on NBC this past spring to rave reviews and solid ratings, which lead to a second-season pick-up. Oddly enough, though, the show was canceled by NBC before they could even premiere the second season. But, as they say, every cloud has a silver lining and Southland's silver lining was being picked up by TNT. The network will be airing the first seven episodes that were shown on NBC plus the six episodes that were produced before NBC gave them the axe. Southland kicks off on TNT with a commercial-free airing of the extended pilot, with footage not shown on the original pilot, on Tuesday, January 12 at 10 PM ET on TNT. I recently took part in a conference call with three of the series' stars - Regina King, Michael Cudlitz and Ben McKenzie - along with executive producers Ann Biderman and Chris Chulack. Here's what they all had to say about the show's new opportunity.

Ann, they had talked about even back when it was NBC about the second season being different from the first. That it would be more - less serialized, that there would be fewer story lines where he pulls it tighter together and concentrate on fewer characters, basically the characters that we see here in the front row. Is that true once we start to see the new shows for this second season, how will they be different from the first season?

Ann Biderman: You know you've asked a couple of questions in there so I'm going to try to answer all of them. You know we're always trying to find a balance between the serialization and the kind of stand alone episodes that feel like little exciting movies. You know and it's - for instance last year I think you know we introduced the (Janilla) character in episode one but you know in the final episode where Regina is saving their lives, I don't think that would have the same impact if it wasn't somehow serialized. So you're always trying to find a really, really good balance. And Chris can address this as well.

Chris Chulack: Well I was just going to say on that entity, but everybody forgets that our pickup for last year was for six episodes and we knew that that was the - all we were going to do. So that impacted the stories we were telling because we knew we only had the pilot plus six, this year we thought we had at least 13. And so just by the number of episodes, by nature it was going to be a little different in the story telling. So let's not forget that.

Ann Biderman: But in general you know you're always trying to find that balance. You know you want the characters to deepen and have complicated lives. And you know be complicated and interesting characters so there are elements of serialization that work and at the same time you want people, if they drop in to episode 6 that they're going to be able to follow it and be thrilled a bit. So you're always trying to find that balance I think.

If you're trying to find the balance and the second season might be at least slightly less serialized, that's the feeling I get because it's over a longer time, yeah.

Ann Biderman: I mean sure, I think it is slightly less serialized. I think that's an accurate answer.

I just wanted to ask a little bit if you could talk about kind of the emotions that went on behind the scenes from when NBC dropped the show to when TNT picked it up. I know for fans we were kind of you know waiting to hear the news but what was it like to be on the other end of it when that was happening?

Ben McKenzie: Probably went through our five stages of grief.

Ann Biderman: Denial, acceptance.

Ben McKenzie: Yeah, if only we could remember them.

Ann Biderman: Acceptance, grief, grieving.

Ben McKenzie: I think not to try to speak for everyone but this might sort of capture everyone's emotions at the time. I think everyone was surprised, extremely disappointed and angry. We knew we had a wonderful show, we had two days prior seen a cut of the - what would have been the first episode of the next season.

Ann Biderman: And which will continue to be the next - the first one coming out.

Ben McKenzie: And it was phenomenal. So to get that news that we were canceled just didn't really jibe with anything that we were doing at the time. But you know sort of knowing that and having faith in the show and having faith in Chris and John and Ann and the producers behind the show, we knew that there was a possibility the show would live on. And we heard early on that TNT was interested in it and we are just - we couldn't be happier.

Regina, your character this season obviously some big changes at the end of last season. Are we going to see you with some rotating partners, with a new partner? What's the situation?

Regina King: First, you know TNT is going to pick us up for a season two and we'll be (scorned) at even more, but for the new episodes that are coming up, yeah, Lydia is going to be in the who is my partner world for a little bit. I think it's really interesting the way they've written what happens with Lydia and her partners because you will see more of Tom and you will see more of some other faces. So it's an interesting little dance that we're doing to see who's going to end up being Lydia's partner. There's like an ongoing theme on the set, everyone's like I don't want to be partnered with you so right now I have two or three, maybe four partners. We'll see like I said, TNT picks us up season two we'll see who I end up with.

So are they actors that we've seen already or maybe new faces?

Regina King: Both, a little bit of both.

I believe one of those faces you were talking about was Clifton Collins Jr.

Regina King: Research, we like that.

So what's it been like working with Clifton on the set? I understand you guys come from like similar areas in the LA area so what's it been like working with him?

Regina King: Clifton is awesome. I mean you know he gets the art form, he loves what he's doing. He's serious but yet he's still fun and we are both Los Angelinos so we've got a lot of things that we kind of sit back and laugh about as we watch all these transplants. Him, myself and two I've got here, we're all mates so we're real Southlanders.

Ben McKenzie: She's kind of angry about it. I don't really understand that.

So these new episodes can you talk about maybe some of these - I know some of the original episodes kind of ripped from the headlines for some of the plot lines. Does that kind of happen in these new episodes as well?

Ann Biderman: We do have an episode that is inspired - we never directly rip anything from the headlines, kind of not our style. But there was one - well you'll see there's one episode that is really inspired by something that had happened a couple of times. Not a specific case but something that felt like it was happening more and more and it's an episode where Lydia kind of has to deal with it and it's disturbing.

Chris, on the episodes and so forth. You're going to rerun the six episodes that have run already on NBC. How many new episodes have you made at this point and then what kind of a - when do you have to find out about a pick up beyond that from TNT?

Chris Chulack: The pilot plus six will run first and then we have six unseen or new episodes in the can that will run after what I call the first year run. And then it's really kind of up to TNT when they want to go back on the air with original episodes as to when they would have to notify us, then we would have to gear up and wake up Regina and get her out of bed and get her on the set. So I can't be specific with the dates because it's really up to TNT. But I think with these guys they probably need to know contractually pretty soon because we're all just kind of waiting around to see what happens.

Regina, what is it about Los Angeles particularly that makes such a good canvas? I got the feeling from the first season that there's probably more variety of different kinds of places close together than in most cities you could set it in. Just what is it about Los Angeles that makes it a good canvas for you?

Regina King: Well for me personally because there's so - it's so diverse, you know like literally you can be on one block and it could be not the greatest neighborhood and you can go two blocks over and it's just a beautiful tree lined street with manicured lawns that everyone is interested in their community. You have so many different visuals you know from the landscape of downtown to the more urban communities to the communities that are more Spanish populated. There's just so many differences in LA and just one car ride, 30 minutes just down (La Cienega) you see the neighborhood change probably five or six times. And for a show like ours that we are doing four and five locations in a day it makes it - might get hit for saying this, a little bit easier when you can have all those different colors close by.

This is a question for the actors. You know obviously your presence here at the conference and you know I saw you over the summer as well, I think it shows that you really kind of believe in the show and want to support it. But just from your perspective, how is this series different from other shows you've been on in the past and what makes this experience different for you?

Ben McKenzie: I'll answer that first. I - the feeling that I have while working on this show is most akin to doing a small passionate indie movie or something, a movie where everyone - no one's really - it's not that we're all being well compensated for our jobs. But the feeling is not doing some sort of - if you'll excuse the expression like corporate kind of piece of machinery. That you're actually doing it because you want to do it and everybody else wants to do it. I know that may be sort of touchy feely and actor-y but that's the feeling that I get. We are operating with a relatively small crew, we're shooting out on location, we're going really fast. We have to go very fast but everybody is really coming knowing their jobs and wanting to excel in their jobs. So I think it's exhilarating because of that. And that to me makes it unique. And I think it translates to the screen. I think that the spontaneity of the show, the capturing - Chris has used the word before, honesty, the realism of very somewhat subtle moments between a couple of characters. You only get that if everybody is stepping up their game and is trying to be as realistic as they can be. So to me I would say that's the overriding aesthetic that I've appreciated on the show.

Ben McKenzie: I've also - just to add to that I mean everyone on the show is just excited to be here. There's - Southland's not a show you work on because you wanted a job in television. You know and it's like it's just a job, whatever. There are people who when we initially started was during the strike so that swayed a lot of - a huge talent pool available to us that we usually only doing features. People who never do television, they're still with the show. They are so excited to be here, the show when we work on set that the relationship between the cast and the crew is very symbiotic relationship. It's not sort of ups and downs, it all happens together. The cameras, the way they move, they're so close to you they're part of the scene. They're actually - actually are characters in the seen are you in the scene. And they are sharing that sort of intimacy in a very exciting way and you feel it when you come on the set, when the van doors open, everybody pours out, they start shooting the city. We take everything in the crew and they're just jacked and excited to be there. And it's - I won't say I never felt that before on a set but it's very rare and to have it is very exciting.

Regina King: So quickly because all of us have done TV before and we've all done guest spots on things. And usually the shows that we've all done when we first start, there's that little wonky area that you go through trying to get to know each other and get that rhythm going. And when we do guest spots on shows that have already existed they have the feeling that our show has now. Where we are a new show but we have this - we run like a well oiled machine. And that was to me was like wow, really? This is only episode four?

Michael Cudlitz: And no one's sitting back just sort of like whatever, collecting a paycheck. Everyone's learning every day. If we come on the set and something doesn't work and the writers are very open to making it work. It's not - she doesn't sit in a room and is not in touch with what we do and her stuff is so precious that it can't be changed, oh my God, this is the only way it could be done. It's like no, you know we showed up and the location we were going to shoot on you know got demolished two weeks ago so we've got to move next door, we've got to make these changes, they're on it. Chris, the directors, they're - this is very, very fluid situation and that I have never experienced before, where everyone really is so available to change when it means changing to better the show.

Michael, could you talk a little bit what we might see for your character this season? We got a peek into his personal life briefly last season and how much will that be explored or you know will the audience learn more about that in the episodes this season?

Michael Cudlitz: I'm going to be naked for like seven of the six episodes.

Excellent. It's cable now, right?

Michael Cudlitz: Pretty much. Yeah, we're back in, we're reediting a bunch of stuff; they're taking my clothes off. It's really weird though how they do it, but I look great. Crazy, you just love being a little sex idol, don't you.

Ben McKenzie: I do, I'm the dude. Hang on honey.

Michael Cudlitz: It is honey right, I just got myself in trouble for that, right? I grew up in the south and we do that. No, there's - you're going to learn - I always describe our show as you learn about the characters as if you would learn about your you know friend, someone you meet. You may think you know them but then something will happen in your lives, some extraordinary thing will go down and you will - you know, see how they handle it. And it may surprise you and quite often it does surprise you because it's not exactly how you thought someone would handle it. You sort of get these little bites of their personality and when you think you know them something happens that changes and reveals something else and you really actually get to know them a little better still not completely knowing them. Things are set up in our show where the crimes and the people that we interact with and the extreme situations that the police react with so it evokes personal reactions from us and personal interactions between the police officers. And so it's a very slow, you know, peeling away of the onion to use that metaphor and you will learn - you'll learn more about everybody and our personal lives. And I think that's one of the very exciting things about the show is that it's not just about figuring out in the last ten minutes, it's you're more interested in you know what's going on with Lydia's mom and her relationship. And why does she have this - you know why is she single? She's smoking hot, completely amazing at her job and she's single, so what's up with that, you know? I'm sure we're going to find out. And then you know the same thing we all...

Ben McKenzie: Smoking hot.

Michael Cudlitz: Smoking hot, good at her job and single.

Did you know all about your characters when you started or are you learning a little bit along with the audience?

Michael Cudlitz: That's the beautiful gift of television, is that you sign on and then you learn every week, you learn a little bit more who you are. No, I mean I don't know, I had conversations with both Chris and Ann before shooting. But it - about who this guy was and what his background is, I'm sure each of us have different experiences. But it is somewhat free form. It sort of also - I guess the other thing that it feels like in addition to being sort of an independent film is like it almost feels like you're in a - it's like a reparatory company, you know? You're around these people and you're going to be doing this play but the play keeps changing, you keep changing which play you're doing and so it has a kind of a spontaneity to it that again I think is relatively unique.

For the producers, will - I know the show when it was on NBC did a lot of bleeping of some of the language, does that change at all? Will we be able - will you have to do as much, are you reediting at all now that it will be on basic cable?

Michael Cudlitz: No.

Still bleeping?

Michael Cudlitz: We have a little more freedom but there's still some bleeps.

Did you ever feel like you got a satisfactory explanation from NBC about what happened or is it still a little bit of a mystery to you as well about how something you're promoting in the summer?

Ben McKenzie: Absolutely satisfactory. It feels like all the sudden we'd just broken up with NBC and we were hiding - I think you know we've moved on, you know we have a great home, we're very excited about TNT. Everything that I've experienced and I think this is I'm sure would be echoed by everyone else, everything that I've experienced from the TNT side of it is they get the show perhaps I think a little better than the other network ever did. And so we're just excited to move forward and to make the show we've always wanted to make. I don't think we have to go back and you know who broke up with who and did they do it and was anybody cheating? You know, come on.

Ben McKenzie: And for the record they broke up with us. Totally cheated on us. Kind of Tiger Woods.

So I read there was going to be some never before seen bonus footage along with the first seven episodes and I was wondering if you could speak a little bit to maybe give us a sneak peek of what that might entail?

Ben McKenzie: It's about six and a half minutes of just kind of - there's a couple of wholly new scenes that were cut out of the pilot for time constraints which we put back in. And then a lot of it is kind of continuations of things that were truncated. And just it's amazing that six and a half minutes you know pushed into what was a 42 minute pilot kind of rounds it out and makes it feel more like a little movie. It's kind of amazing how just those slight expansions are - make it feel kind of closer to what we had intended. And if it was up to me we would have put 60 minutes back. Because it was a pretty long pilot, but anyway, it's a couple of added scenes, wholly on scenes and then some extensions.

You said that perhaps TNT understand the show better than other networks might have and I'm wondering is the show in the new episodes, is the show going to change at all on the new network? Are we going to see something different do you think? How will it kind of change to fit its new home?

Ann Biderman: You know I think the DNA of the show, the show is the show, you know. And we made the new episodes kind of still under the umbrella. You know but we made the show that we wanted to make regardless of in a way where we were. You know we really continued to work hard to kind of honor what the show was about and the tone of the show and the way we shoot it. And you know so there is - it won't change in that respect. Moving forward you know I think we have more freedom to not make it like everything else. You know I think the networks are - they're experiencing some difficulty right now. People are scared and things are changing. The thing that you fall back on is to make it like something else that worked in the past. And I don't think that works any more. You know I think honestly we set out to make the show, we developed it on our own. You know we wrote the pilot in house. We sold it, you know so from the very beginning we made the show that we wanted to make and we continue to do that. And that's not to say we're not good partners, because - but I think we're very proud of the show that we set out to make and nothing has changed. It's just gotten better and stronger in my opinion. I think TNT recognized you know the qualities that made it distinct and different and really appreciate it for all those reasons. So the fact that it you know feels fresh and new I think is a good thing.

I was just curious like besides Clifton what other like maybe new guest stars you might be able to see in these new episodes, any other new faces at all?

Ann Biderman: We do have some guest stars. I mean and then we have some recurring - we have people who are coming back. C. Thomas Howell is back, we're thrilled with that. He continues to amuse us and he's a great provocateur. So there's a lot of humor in the show, you know it's not all doom and gloom, there's a lot of laughs. We have Amaury Nolasco, we have - say it again?

Regina King: Wood Harris.

Ann Biderman: Wood Harris, we have Laz Alonzo, just terrific actors that we're thrilled that they've joined us. Clifton Collins as we talked about before so we have some great people coming up.

I'm just curious like when you guys are like maybe out in public do you guys get any like pitches for like crime series on Southland, like this would be a great story to tell on Southland, anything like that?

Ben McKenzie: You know I have people coming up to me like dude, I just killed my wife. I mean it would be such a great episode, you can use my name.

Maybe not that extreme.

Ben McKenzie: I don't know, has anybody...

Regina King: I haven't really had anybody come up with any - yeah, not yet. But I think all of us have had officers come up to us and...

Ben McKenzie: Yeah, I've had people ask me for directions when I'm dressed up as a cop.

Ben McKenzie: Michael Cudlitz is really a cop. He is not an actor, he's really a cop, don't let him - yes he is.

Ann Biderman: But we do have cops seem to really respond to the show and really feel that it's authentic. So that's been really gratifying.

Ben McKenzie: And they do have great stories. So I mean I know this is a resource that Ann uses all the time, but yeah, I mean just casual conversations either in our ride alongs or on set with our tech advisors or there are cops that serve as our background that are real LAPD officers that they'll have stories that you know you do, you kind of want to have a notepad and just write them down. Because the things they do on the job are - we could try and shoot them but you wouldn't believe that you....

Regina King: Well probably they wouldn't even be able to be aired on TV.

Ann Biderman: And then we have writers you know who are part of our - you know we draw on them when we're doing research, when we you know - it's crucial for us to get it right you know. So we use a lot of cops. We have a vast number of people who come into the writer's room and who are available to us, both to the actors and on the other side of the counter. So I mean the actors have done boot camp, they continue to kind of do refresher courses. They go out whenever they want to and feel they need to. They've gone up in the air, they've kind of seen it from all sides. You know they've all gone up in helicopters, so you know we keep that fresh. We keep those doors very, very open as a resource for all of us. That's important. So sure, those stories are you know always coming in.

I wanted to get a little more of the feeling of how the changeover affected the actors. Let me ask Michael in particular because you were kind of there first when the scenes came first. When NBC suddenly announced that they weren't going to show your episodes, were you guys filming the sixth episode of the season at that point, or?

Michael Cudlitz: We were in the very end of - actually the very beginning of our sixth episode, day two when we found out and literally in the middle of a company move from one location, we finished the scene that morning. And we moved over and got out of the van and Ann and Chris were there and they notified myself and Ben and they were calling the rest of the cast.

Oh man, so did you - was there a pause for a few days or did you just go ahead and finish that whole episode?

Michael Cudlitz: Oh we continued. We continued right on with it. We paused...

Ann Biderman: We paused for 20 minutes and then you know...

Michael Cudlitz: Which is a long time.

Ann Biderman: ...it's a long time, but it just again, that again goes to show the dedication. You know there was no - people went back to work with such you know enthusiasm and commitment at a difficult time. But we marched right on.

FeBen McKenzie: We were doing something really cool and felt that it was fine, you know it was out of our hands at that moment and it all worked out.

Michael Cudlitz: You won't be able to distinguish - it's interesting, if you look at that episode, you can't distinguish that there was anything wrong during the shooting of that episode. It looks like just all of the rest of them. The commitment, the acting, the technical performance and it shows you how dedicated people were because it was...

Ben McKenzie: One of my favorite episodes.

Michael Cudlitz: It is. It was a devastating thing that happened. I mean nobody saw this coming really.

I know the cop stuff is at the forefront but the relationships and the romance and all that stuff is what makes it so fun. Let's talk about romance for each of your characters in these new episodes please.

Michael Cudlitz: I think Chris wants to talk about that. I don't know, who wants to take that? Not me.

Ben McKenzie: I'll go for it, romance? I don't know.

You're kissing someone; you told me you're kissing someone Ben.

Ben McKenzie: Me? Yeah, I guess. I guess I kiss somebody, not Michael which was a disappointment, yes, it was. Yeah, there's - I think they paired me up with a couple of young ladies and I think our show maybe I'm speaking out of turn here but I think one of the tendencies I've noticed is we like to sort of set little things up and then see if they work and kind of - like life, exactly. So I go on a few dates, some of them work out, some of them don't, I have a few encounters. And I think we were perhaps we might have been able to get into that further if we had continued.

Ann Biderman: But we've certainly - sorry to speak for everybody but you know we...

Ben McKenzie: She does speak for us.

Ann Biderman: But it is like life, I mean they kind of meet people and it's tied into the work and the job and the heartbreak and it's kind of intertwined specifically with Ben's character in the next set.

Ben McKenzie: I mean I've always hoped that we would find eventually a - not that it would be - it would never be the A story line or it would rarely be the A story line of any particular episode because that's quite frankly not what the show is about. But an ongoing relationship at some point, romantic relationship I think is an area on the show that I've always kind of wanted to explore so hopefully we'll do that.

Ann Biderman: And we do as well for all of the characters, you know. Truly for all of them. You know I think Regina's main focus in the next upcoming six episodes is really her - it's less her life partner than it is her partner. So that's kind of theme that she's going to be facing. And that's a really complicated, deep relationship, so it's not so much the first batch were more about the romance. They weren't more about her romantic life. We had tried to deal with that, but that's kind of the primary dilemma for her in these next couple of episodes. But you know we love to touch on the romantic and the sexual and Michael is a whole other thing. And so we continue to form the complexity of his character. You know I mean he is gay, he is - you know what's interesting in maybe everyone would like me to shut up at this point. But you know like you don't kind of - with heterosexual characters you don't think of their heterosexuality as the number one thing that takes them through the world. And it's kind of the same thing with his character, I didn't want him to be the gay character you know who, you know, I feel that there's a different way to do it. I feel like that's stereotype is kind of played out. And I think he's really a complicated kind of fresh character in terms of that. So I'm interested in all of their - I think we all are, the romantic and sexual lives. But you know moving forward we promise that that will continue to be interesting. Does that help?

Ben McKenzie: You'll see some skin somewhere.

Chris, earlier you talked about adding six and a half minutes to the pilot when TNT re-airs it. Will additional footage be added to any of the other NBC episodes?

Chris Chulack: No, because the - no. They're actually they're TNT's format is pretty close to NBC, so it will be the same length. We didn't change any of that.

Ann Biderman: And also the first one not having commercials enabled us to have that extra time.

Chris Chulack: Yep, it's still in the six act format.

I was wondering in terms of the actors, in terms of preparing for the roles, Ben you mentioned ride alongs and do you all feel very real in the show, breaking stereotypes and it feels gritty and authentic and I was wondering you know what kind of preparation you did. You mentioned ride alongs, did you spend a lot of time with real live cops? And you spoke a little bit about that already I know, but I was wondering if you could as actors speak to a little more how you kind of got into that character so well.

Ben McKenzie: I think the - yeah, I think we should all answer this question. But I feel like the time spent with the cops was most useful for me to see that they are just people. That they're just you know everybody handles every situation differently. And yeah, absolutely they have protocol and they have - you know there's an enormous amount of information that they have to be able to not only process, they also have to be able to handle each situation that they go in to in terms of you know crime scenes individually. You know ultimately they're dealing with people, not with you know code this, code that, they're dealing with a particular circumstance of people. But the thing that I took away from it the most is that you don't have to play - you are free to make your character whoever you want that character to be because there is no quote unquote cop person. You know that person doesn't exist. They might be a little bit more of the you know mind set of law and order and that there should be rules and that people need to follow the rules, that's what attracted them to being a cop in the first place. But they are every shade of color, they are every ethnicity, every sex, you know they really have entirely separate individual personalities like you know what is a postman like? Well they could be you know anything. So I think the freedom to invest in the specificity of whoever you perceive their character to be without sort of trying to be a cop quote unquote is the main thing I took away from them.

Regina King: I mean I agree with everything that Ben is saying. I think we're lucky that we have so many officers and detectives that when they're off duty they are on the set, they're on the set as extras, they're on the set visiting. I think I'm really lucky because one of our consultants, (Sheila Daniels), she's there all the time and she - I'd say I kind of - although she's married, I map a lot of the strengths that Lydia has behind (Sheila)'s personality. I think it's very similar so I kind of have that blueprint around me often so I think I'm really lucky in that regard. I don't think these guys have that blueprint around them as often, that specific person around them as often as I do. And fortunately I was lucky enough that she is someone that was interesting enough to me to kind of you know pick up on just some of her mannerisms. Just her dedication to what she does, Lydia is so dedicated to her job and (Sheila), you can tell she misses being in the line of duty and you know some of the episodes that we do, some of the scenes that we shoot you can just see in her eyes how much she wishes she was back out there. But I think Lydia has that - I've decided that Lydia has that same devotion to what she's doing and I think that's similar to the John Cooper character, he has that same devotion as well. So I'm just mirroring what Ben said, having those people around constantly allows you to be real.

Michael Cudlitz: Gives you freedom.

Regina King: Yeah.

Michael Cudlitz: It really does. If you rely on the training you can be whoever you want to be because it will be real. If you stick as close as you can to what we've been taught in training and what a real cop would do physically and what is protocol, you can be whoever you want within that. And it's extremely freeing. It's extremely freeing in the humorous end of what we do. There's a lot of humor in this and a lot of it is a coping device, it's not all you know it's not funny stuff you tell your kids. But it's funny and you'll know what we mean when you see something and it's horrible, but it's funny because you're glad it's not you. But the training is - for me I mean it opened up, as Ben said the most important thing was spending time with these police officers and it's just - I'm not going to go on and on but it's incredibly invaluable and the more time we spend with them the more it enriches the show. And I think the more it enriches our work and the work that Ann and Chris do.

Ben McKenzie: And I guess what's finally - sorry, the - my character being a rookie, being a trainee, he has - all he knows is the protocol, all he knows is the by the book nature of what they teach you in the academy. When he gets out on the streets and he's with Cooper everything changes. And so he has to - what you see over the course of the year and hopefully the life of the series is him developing his own personality. And understanding that there is a way that he - yeah, well absolutely, I mean you know not to be cheesy about it, but yeah, how he wants to be a member of law enforcement. Because the way he handles situations is quite different from the John Cooper handles a situation, although sometimes the hard-ass nature of John Cooper is something that you know Ben Sherman needs to take to heart and needs to apply when he's on the job.

Southland will make its TNT debut with a special commercial-free extended version of the pilot episode on Tuesday, January 12 at 10 PM ET on TNT.