It should come as no surprise that as the SOUTHLAND interviews continue on the site, I’m getting more and more excited about tonight’s “season” premiere. I hope you’re watching! If you don’t want to take my word for it, how about a little conversation with Michael Cudlitz, aka John Cooper, on why it’s good television?
We are here to talk about Southland. You know that I am a huge fan. I did see the first two episodes. I actually just talked to Ben and he said that hopefully I will be getting the third episode soon. What are you telling people about why they should be watching this fantastic show?
Well initially I tell them because I am drunk in most of the scenes, but that hasn’t been going over very well this morning. No, what I’m telling them is that it is a cop show like they have never seen before. The story telling is something that is, in my opinion, that’s never been at this level, this early on in the episodes. It is the kind of stuff that you know character wise that these cops develop into over four or five years, where we are getting maybe some personal information on maybe one or two of the characters. We are kind of breaking all of those rules and we are dealing with the character development from the get go and it is more important than the sort of crime of the day or the incident of the day. We want to know about these people, you know, what makes a cop tick. How do they handle going from crime to crime to crime, back to back to back, and then go home at night and help their kid with a term paper or have their 25th wedding anniversary after six domestic violence calls? How does that change you as a person? It doesn’t change you as a person, or is there a certain breed of person that becomes a cop that can turn that off. And then what happens when that stuff gets out of hand? They process things differently, it’s shot from the first person perspectives, you feel like you’re watching an episode of Cops sometimes, in the back seat, you know there’s not the traditional coverage, we are really seeing what is going on by space, sometimes you read the body language. I think it makes you a more attentive audience member. I think you get more vested in the characters when you can imagine what they are thinking because as we are walking up around the back of their head. It makes you a more active participant. I don’t think anything has ever been done this way before so far as story telling. I believe in this not just because [John Wells] is producing, maybe that is because he is producing it, I believe it is doing for the cop drama what ER has done for the medical drama.
I understand that completely. ER was such as smart show and the way, and I said this to Ben too, the way your show was shot it is smart. It doesn’t take the viewers, it doesn’t make them feel like they are dumb. They are not spoon fed something, they kind of have to…
And there is no sound track to make you feel or tell you how to feel. There is no music telling you that you’re supposed to be fearful that Lydia is coming around the corner and she doesn’t know that the gang banger is downstairs. You know its dead freaking silence and that’s scary enough because that’s the actuality of it. I don’t need a sound track banging in the background or coming up, like ooohh uh oh uh oh! I’m going uh Oh because she is walking through her house with all of the lights off with a damn shot gun.
Exactly. There is no sound track in your real life that you would hear, like nothing tells you when you should be prepared, for a collision on the road…
Unless a heartbeat is a sound track…
Exactly, exactly! That’s all you need. Talk a little about John’s transformation I guess, not transformation but how he changes maybe from the first episodes we have seen to what we are going to see in the new episodes.
Well what is going on with John that the audience will maybe see as a change in John is the relationship that he has with Ben. But that really is just the natural progression of that relationship. You have to remember that when John starts out, you know we meet him as a training officer. It is his job to break this kid. He can break this new person, whether it be this kid or a new person that day, if he can break the new boot, send him home, this person is breakable. They are completely no use to us. They are going to get themselves killed. They are going to get one of us killed and you know we are going to waste our time. If this kid can get broken, fuck, break him! Break him and send him home. Who gives a shit I don’t have anything vested in this kid. He comes in some rich kid, some whatever you know he is not going to be able to take crap from me. He is definitely not going to be able to make it out on the streets. SO if he can’t survive me being the way that I am being to him, being hard on him for a reason, trying to provoke reaction, then he doesn’t have a chance. Now with that being said obviously he handles himself very well and does what he is supposed to do. This evolution of the training officer and the rookie and him being less and less of a rookie, eluding into the next phase of his training, he gains more respect. One, because he is doing his job well and two, because he has earned it. He is there. He is proving that he should be there. Well, he’s not there yet; all cops excel in a very specific area. It is all different for every cop. Some are good at you know assessing a situation, some are great at writing reports. Some are awesome marksmen. Some are physically fantastic specimens and can run and climb over fences. Some are really just great at gauging a person. They excel at different things so these different combinations of people, that is what makes a partnership, is that two people w ho compliment each other as in the same way that would make a good marriage. Except in your marriage you are not responsible for the person next to you’s life all day long. So at what point does that relationship change? Because he is my partner, I do depend on him. When I first met him I wouldn’t depend on him to tie my own damn shoes because I don’t know him and I don’t care. As it goes we start to realize that not only is he going to be a good cop, but I feel that Cooper believes that he actually may be a better cop than Cooper someday.
I think, too, with the personal relationship, because you’re going to have the respect on the job, it sounds like a little bit of what is going on with John with the pills and his sexuality, that Ben kind of gets a little bit involved in that in a way, getting a little bit more knowledge about the personal life.
Absolutely. We are going to grow and we are going to learn more about each other. It is going to flow very naturally, the same way you would learn about anybody you would work with. Things come up and they are talked about. The issue, the stuff with the pills is actually going to be dealt with. We cannot have one of our main characters running around on drugs all of the time. At a certain point it doesn’t become good story telling. Good story telling is showing how he copes with it, how he deals with or how he doesn’t deal with it, or deals with and relapses back or how everybody else around him reacts to it. That is good story telling. It is not just going to be this loose cannon getting all jacked up on drugs and we are not going to deal with it because if something goes wrong and then somebody finds out, then we become THE SHIELD, now with this corrupt organization trying to hide each other and correct everything and take each other’s back, and that is not what the show is. The show is going to try to deal with all of these things in a very realistic manner. I noticed too that the show is not like your typical cop drama or your typical crime drama where you are really focused on solving the case. Sometimes it is solved, but it is more about how you are reacting. We don’t care if we solve the case necessarily and we don’t do paper work.
Yeah I don’t want to watch a whole hour of you guys just filling out forms.
Yeah, take 7 hours to fill out that form! John is going to be gone for about 2 months. “What’s he doing?” Filling out a 587… (laughing).
The cast is great too and I think it is important that you have a cast that can kind of stand alone where you don’t need all of the characters every episode.
I’ve said this before as well. You can take any three characters from our show and you can give them their own show. Any three actors I should say and I believe that. These are all, everybody on this show has been doing this for a very long time and aside from being extremely professional, I think they are extremely fantastic. I mean Sean Hatosy has an episode coming up, I think it is the fourth one in. Fucking Brilliant! That’s the only way I can describe it. Quote me or not. I don’t care!
Oh I will…
And Arija has some wonderful things that are going down with her and her relationship with Michael McGrady, his character and his wife and daughter and every body. [spoiler alert] Tommy comes back and he has some stuff. You see him going through rehab and the way that gets processed and dealt with. It is just good. I feel so lucky to be part of this. We had a screening the other night at the Screen Actors Guild Foundation and we all got together again and just talking and it was kind of sad because when we were all together talking about the show we realized how much we really missed each other and couldn’t wait to sort of get back and start shooting some more. It is very exciting.
It sounds like you have TNT in your corner as much as a network can be, the promos, the things we’re seeing.
Yeah you think? How awesome where they? The promos? I get chills. I see shots that I had seen you know 15, 20, 30 times. They just give me chills. I know what is going on in the scene and nobody else does that’s watching it and visually they are exciting and you’re like what’s that? And I know what it is, and I’m just like ohhh yeahh! You have no idea!
You were barely promoted on that other network and now people are looking at it like SOUTHLAND, this great new show that TNT has and it’s like, we were on another network at one point.
Yeah they promoted us some but it was just that they promoted us on a network that nobody was watching, so TNT has been very wise about not just promoting us on their network but on other networks, we’ve been in movie theaters, there are billboards that are up. There are a lot of things on the internet going on and very strategically, in my opinion, in combination with their other show launches and with their sporting events, I am sure that there are people who only watch TNT to watch the basketball because they cover a lot of great games. They have been very, very strategically placed in a sense of you know what, let’s not waste these during the day, let’s put them on at night when we have all these other people who may not be aware that this move has been made or that the show even exists. We see it on Twitter and Facebook all the time, people saying, I just heard about this show and thought I’d check it out, and we’re like Oh Shit! Oh Snap!
Have you had conversations about what will happen beyond the episodes that were shot already? You know you kind of were canceled and didn’t get a chance to continue, and then they picked up.
We know some things that were tentatively planned because we were prepping, once you start shooting one episode you start prepping the next so you start at different locations. We had started our sixth episode, which means our seventh episode was ready. We knew what that was going to be like and we know the direction where everything was headed. As amazing as the stuff is that we shot, it was just some crazy stuff planned. Which again brings us back to, and I know nobody wants me to go back here, but are in awe. It will be years. It will be history re-writing itself for years as to what happened to SOUTHLAND. The show is phenomenal. You have seen the new season opener right?
That was the episode which NBC last saw, we had screened it two days before we were cancelled, so I don’t know did you see something that was massively darker, or different, or some sort of flag or you were like “God this should never be on network television?’
No, and in comparing with other shows that they would have on their network, I guess they compared it to something with a little bit darker stuff like SVU; no I didn’t see anything, like why would it suddenly…
They want to use the argument of why. Now we have the proof of what it was. Which was even done at that point. So now you hold the two next to each other and you’re like, “huh?” It’s like that SESAME STREET thing. One of these things is not like the other. You’re certainly not talking about the thing we gave you. You’re thinking something else, and that’s where I took issue, so we are done with that now.