Talking DETROIT 1-8-7 with Jon Michael Hill

At the end of the pilot episode of ABC’s new homicide drama DETROIT 1-8-7 which aired last week on ABC, Jon Michael Hill’s Damon Washington was left suffering a gunshot wound, as the strains of “Baby Love” played in the background, letting us know that his baby is on the way.  Many people were shocked to see the end befall one of the show’s central cast members so early into the series, but I’m happy to say that (spoiler alert) Hill has lived to tell the tale of what comes next for him and the show.

I have to say, I loved DETROIT 1-8-7.  I’m not a typical “cop show” watcher, but something about this drew me in.  What was it about the show that drew you in?
A big part of it was the humor of it.  They really just try to make these characters distinct.  Giving them really interesting back stories.  I think that’s what is going to drive the show.  Not only the great guest stars, but getting invested in the characters’ relationships to each other.  They’ve created a really interesting dynamic.  One of my favorite stories is James McDaniels’ story with his wife, and the Italian.  That’s going to keep getting developed so that’s really cool.  But I mean everybody – Fitch is this mysterious man, and they’re stringing it out as long as they can and giving bits and pieces.  It’s great.

What I liked was that even in an hour pilot episode, each of the characters were so full of depth, already. We had a big surprise with your character at the end of the first episode, getting shot, as the phone rings in the background.
You’ll see on Tuesday!

What can you tell us about episode 2 about your character, where your character is, what’s going on there, without spoiling too much?
Oh man!  I don’t know what I can say without spoiling! [laughs]  I’m still employed so that’s a dead giveaway!

You’re still giving interviews, so that’s important!
You’re going to meet the baby and the wife.  I’m very excited for people to meet the Washington family.  We have this really cool scene.  But, I’m in the hospital the entire episode.  I’m just going to say it! [laughs]  Episode 2, they all progressively keep getting better.  The scripts, the work we’ve been doing.  I really hope people tune in to see what happens with things.

What else do we have to look forward to – I know in tonight’s episode we deal with a local hero whose life is cut short.
It’s one of those sad things where someone is kind of an up and comer, hometown hero, just gets caught up in something.  Nothing with his reputation.  It was all just a bad situation that went down, which is going to be cool about the show.  You’re going to get a lot of information from the families of the victims, they develop those stories, too, which is going to be fun to watch.  It really humanizes the suspects that we track down.  Nobody is a face-less killer on this show.  We really get to know what drives people to these homicides.  We deal with the victims’ families a lot.

What’s it like shooting in Detroit versus shooting in LA or New York?
I have no frame of reference, but I’ve loved being on location in Detroit.  Most of the people in our cast will tell you that it’s the people.   They’re very welcoming.  We are like really in the city when we’re filming, so a lot of areas that are embattled right now.  It’s nice to talk to the people, who kind of really want this show to be good, they enjoy having us here.  It helps the economy with some money and jobs.  Employing people.  It’s nice to listen to people talk about their city, the pride.  That’s another thing that we try to capture in the show.

What do you love about your character – you’ve gotten to spend more time with the characters than viewers will have at this point.  What do you love about Damon?
It’s really rich.  He’s a character at a crossroads in his life.  There are a lot of new things in his life.  He’s new to the squad, and he’s got this new family that’s emerging.  I love watching him try to balance the family life, and who he is.  The talkative personal guy, dealing with someone who is all about shutting people out.  I love his sense of humor [laughs].  It’s really fun to play somebody smart.  He’s a smart kid.  You don’t get to homicide by being an oaf.  I like that about him.

Do you have any feedback to the writers about how you think certain scenes should be played or lines read or anything like that?
The writers always come during the filming of their episode, they’re always on set, and we can always talk to them about stuff.  It’s always a collaboration.  We’ve got our technical supervisor that’s been in homicide for 30 years.  He’s always there if we have questions and everything.  He usually makes sure what we’re doing actually makes sense logically.  We all talk, and if we think something needs to go a different way, it’s definitely an open conversation.

My last question here today is why do you think people should tune into this show?  Why should the find DETROIT 1-8-7 on Tuesdays at 10?
I think they’re going to relate.  They’re going to have a lot of fun watching the characters.  That’s going to be the thing.  Our guest stars have been incredible.  We’ve had some really good Chicago actors, LA actors.  It’s going to have substance, I feel.  I think the writers are really trying to do something special, to tell the whole story of Detroit.  Not just the negative that you might get in the media.  And of course, we are dealing with homicide, so it’s through the lens of that procedural drama, but they are trying to get the history of the city that people don’t know, and really try to expose all of it.  Give you the goods and the bad!

DETROIT 1-8-7 airs Tuesday nights on ABC following all new results show episodes of DANCING WITH THE STARS.

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