Exclusive Interview: Erin Cummings talks DETROIT 1-8-7
The lovely Erin Cummings, known for her role as Sura on SPARTACUS: BLOOD & SAND, sat down under the dryer at the salon to spend some quality time gushing about her new show DETROIT 1-8-7, her new city, and what is coming up on tonight’s new episode, on ABC at 10/9c after an all new DANCING WITH THE STARS.
I have to say, I really enjoy DETROIT 1-8-7. For me, it’s a bit of a breath of fresh air, but at the same time, it’s something I’m used to, which is nice. What originally drew you to the role and to the show?
There were a couple of things. I’ve done quite a bit of work in the cable world and working for a company like ABC, is always something that has been a dream of mine. It’s a network that’s been around for a very long time. They have a very good reputation. A friend of mind, Brandon Braga, who was the show runner for FLASHFORWARD last year, and he just said really fantastic things, and other actors who have worked for ABC were always complimentary. But the show, specifically, I thought that it was exciting. Number 1, Michael Imperioli was already attached. You can’t say anything bad about him. And now, having had a chance to work with him and get a chance to know him as a person, on a personal level, he has exceeded any of my preconceived notions of what I thought about him already as an actor. He’s an amazing actor and even more so as a person. The opportunity to work with him and obviously ABC. Also, the show itself, I agree with what you’re saying. There’s a familiarity about your standard cop drama that people can identify with because they see things that are in the vein of it. The difference with DETROIT 1-8-7, it has a grit about it. The fact that it was based in Detoirt, this is the first television series that has really been about Detroit and was filmed in Detroit, so I thought it would give us an opportunity to shed some light on a city that I think is very misunderstood at this point. Having been able to live in Detroit for the past 6 months or so, I’ve really seen that a lot of my preconceived notions about the city were quite wrong and based on improper information that has been fed to a lot of the country. It’s a lot of things, but my character, also, is very exciting. She’s cool. We haven’t seen a lot of Dr Ward this season, because the show is about cops, not about doctors, so they’re developing a lot of the detective storylines, so every episodes, there’s one little bit of information that we find out about her. Comes from a wealthy family, now works as a medical examiner, doing autopsies all day. Has a little hobby of playing roller derby at night. There are some really fun things going on with her, that as the series continues to progress for the rest of the season and hopefully subsequent seasons, there is really a lot of room for growth.
I agree, they definitely spread out learning about these characters – you learn bits of pieces here and there. It’s about getting to know these people. You don’t get it all at once, makes it easier to digest, and more fun to watch to see what’s coming next.
I agree, I definitely agree with that. Sometimes, I think a television show can vomit too much information at the audience right away, and then it doesn’t leave you a lot of room to grow, and it takes out the mystery of things. One of the things that people find intriguing in human relationships in general is a feeling of “wow, I’m interested in this person. I’d like to get to know them more.” Fortunately, because they are really developing the story lines in a slow way, and giving bits and pieces every day, it allows you to keep that air of mystery.
What can you tell us about what’s coming up in tonight’s all new episode?
This episode is a very exciting one! This next episode, a lot more is revealed about Dr Ward’s character, which is very exciting for me. We get to see her in a little bit more of a casual setting. And so that’s really the thing that I find exciting. This will be one of the episodes where we get to see Dr Ward be a little less stuffy and not just talking about bullet hole entry wounds and exit wounds, but a little bit more of her background, and where she comes from. We get to see that she’s not your typical Detroit-er.
I’ve talked to a lot of people in the cast who all, and you brought it up too, have nothing but incredible things to say about Detroit. How different is it to be shooting there versus LA or another typical TV city?
There is no way that we could do this show and have it have the authenticity that it now does by shooting it anywhere else. The architecture of the city is absolutely stunning as you’ve seen in some of the episodes. Detroit, back in the 20s, it was called the Paris of the West because of its incredible wealth and opulence. That is still evidenced in a lot of the architecture of the city and also, if you go right outside of the city of Detroit, there are homes that make Beverly Hills look like Anytown USA with yards the size of football fields. What’s really interesting is that people thing that there are no jobs left in Detroit. There are still jobs left in the Detroit metropolitan area. There’s still great wealth. I also find that the food is incredible. I’ve been eating my way through Southern Michigan, basically, because the food is fantastic. They have these great restaurants, a lot of wonderful Mediterranean and Middle Eastern restaurants. The whitefish, obviously caught in Lake Superior, is like nothing else. I remember when I was shooting in Hawaii for a while, I was eating the pineapple, and I remember thinking, there’s something about this pineapple, it doesn’t taste like normal pineapple, and that’s because it’s grown a few blocks away. Same thing with the whitefish. It has been caught in Lake Superior and they serve it in the local restaurants, so the food has been wonderful. I think, more than anything else, there’s a quality about the people. I think that Detroit is the biggest little city in America. I come from a small town. I was raised in Huntsville, Texas, and moving to a big city like LA, obviously, there are a lot of great opportunities that come from being in a big city. But with Detroit, it has all of those wonderful opportunities. You have the Red Wings games, all the sporting events, the concerts, the arts that come through. But you also have this quaint small town feel. I recently was working with Joe Faris from PROJECT RUNWAY. He’s a Detroit designer, and he just launched his denim line, River City Denim, and he chose me to be one of the 5 stylish women of Detroit, which is really funny because I just moved there 6 months ago! But, we, the five of us, one of the news reports from WXYZ, and this woman Karen Newman, who is famous in Detroit for singing the National Anthem at all the Red Wings games. I just thought, that’s such a small town thing, that the girl who sang the National Anthem would be famous in a city as large as Detroit, but it’s true! We designed these dresses to be auctioned off for Breast Cancer Awareness so it’s a great thing to be involved in. Things like that, where there is just a small town quality in a big city like Detroit, and it makes you really feel like you’re at home, no matter where you come from.
What would you say to someone who maybe hasn’t the show yet, or has watched a couple but hasn’t committed yet, about why they should be watching DETROIT 1-8-7 for the rest of the season?
It’s a show they should be watching for the rest of the season for a few reasons. Number one, I think that if you already are interested in cop dramas and you like the procedural of you know, who did it, and how they did it, and where they did it, with what? That is right there. We have all those ingredients of a great cop drama. One of the things that I find a lot of procedurals have lost in the past couple of years is the human element, and DETROIT 1-8-7 is one of those shows that really focuses on the people behind the murders. The families of the victims, and how they’re affected, and the people who solve these crimes, and how working as a detective can have an affect on your personal life. Every character has some weird quirky thing about them, which people, from what I’ve heard, find really interesting, and relateable. We have such a diverse cast. There is nobody on this show who is green in any way. Everybody has a wonderful pedigree that they come from and adds a really strong element. There will be something that everyone can identify with. There have been more than one table read where Natalie Martinez and I will look across the table at the end of the script and we both have tears in our eyes because we’re crying at some beautiful moment. This episode coming up in particular has to do with children, and any time that you have children involved in an episode, it’s really going to tug at people’s heartstrings. All of that aside, I think that DETROIT 1-8-7 is doing really positive things to the city. We are bringing jobs back to a city where jobs are not so plentiful. We’re changing the lives of Americans. I have had conversations with people in our transportation department. There was one guy in particular who said to me “I am so thankful for this job. I wake up in the morning and I’m happy to have this job. I go to bed at night and I’m happy to have this job.” Because six months ago, he didn’t know how he was going to feed his family. And now because of DETROIT 1-8-7, he knows that he has income. He knows that he has a paycheck coming in, and his days are a little bit brighter because of it. So hey, even if you don’t like the show, I think that we’re making a difference to one of America’s great cities by bringing back jobs, and encouraging more industry to go there. For that reason alone [laughs] as Americans, we should band together and watch the show! If something happens to DETROIT 1-8-7 and I don’t have a job in a couple of months, I’ll come back to LA, and I’ll get another job. There’s always going to be TV shows to do. But for the people of Detroit, that’s not the case. There won’t be another TV show to move right in and hire the transportation people and the craft service people, and the hairdressers and the stylists, so I think that what we’re doing here is we’re actually making a difference in a city that really needs it. We’re not just making a television show. That’s why I go to work every day.