BATTLE CREEK: A Familiar Cop Show with a Different Feel
Battle Creek promises to be a different kind of cop show. And prior to its premiere, series creator David Shore and stars Josh Duhamel (Special Agent/Detective Milton Chamberlain) and Dean Winters (Detective Russ Agnew) invited the media to a press conference to discuss just what sets this show apart from all the rest.
It’s All in a Day’s Work
Duhamel began his preparation to play the straight-laced Chamberlain by going on a ride-along with the real cops of Battle Creek, Michigan – an experience he considers invaluable. “I not only got to see what this town was really about,” explained Duhamel, “but I also got to learn a little bit about the relationship between local law enforcement and federal agencies and how they really feel about each other. That’s really where a lot of the humor comes from in this show. The local guys don’t feel like they get the respect from the federal agencies, and federal agents don’t think the local guys really appreciate the work that they’re able to provide for the local guys. And I think David and Vince (Gilligan, the show’s other creator) did an amazing job at capturing all of that. But, some of the stuff that I saw on the ride-along surprised me. It’s really a beautiful town, especially the downtown area. But once you get on the outskirts, it’s a really hearty group of people that live there – a really tough group – and they were really welcoming and excited about the show. We just want to make them proud.”
Shore added, “This show’s a little tongue-in-cheek at times. It doesn’t mean it’s not real. It’s really important to us to be grounded and real and have the scary stuff be scary, but it’s fun at the same time. I think basically that, in the end, by looking at what’s interesting and where I could go as a writer with the storylines, we ended up with something different. I also think we’re playing with a small-town feel. Even the criminals are people. They’ve got personal, complex motivations.”
It’s All about Relationships
Duhamel teased, “This show is gonna give the audience something familiar, something they expect, but at the same time, it’s different. Some of the things you’ll see, you wouldn’t see anywhere else. It’s really more about the relationships that this squad has and how they make it work. My character is there to help and pitch in wherever he can. This is a fresh start for him. And everyone in the squad is curious about why he’s there. The problem is Dean’s character is a very good detective, and he doesn’t let it go. And it drives my character crazy.”
But Duhamel never wanted to play a “goody two-shoes.” He says, “They promised me early on that there was a lot more to this guy. There is a moral code that he follows. He always does and says the right thing, but cracks start to develop. That’s the most fun and probably the most challenging part of playing this role. He’s not all he pretends to be. What I love about this guy is he’s all about work. He probably has 25 blue suits he picks from each day. After that, I’m not sure. That’s one of the mysteries we’re all sort of wondering about. Underneath everything, I think he’s very troubled. But, he’s just doing the best that he can.”
Cast Is Important
Duhamel’s name was the first that came up for the part of Detective Chamberlain, but the role of Agnew was another story. Shore said, “Then Dean Winters’ name came up. So, we saw his stuff, and we met with him, and it was a great meeting. He had to be this tough and cynical guy, but we had to get this sense that there’s more to him. We had to sense something more in his face and eyes.”
Winters’ biggest challenge in this role is the fact that this marks the first time he’s ever played a cop like Agnew. “I realized early on that I didn’t have all the answers as an actor. I really wanted to find the truth of this character. One of the challenges for me was just getting out of New York and coming to Los Angeles. I had to get out of my comfort zone. I did not know one person, not one, when I came to Los Angeles, and that has never happened before. But we have really good writers on this show, and, let’s face it, without the writers, we’d all be bartenders.”
Characters Are Genuine
So why Battle Creek? Shore revealed, “Vince settled on that. He was there at the beginning. He launched us and protected us. But, getting back to the question, I’ve always loved middle America. And the character of the city shows in our characters. No matter how hard times get, the characters of this series remain positive, friendly, genuine. You can go into a Denny’s anywhere in the middle of this country and meet real people. I just love the character of that area of the country. I love the idea of a smaller, more intimate city.”
Battle Creek premieres Sunday, March 1, at 10 P.M. on CBS.