It's been quite a whirlwind few weeks for perhaps the hardest working man in the biz - and one of my favorite actors - Clifton Collins Jr. After it was announced that he landed a role in the NBC Southland, I got a chance to speak with the actor, who was incredibly excited for such a creative opportunity like this on the small screen (/exclusive-clifton-collins-jr-delves-into-southland/CLICK HERE for my exclusive interview with Collins Jr. about the show). Surprisingly, not long after that interview, NBC canceled the series and, not surprisingly, a few days after that, it was reported that the show could possibly have a new home at TNT.
With all of these new developments, I put in another call to Collins Jr. to find out his thoughts on what has happened over the last few weeks. Here's what he had to say.
First of all, can you talk about your first reactions when you found out you were canceled?
Clifton Collins Jr.: Gosh, the first response when we got canceled, I mean, obviously it was a clear case of the economic times and these networks are doing cutbacks and afraid to take chances. You've got a show that's critically acclaimed, you've got showrunners and creators like Ann Biderman and John Wells, who has brought us two hit shows in the last 15 years, The West Wing and ER. It's a little bit of a surprise and, for me, anyone who's going to be shy of critical acclaim, you're going to have other networks who are hungry to pick up a show that has exactly that. That said, you get a network that's hungry to pick up a show that's critically acclaimed and received, well, my perception is they're going to give you a little more freedom to be better, so if we can find a home that will let us be the best show that we can be, it's all gravy for me. I'm kind of hard-pressed to believe that a show, with the unique experience that I had on the set - the cast, the camraderie and the support from everyone around - is not going to be well-received at a network that wants to blaze some trails. A perfect example is a show like Mad Men. It was a risque show that was going to cost some money that networks turned down, and now look at it. The network that picked it up wasn't really known that well for TV shows until that show was acquired by them. So with Southland, I think part of the allure is that it was so edgy that, for the first time ever, you had a show that was cursing and stuff and they would bleep it out. I thought that was so ingenious. I almost feel like if we go onto a network that will allow us to curse, we might lose some of that fun stuff in the novelty of the bleeps, but on the flip side, we'll be able to really spread our wings even bigger because I'm sure these showrunners have already conjured up more ideas. Who the hell knows. These guys are so collaborative. They'd call me personally and ask me about areas I'm from in L.A. I'd just call my friends from the neighborhoods and they'd pull right from the source. There's nothing contrived or fake about this show and I'm incredibly excited to go back on. I firmly believe that we'll be snatched up pretty quickly. I don't know about everybody else, everybody is used to the day in and day out of actually working on a show, so when they do get a little free time, it's like, 'What do I do with this extra free time?' For me, it gives me a chance to shoot my music videos and finish up some of the rewrites on my screenplays. So it's a little breathing room until I get back to the fun of working on the set with Regina (King) and everybody.
So it was reported that TNT is looking into it, and it seems that TNT would be a perfect fit for it. So what exactly have you heard as far as that deal is concerned?
Clifton Collins Jr.: I've been inquired about it, but I just kind of do my job. I have heard that they're shopping it around and I just know they're going to find the best home that's going to allow us to be creatively honest and true and free and where we'll be able to grow. I really trust John Wells and everybody involved. Ann Biderman is the kind of girl that wants the freedom to be as truthful as possible, so the kind of people they are, will completely support the creative format. I know whatever place they do land at, will be the right place, and I'm really excited about that.
When we ran the story that it was canceled, there were a lot of comments and people were wondering why, and the rationale just seemed a bit off. That it was too dark for 9 o'clock and all this stuff.
Clifton Collins Jr.: I hear you, but what's the real reason? Is it that or is it that NBC saved so much money with Leno? Or is it the big wigs over there trying to save their jobs? You just really never know. There could be 50 different reasons why a show gets canceled. But how can you let go of something that is so groundbreaking? Look at the beginning of anything brilliant and creative and successful is never a complete success in its very beginning stages. The Sopranos wasn't a big hit until the second or third season. On a different side of things, look at when Bugsy Siegel created Las Vegas. He got killed and had they waited another year or two they would've seen something great. These times, on a show that's on the cusp of being great, are always on shaky ground, especially in this economic time. Me personally, I'm just a glutton for anything with greatness and creative energy, whether it be Traffic or Capote or Southland, I'm completely patient. I just believe in its integrity and the people behind it so wholeheartedly that I'm not worried at all (Laughs). That's very rare for me too, because I'm usually worried about so many different things, but this I'm not worried about.
So, if you had to guess, when would you say you might be called back to work on Southland, for TNT or anyone else?
Clifton Collins Jr.: Oh, I don't even worry about those things. They'll let me know in plenty of time. In the meantime, I have a lot of other work and energies to focus on. When and where I have to report back to duty, I'll be there, full-blown, ready. I haven't shaved my mustache, I'm just chilling, man.
So have you heard of any ways that the fans might be able to get involved with demanding the show coming back?
Clifton Collins Jr.: Yeah. I read a bunch of stuff on Twitter,. I read something on Twitter in regards to saving Southland. I don't know if having a network that's trying to censor a show that's already being acclaimed for breaking the rules and being groundbreaking and creative and different... people get scared of change. They get scared of new stuff because they don't know what to expect, even though the people like it, so it's really their loss and it's Southland's gain. When it finds a home, it's going to find a real home and not a stepfather's home. It's going to be a real home that's going to allow us to be the best show we can be, and that's something to look forward to, not something to be afraid of.
Awesome. Well that's about all I have for you, Clifton. Thanks again for your time.
Clifton Collins Jr.: Yeah, brother. See you, Brian.