Go Behind the Badge with Dark Blue

We take in a press conference with stars Dylan McDermott, Omari Hardwick, Logan Marshall-Green and Nicki Aycox for this new TNT series

The successful cable network TNT has "known drama" for many years and some of their staples have been police procedurals like the hit series' The Closer and Saving Grace. The network is taking it another, darker, step forward with the new series Dark Blue, which premieres on Wednesday, July 15 at 10 PM ET, right after the second season premiere of the amazing series Leverage at 9 PM ET. While you may think "Oh, another cop drama," think again because this series has something that no other cable series can boast: mega-producer Jerry Bruckheimer serving as executive producer. Of course, the series has much more to offer than just Bruckheimer's Midas Touch, so to speak, with a wonderful cast.

Dylan McDermott headlines this series, which takes a much deeper look into Los Angeles than we're used to, as Lieutenant Carter Shaw, who heads up a deep-cover task force that infiltrates the shady underworld of L.A. on a daily basis. His team consists of three other team members including Ty Curtis (Omari Hardwick), who constantly tries to find balance between work, dealing with criminals all day in deep cover, and his home life with his new bride, Dean Bendis (Logan Marshall-Green), a shady team member who others think may have gone rogue and Jaimie Allen (Nicki Aycox), a former patrol cop and newbie to the team who was recruited based on her propensity for lying.

I was invited to a press conference in West Hollywood with the four main stars of the show, and here's what they had to say to the assembled press corps.

One of the appeals of the undercover cop genre seems to be that for actors you get to play actors, to some degree. Can you each talk about the role-playing aspect of a show like this?

Omari Hardwick: Yeah, definitely. I think we all were excited about this cohesion because you sort of get to step outside of yourselves for awhile. It's really rare to come across a character or a show or a movie that completely play maybe four or five different characters within a season, let alone a week. It's challenging for us as actors, I think I can speak for the other three actors. It's challenging, to say the least, but it's also fun.

Nicki Aycox: I look at it, as well, as every time I go undercover, I have another character to drop in and really believe and be the undercover character I am for the day. So, in a sense, it's really exciting that I get to play a different person within the same show. That was exciting for me.

Dylan McDermott: Yeah, that's the reason I did the show, to have that. Because, sometimes, if you have that, you do serial television over time, you're playing the same character and it kind of wears you down. So I thought, in this show, it would be interesting to play different characters and keep it alive so you don't feel it's getting stale at all. That was the main reason I did the show.

Logan Marshall-Green: Yeah, I echo everything they've said. As an actor, the idea of these guys breaking the rules, is something appealing as well. Actors playing actors who break rules, because that's how I approach my job, trying to find the rules and trying to find the ways to break them.

Can you talk about how you came to the series? Did TNT approach you? Did you approach TNT or were any of you particularly looking to play police officers?

Logan Marshall-Green: I actually read the script when I was abroad. I was going to go in for it, and just sent a tape in and got a test, they flew me out and I just walked in the room as the character and hopefully walk out with the character, and that's what happened.

Dylan McDermott: Well, much of the time, as an actor, you sit around waiting, most of your life. You're waiting for your agent to call you or your manager to call you, you're waiting for good news somewhere. The day I got the call that Jerry Bruckheimer wanted to sit down with me, was a great day, because, anytime you're involved with him, you know it's going to be a great project. Also, undercover work was something I was always fascinated in. Serpico was the first book I had ever read, so I was initially really excited because, again, just to play different characters within a season would be a tremendous thing to do as an actor.

Nicki Aycox: I was very fortunate to work with (executive producer) Danny Cannon, Jonathan Littman and Jerry Bruckheimer as well, at other points, on shows. So I was extremely excited when I got a call that they wanted me to come in and meet for a show that I'd actually be a leading character in. It was a very grateful day for me.

Omari Hardwick: Dylan likes to coin me the "repeat offender on TNT." I was on TNT three years ago. I did a show that... well, that Dark Blue will outrun. I think Dark Blue came to me when I was doing a project in London. Like Logan, I was not in the country as well and I read it and the character immediately popped out at me and I thought this was great because he's so dichotomous and he's so full of a variance of personalities and passions and likes and dislikes and I thought that I would love to do something so dirty. Then I found out who else was being attached or who else they were looking at, and we were all in, so to work for Mr. Bruckheimer is a cool deal.

I'm just curious if there is a specific person that you guys are chasing in the series? Is there a big L.A. underboss criminal that you're going after, or is it just whoever from week to week?

Dylan McDermott: Yeah, it's contained episodes so it's a different bad guy every week and a different case, close-ended, so you're always going to have a great bad guy anytime you watch.

Omari Hardwick: We've been very blessed with the guest stars. It's been awesome. We've had very good guest stars, yeah.

Could you guys talk about what Danny Cannon brings, specifically, to a pilot like this, to establish the tone and the mood and the entire flow of the series going forward?

Logan Marshall-Green: Volume. He brings volume. He's very loud, very loud. Short man... sorry Dan. No, he's amazing. He knows what he wants, he knows what Jerry wants. He knows how to talk to actors, he knows how to juggle all the departments, which is really what you'd ask for. He's obviously oiled this machine very very well.

Dylan McDermott: Yeah, I think this is the show that he's wanted to make for a long time, that's been inside of him for a long time. To make something so gritty and so dark for television, which you don't normally get to do, especially on network television - this show wouldn't exist on network television. It'd be homogenized and all the characters would all be heroic, and we're not heroic, and that's the best thing about this show is that we're real human beings. We're sort of anti-heroes, if anything, so I think he captured that very well. I mean, he's the co-creator of the show, so I think that everything that was in his head is now inside the screen.

Can you talk into what kind of research you did into the kinds of cops and the kind of mentality you had to do this sort of work? Was there anything that particularly surprised you about doing what they do?

Dylan McDermott: I personally hung out with the LAPD and undercover cops and talked to them. I went on, I don't know if I would call it a detail, but maybe a ride-along, which was very interesting. We would stop and talk to people and this one instance we stopped and we were talking to about 10 gang members. We got out of the car and hung out with them for about 45 minutes and then we got back in the car and the cop said to me, 'You know, that was a little uncomfortable for me because I killed his brother two years ago.' I was just, 'Uh, I wish you would've told me that before we got out of the car.' So you see, in that moment, I understood that there's such duality in these guys, but, what I also understood, is that you need the street. You can't just show up and be a cop. You need people on the street to tell you information, you need to have relationships with people, because information just doesn't arrive. You need to have informants and you need to know people, so that was interesting to me too. As I've said before, many times today, with these guys (informants), it was all about what they weren't telling me, what they were hiding, and they hide so much and they've learned to hide so much in their life, and that's what I use, mostly, in my character, is what am I not telling you? What am I hiding? They were so shy, they wouldn't look me in the eye, half of them. They were always looking down, and they didn't always want to make contact and that's how they've learned to live their lives.

Did the gentleman that the officer had killed know that the officer had killed his brother?

Dylan McDermott: Yeah, that's why it was so tricky. It was weird. Some of them recognized me to, it was like I was playing a cop. They were like, 'Hey, that's the guy from The Practice. What's he doing here?' So that was kind of weird. I just didn't want to get caught in the crossfire, frankly.

What's the dynamic like between the four of you as actors? Do you get a lot of scenes where you're working together or is it just the morning roll call and then we're following you on your separate cases?

Omari Hardwick: Those are the best days, when we get to work together. I wouldn't necessarily say in terms of excitement, but in terms of what you're bringing to the character. It's more fun to be... for example, we're doing an episode right now where Logan's character is away from us and he's doing his thing and that's great because that's what the show thrives on. That's what the show, thematically, is based on, which is us being under and really being under and not really knowing whether we'll make it back. I think, as actors, it's a beautiful thing when the four of us can be a team and hang out. We laugh a lot together and it's a very cohesive four and it's really nice to be a part of, when we're together.

Nicki Aycox: Our characters intertwine. They know each other's personal lives and things that are going on that's trouble, so it's not always just about the case, but it's also about how each of them are dealing with their personal life and being an undercover cop and how they help each other through it as well.

When The Shield was on, I know they filmed in a lot of these bad neighborhood in L.A., so do you guys go out and film in these kinds of neighborhoods that's portrayed in the show, or where else do you shoot this?

Logan Marshall-Green: Yeah, man. We shoot, not necessarily in bad neighborhoods, but we shoot a lot in and around of downtown L.A. It can get a little gritty. I wouldn't say 'neighborhoods' that we've been shooting in, so much, but more just areas that are run down, but incredibly cinematic and filmic.

Nicki Aycox: A lot of them are not populated. There are not a lot of people that are living in the kind of area that we're shooting in. I mean, there are a lot of areas downtown that there is just nobody living there.

Omari Hardwick: Yeah, a lot of dilapidated buildings. Production has done a very good job, location has done a very good job and I think it begins at, like Logan and Dylan said, the helm of Danny Cannon. He kind of knows what he wants, and we have a DP who's eye is really great and the imagination of the creative aspect of Dark Blue, from the production standpoint, from the crew standpoint, can really stand out in some of these locations. I think the people at the forefront of the show know what we're going for as far as the look, to make us separate from other cop shows that you've seen in the past.

Logan Marshall-Green: Yeah, you know, L.A. is a character in the show, it's the fifth character in the show. There's iconic areas that, if you're familiar with L.A., you'll get a sense of, which I think is great. So, here and there, that character is there, L.A.

When Southland came out, all of the stars talked about the responsibility they thought to depict L.A. in a way that hadn't necessarily been seen before, in a show, Los Angeles playing Los Angeles. Is there a version of Los Angeles that you guys find it important to show?

Dylan McDermott: Yeah, definitely. I mean, that's a really good show, but that's a very different show, than this show. This is undercover police work, but I think there's an emptiness to the way this show is filmed. There's a hollowness to L.A. There's a vastness. It's not just palm trees and Beverly Hills. It's more of the downtown landscape and the smog, and the filtration of that we enter. A little bit of Michael Mann's Collateral that we enter as well. It's that L.A. that I think we're aiming for.

Nicki Aycox: The side that really hasn't been portrayed, I don't think.

Omari Hardwick: Yeah. I mean, besides movies.

Have you been able to bring much to your characters, or has it been pretty much on the page?

Nicki Aycox: They give us a lot of freedom. They definitely ask us what we feel, what we think and we can give our opinions on what we want and talk it through. There's not a lot of time, and you have to make a decision fast.

Any specifics?

Logan Marshall-Green: It takes awhile for writers to get to know actors' rhythms, not just as actors, but what they're bringing to the character, so I think it takes a few episodes for the writing room to catch up to the actors, and vice versa. One example is, one of the writers came up to me during a scene and he said, 'You know,"... they allow us to ad-lib and put our own sheen on it, but he came up and said, 'You come off as you're a little bit misogynistic.' I said, 'Good. I actually do think he's a misogynist.' Personally, I'm attracted to flaws, but I think he's still likelanable. But, ever since then, I've been getting, let's say, "honey's" in there. That marriage starts to form and you have an ebb and flow with the writer and you're doing it together.

Dylan McDermott: The weird thing is that Carter is a feminist.

What you're doing, on the show, your characters are always in extreme danger, and I'm wondering what was the most dangerous thing you've ever done in real life?

Logan Marshall-Green: The most dangerous thing? I drank this thing called Shinto. I was in Africa and it was a beer garden in a refugee village. We went and saw this vat filled with maggots and flies and it was called Shinto. I turned and all of the sudden, there was a glass of it in my face and I said yes. I drank it and I wished I hadn't, and I think that might have been the most dangerous thing I've ever done in my life, drink Shinto in a South African refugee village.

Dyan McDermott: For me, it was Steel Magnolias.

(Laughter throughout the entire room.)

Nicki Aycox: Thanks. I've got to follow that. I don't want to follow that. I guess mine was I spent a month down in Rio de Janeiro, working with some street kids, one year. I saw a little bit more than I expected to. It was danger for a good cause, but it was very sad. It was a little more dangerous than what I thought, or I wouldn't have gone, but I made it.

Omari Hardwick: All three, except Steel Magnolias. No, but growing up in Decatur, Georgia, you do some dangerous things. I definitely did my share of dangerous things and I grew up with three boys, so I grew up dangerous. And I ride a motorcycle now, so...

Nicki Aycox: Which is very dangerous in Los Angeles.

Omari Hardwick: Yeah, that's true.

Nicki Aycox: It scares me...

Omari Hardwick:... OK, Nicki. I'll get rid of it... third season.

You mentioned the guest stars earlier, so can you give us a glimpse at some of the guest stars we will be seeing this season?

Omari Hardwick: Oh man. We recently had Michael Biehn, the legendary Michael Biehn, and it was funny because it was an episode that was loaded with my character interacting with him. One day, I think in the makeup trailer, Logan came up to me and said, 'Yo, you're working with Michael Biehn. It's crazy. I'm jealous.' So, we grew up watching him. He was on Aliens, but there's been a slew of them. We've even been fortunate enough to have guest stars that we have personal relationships with, that we've seen on our trajectory to where we are now as actors. We've seen some people that we've worked with and it's just been stellar, man. For the budget, for the time, for the recession, for all that's going on, the caliber has not fallen off.

After the press conference, as is seemingly tradition with TNT press conferences, there was a party that night, this time at Social Hollywood on Sunset Boulevard. It's a tough job, folks, I know, but I felt obliged to attend said party, since I've been to the last two TNT parties and... well, since it was a Saturday night in Hollywood. As always, they had a wonderful setup with tons of food and show-related activities. At the Leverage party, there was a guy (one of the show's consultants) who taught onlookers how to cheat at Texas Hold 'Em and other card trickery. At the Hawthorne party they had amazing back and neck massages. At this party... I got arrested. Just kidding. They did have a nifty little polygraph test that was unfortunately rather accurate, plus lots of wonderful food and drink along with a live performance from a band called The Chelsea Girls, who only played covers that night but, as I was informed later on, are actually touring with Motorhead later in the year. Dang! The four stars of the show were all in attendance as well, and the lovely Nicki Aycox was very kind in thanking all of us for coming, personally, which was just icing on the cake for a great day/night.

Well that about wraps it up for my press conference/party coverage for the new TNT series Dark Blue, which premieres on Wednesday, July 15 at 10 PM ET on TNT, right after the Season 2 premiere of Leverage at 9 PM ET. Peace in. Gallagher out!