Congratulations on Southland's renewal. When did you find out?
I had heard things were moving in a very positive direction, then late Friday night my agent called. And I felt OK, this is really happening. I knew that they were negotiating and that it was looking really good. I heard officially when everybody else did on Monday. I'm just so, so happy and grateful to TNT. The fan support, too, has been so moving, with their tweeting and the petition. I feel that we're like the little engine that could.
Why do you think you were picked up?
Michael Wright (programming chief for TNT, TBS and TCM) was very clear in his statement that it's a show that he feels is worthwhile. I got a call from [Warner Bros. TV president] Peter Roth and he just said, "Sometimes quality trumps everything". But it must be doing well enough. The numbers on DVR were excellent.
Has TNT asked for changes in the show, or for a cut in budget?
They haven't asked for anything yet. We knew going in that their budget is less than a network. It's the rules of the game. If need be, we'll get in a room and figure out.
Are you getting the cast that you want back?
Oh sure. I think people were happily under contract. Those who aren't would be thrilled to come back as well. There were actors who wouldn't even read things for second position. They were like, "I'm not putting the whammy on this. This is the character I love playing. I'm not entertaining offers until I know for certain." It was really moving. We're quite a little family.
It's a big family, but will it be smaller in Season 3 to keep the budget low?
There are hard decisions we're going to have to make, the three executive producers. But it's kind of a run and gun show. We don't have make-up trailers; there's not a lot of indulgent excess. We're used to being lean and mean. We were the first shows to shoot on the red camera, a digital camera that's a lot less expensive and gives us a gritty real look. We're not worried.
Were you optimistic enough to start working out stories?
Yes. I've had an ongoing dialogue with Cheo Hodari Coker, one of our writers.
Can you spill?
Not yet. (Laughs) John Wells and Chris Chulak and I haven't gotten together yet.
Well, what worked best for you last season?
People loved the relationship between John (Michael Cudlitz) and Ben (Benjamin McKenzie). The fan support has been enormous. You listen to the fans and you listen to your heart. Lydia (Regina King) is an incredible character in her professional and personal quests. Those are certainly primary to what we're doing. Shawn Hatosy, who plays Sammy, hit it out of the park and Arija Barelkis, Chickie, stepped up. Gang stories are definitely going to continue to be a big part of the show. We have to have conversations about for instance, how much serialization we can do.
Your fans don't seem to be too wild about the character Tammi (Emily Bergl).
It's funny; Tammi is a character you love to hate. They'd miss her if she's gone. It's kind of like C. Thomas Howell, you've got to have someone you love to hate. We have some very interesting ideas for her that we were getting to when we were shut down.
January 2011 seems a long time to wait.
I know some fans are unhappy, but it will be worth the wait. It gives us time to get out in the field, and make sure that each episode will be better than the last. It's going to work out beautifully.
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