"SouthLAnd" aims to get cops' lives right E-mail

Actor Michael Cudlitz, who plays Officer John Cooper on TNT's "SouthLAnd", recently sat down with American Police Beat's Greg Bogosian for an exclusive interview.  That interview, as it appears in our June 2010 issue, follows:


Q Many officers out there say that you've got the role of the veteran FTO down more accurately than they've ever seen it done. How did you prepare for the role?

A It's about not being afraid to be politically incorrect. People either love what I'm doing or they hate it. A lot of what gets done in law enforcement is something the public doesn't understand, which is too bad for them.


Once we were cast in these roles, we had an amazing resource available to us - the Los Angeles Police Department.
Chic Daniel, who headed up the training, and is our technical adviser - he's married to Sheila Daniel, who spent fifteen years or so at the academy training people during their first six months.

Chic [is] a retired veteran who served in everything from uniform to SWAT to the DEA: he had a lot of experience.
The idea that the law enforcement community has not been portrayed accurately on television has bothered people over the years. Everyone saw an opportunity with this show to do it properly.

Q Now that you play Cooper, what are your thoughts about real cops?

A I had no idea what kind of stress these men and women [are under]. You pull up at a stoplight and all of a sudden three guys run up to the car. I mean, holy cow, I'm sh#@%ing my pants and the Sergeant I'm driving around with is just like "yeah, what's going on?" They have no idea what these people are running up to do. It's a really strange dynamic - you're vulnerable, yet you're in charge.

It's a pressure cooker. I don't know how they do it and they still remain positive. They don't sort of hate society, and that blows my mind. Even in the worst neighborhoods, there's this openness and willingness to explain what they do.

Q In the pilot, there was an officer-involved shooting where both an officer is shot and a rookie, "Ben," shoots the suspect. What was it like to work through that scene?

A It's a rough day even for me, even up until before the shooting. I mean, this is not a typical day that this kind of thing goes on. When we go out behind this gangbanger's house, things get crazy.

A cop gets shot, [Ben] takes the suspect down.

His performance has been exemplary, and I think that what Cooper sees in him is the potential to be an outstanding officer.

This is a defining point, this is the kind of thing that never should ever happen in your entire career, and it's happened on your first day.

So I have to connect with him and try to give him some insight before the IA guys get a hold of him.

Q So, are you seeing any "professional courtesy" when you run into officers on the street now?

A [Laughs] No, actually, I got a ticket. I got pulled over for tinted windows. Tinted windows are illegal in California, so I will take the ticket.

He didn't look at me until he had me sign it and handed me my copy. Then he locked eyes with me, and stared at me for a second, and as quick as you could say "thank you very much, have a nice day," he was gone.

Q If you had one thing to say to all the law enforcement professionals out there, what would it be?

A Thank you, because we are allowed to live our lives the way we choose to live our lives because these men and women exist. And the second thing is, there's [800,000] of you, if each of you watches us with your significant other, that's [almost two] million people, this show will be on for a very long time. We take a lot of care that every scene we look at, [we do it] tactically and from a safety perspective.

We're just trying to make it as realistic as we can both in terms of what goes on with the job and what things are like in these guys' everyday lives.

Note: interview was edited and condensed.

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