Today's cuppa: iced tea with peppermint and fizzy cranberry vitamin drink mix — whoo!


It doesn't premiere until next week — but you can watch the pilot now on Hulu — but NBC's LAPD drama "Southland" is getting some buzz, mostly for one of its stars, former "The O.C." heartthrob Ben McKenzie. I'll be highlighting links to my feature story on the show closer to the Thursday premiere, but in the meantime, here are a few tidbits to tide you over.

On why his character, rookie Officer Ben Sherman (named before McKenzie signed on) barely speaks:

Difficult, very difficult, hard to memorize, those lines. There was a little more in the original script that got cut out for time consideration. Happens to everybody. The pilot was pretty long initially. There was a lot of stuff in it.

So what you saw is truly a stripped-down version. But I think it's accurate to the situation, which is, if you're a probationary officer, you don't speak until spoken to. You're trying to earn the respect and the confidence of your training officer and trying to get him to approve you and allow you to actually join the LAPD.

So, you're kind of at his or her mercy, so that leads to a lot of quiet moments.

On whether this was the sort of TV role he was looking for, post-"O.C."

Absolutely, yeah. I wasn't looking to get back into television quite this quickly after doing "The O.C.," only a couple of years later, but my agent sent me the script, and I fell in love with it. The writing is very specific and dense, in a good way.

And there's everything that they're doing with the show in terms of the look of it, the feel of it, the hyper-realistic shooting style, shooting on these new digital Red cameras, allowing scenes to play out, saving the editing for when you really want to increase the pace, not doing a ton of coverage, only when necessary…

On why "Southland" is not like FX's LAPD show, "The Shield":

It's similar, but it's slightly different in the sense that we're not going out of our way to create a Southland

falsely dark image of L.A. "The Shield" was very much interested in corruption in the police department, and how cops, these particular cops, Vic Mackey and all those guys, are constantly jockeying for position and power and running an illegal underground unit within the LAPD.

That's fine, but we're not making that show. Our show paints with a broader brush, in a way. There may very well be an episode where we talk about some of the corruption in the police, but that's not the central focus of the show.

The focus of the show is on various people in the LAPD, from the bottom rung to the lieutenant, and how what they see on a daily basis affects their personal lives.

On doing ride-alongs with real LAPD officers:

It's fascinating. A lot of these guys love telling stories. People say, "How do you get a story out of these guys?" I say, "I sit in a car with them for five minutes." They love telling stories.

Their day is not spent running around, frantically solving crimes. A lot of it is spent wading through, surveiling the area. Maybe they show up to a domestic-violence thing that's already wound down, and there are already officers there…

They've got time on their hands. When things go crazy, they go crazy, but it's an odd, low-level anxiety thing. At any given moment, things can get wild, but the average, everyday moments are kind of slow, so they're happy to tell you stories of the crazy times they've had.

And they're fascinating characters. It's a big department. There are 10,000 officers, and you find all sorts of different people. You'll find the real cowboys, the macho types; and then you'll find the more intellectual types, the quieter types, the family types.

One of the guys I rolled around with was one of the quietest guys in the world — sweet, lives with his family in the house he grew up in, real quiet, real sweet, not at all what you think of when you think of the renegade, the TV cop. But it takes all kinds.

On how knowing this affects how he plays Ben Sherman:


It just reminds you that it's OK to bring your personality to the role that you're playing. That's what these guys are doing. Not everybody is an awesome tough guy. They're not all badasses; they're people who happen to be cops.

Any organization where people where a uniform, and it's kind of militaristic, you can just assume, for some reason, that they're all the same, because they all look the same, because they're wearing the same uniform.
But it's no different than saying that all actors are the same or all gardeners or whatever. It doesn't work.

On why Ben Sherman does not have a mustache, while many real police officers do:

It's true; they do. I thankfully don't have to grow one. I don't think anyone would appreciate that, me or any of the audience.

On wearing all the cop gear:

It feels pretty cool. It takes some getting used to, because it's pretty heavy. There's 10 or 20 pounds worth of stuff on you, between the gun and the bullet clips and the radio … not the clips, clips are what girls put in their hair, the magazines.

On shooting his gun:

I'm all right. I didn't have a lot of experience with handguns. In Texas, all we really fired growing up with shotguns. I'm OK. The Glock's actually a pretty easy gun to shoot with, I feel. The kick is pretty minimal. It's a pretty serviceable, no pun intended, weapon.

On the uniform:

Exactly, the polyester uniform. When it's three in the afternoon on an 85-degree day — that's the hardest part (of the job). It really is very flattering, too.