“Murder in the First” isn’t your typical detective or legal drama. Unlike police procedurals that tend to introduce a brand new case each week, TNT’s new series, from creators Steven Bochco and Eric Lodal, is using an entire season to follow two murders that seem to be linked.
The prime suspect in the investigation is Silicon Valley technology prodigy Erich Blunt, played by Tom Felton. Felton, known primarily for his work as Draco Malfoy in the “Harry Potter” franchise, is making his first regular TV role count.
Zap2it was among select media outlets invited to the set of “Murder in the First” to speak with Felton and his castmates about the show, working working with Bochco and who they think the killer is.
“This is very different from anything I’ve done previously,” Felton says while surrounded by co-stars James Cromwell, Richard Sciff, Steven Weber, Bess Rous and Currie Graham. “Not just the very talented cast, but the crew as well and what it takes to get nine or ten more pages done a day.”
Of course, it wasn’t just working with a veteran cast and crew that led Felton to the series. The prospect of starring in a 10-episode story arc was appealing. “This is my first experience of this and 10 episodes feels like a good chunk and a good body,” he says.
Even still, the actors are kept pretty in the dark about the direction their character is headed. “They’re reluctant to tell us what happens in the future episodes, so we’re learning as we go,” he says. “Each episode is about a new education of into the characters and the stories. It certainly went a different way than I was expecting which makes it a little nerve-racking at first, but I find it exciting.”
“When you open up the script each week, for me, I’m a little shocked to learn what I’ve done,” Weber adds. “What I read has happened in the past, so I have to kind of scramble to at least incorporate that a bit into the present.”
While they may be learning the fate of their characters as they go, it doesn’t mean there isn’t at least a little planning ahead. “I think we all try to inject a few idiosyncratic touches,” Weber says. “So should we turn out to be the killer, it’ll all make sense.”
“We’ve all speculated and pointed fingers,” Felton jokes about the guilty party. “We’ve been through every possible scenario, I think, so I’m sure one of us has to be right.”
Even if he’s not a killer, one of the guiltiest of the bunch may be Blunt’s attorney William Daniels, portrayed by Cromwell. In a series featuring manipulation on so many levels, Cromwell sees something others might miss.
“I wonder if the audience will get how big a manipulator my character really is?” he wonders as the cast sits in the courtroom set. “Since we have this sort of glorified version of the justice system, justice will be done and most of the manipulation, as far as I can see, happens in here.”
Seeing the great detail in both the police investigation and the courtroom is an interesting combination, according to Graham. “I think this marries those two genres in that we get to see both sides of what it takes to really get someone convicted, beyond reasonable doubt,” he says. “How hard that really is to do and the amount of police work that goes into it.”
“This is what Bochco’s always done, as far back as ‘Hill Street Blues’,” Weber points out. “You see how the sausage is made … In a way, I feel the 10-episode length of this series helps the creative process in that respect.”
One thing they can all agree on is how special it is to be working on a show with Bochco. To the question of what they’ve been able to learn from him during production of the series, it’s Schiff who phrases it best. “That is doesn’t have to be that hard. That you can be nice and be great at the same time. That you can be civil to your crew and to your cast,” he says. “That you can treat people like human beings and still be an artist and still be a businessman.”
“Murder in the First” premieres Monday, June 9, at 10 p.m. ET/PT on TNT.