With two episodes left — “Risk,” airing Tuesday, March 13, and “Thursday,” airing Tuesday, March 20 — in the current, fourth season of TNT’s “Southland,” things are getting a little out of control for handsome rookie LAPD Officer Ben Sherman (Ben McKenzie).
He’s wound up on viral video for striking a teenage girl, slept with several women (including someone else’s wife, causing him to bail out of a window in his underwear) and badly beaten a pimp threatening a prostitute and her daughter.
On top of it, he angered his new partner, former detective Sammy Bryant (Shawn Hatosy), by wrongly accusing him of planting evidence. But it may be Sammy — who’s had his own problems on the job after the murder of his detective partner — who may be the only one that can keep Ben from gong entirely off the rails.
“Sammy didn’t just end up back on patrol,” Hatosy tells Zap2it, “I really believe that his decision to go back was based on, yes, what happened back last season, but also because he believes that he can help the younger guys. Ben, being a P2, in his probation period, he’s still a rookie. There’s a lot to be learned out there.
“Sammy, being a senior officer — look, in my opinion, I don’t think he’s been the greatest senior officer the LAPD’s ever seen. There’s still some room to grow there. By the end of the season, Sammy makes some good choices as far as leadership goes.”
In previous seasons, Ben looked like the sensible, sane one next to his training officer, John Cooper (Michael Cudlitz), who was dealing with a bad back and issues with painkillers. But this season, Cooper is feeling good and dealing well with his new partner (Lucy Liu), and the clean-cut Ben is starting to come apart at the seams.
“It’s pretty damn interesting,” says Hatosy, “to tell you the truth. Coming into this partnership, you automatically think that you know what each cop is. Ben came out of episode two and punched a girl in the face. He accused Sammy of planting evidence and then, in the last episode, he took matters into his own hands, went out into the streets and beat up a pimp.
“As messed up as Sammy has been, there is a line for him, and he doesn’t cross it. He doesn’t break the rules. He’s trying to do the best he can. Look, he plays with the rules, but he’s pretty much a by-the-book cop. Now you’re getting to see what kind of cop Ben really is.”
Asked what kind of cop that is, Hatosy says, “He’s going to have some problems, personally. Whether or not he’s going to figure that out, I don’t know. He’s a little reckless. Sammy’s trying to tell him. He’s trying to show him the way.
“The next episode, it’s the closest Sammy ever comes to revealing something about himself, because he’s a guy who took matters into his own hands and didn’t clock out when it was time to clock out and became personally involved in a case.
“Sammy’s trying to say to him, ‘Look, if you need somebody to talk to, I’m your guy. I’ve been through this stuff. Just listen to me; hear me out.’ It just becomes a question of whether or not Ben’s going to listen.”
Ultimately, being honest about what goes on behind the badge means a lot to Hatosy.
“I have a totally different respect for [the LAPD],” he says. “When I drive down the street, I want to wave at them and say thanks. They’ve been nothing but supportive of this show, and I appreciate it. We try. We try our best to make them look human and realistic.
“What they do isn’t easy, and we care. This project means so much to all of us: the actors and the crew, the producers, the writers. When you spend so much time playing a character who is a police officer, and it’s welcomed by the Los Angeles police community, it means a lot to us.
“I have nothing but respect.”