I spoke with Regina King and Dorian Missick about SouthLAnd. Regina plays Detective Lydia Adams and Dorian plays Detective Robinson. They are new partners and we get to be a part of their new relationship as they begin finding out more about each other. The season premiere is a beautiful one for Adams and her actions say more than her words ever could. It was an honor to speak with both of them. Don’t miss the season premiere of SouthLAnd Tuesday night on TNT.
Lena Lamoray: Now the premiere is fantastic and it really looks like this is going to be the strongest season so far. So what can you tell us about this season and what we have to look forward to from your characters?
Regina King: Well it’s tough for us to – because there’s only so much we can reveal. So whenever we get this question it’s kind of like how do we skirt around it this time?
Dorian Missick: Yeah. It’s like I’ll let you take the lead on that one. I’ll get fired for saying something stupid.
Regina King: Well what we can say is that Robinson, the character that Dorian plays, and Adams definitely come from probably similar beginnings but their adult life outside of the job is very different and you get an opportunity to see how those different family lives inform the way they do their jobs or just their day to day thought. And this is the first time I think with all of the characters or all of the partners that Lydia has, that she’s actually since Russell’s character, you know, just getting a little insight on family life. Russell’s character kind of had a dysfunctional thing happening within his marriage. And then Robinson is the exact opposite. And I think it kind of just makes an interesting balance, you know, kind of like a yin and yang thing.
Lena Lamoray: Regina, can you talk about reuniting with your 227 costar Marla Gibbs?
Regina King: It was sweet. I mean, you know, the cool thing was that she auditioned for that part so it wasn’t like, you know, Regina created this opportunity for Marla to be on the show. She…
Dorian Missick: Oh really?
Regina King: Yeah. She got that part on her own merit. And then they called me and asked me would I be okay with it, after the fact, after, you know, they had decided she was the best for it. And I’m like are you kidding me? Of course.
Dorian Missick: Man that day was surreal for me.
Regina King: Was it really.
Dorian Missick: It was kind of – yeah, because it was kind of early on for me as – I think it was like episode – the second episode or something like that. I don’t remember, but…
Regina King: Yeah. I think you’re right.
Dorian Missick: …I just know that – yeah, I just was like this is a little too much man. I mean I’ve been watching both of them for years and then to have – to see you guys together and the energy between the two of you. It was just – I was like you, this is a lot going on. I enjoyed it. It was one of my favorite days at work period, in my career but definitely on the show. It was a highlight.
Regina King: It was a special moment. It was. And just to see Marla be so – she’s still really sharp. Do you know what I mean? She’s been doing this for a long time and she doesn’t miss a beat. You know, she kind of forgot one of her lines and she just – you would have never known. We knew because obviously we know the dialogue but she’s right in it.
Dorian Missick: Yeah.
More Conference Call Interview Highlights:
Q: Regina, what was it like for you having a male partner this season who’s not Tom Everett Scott?
Regina King: Well this would be the third male partner that I’ve had that’s not Tom Everett Scott. I mean I enjoy every single partner that I’ve had. Dorian and I – the cool thing that Robinson and Adams have that I don’t think you really saw with any of Lydia’s other partners except for Russell, Tom’s character is we kind of have this banter where – since Russell, Robinson is the only person that can kind of make fun of Lydia and she kind of lets him get away with it in her way.
Q: Dorian, you’re joining an already established cast. Does it take a little bit of time for you to find your footing amongst the cast? Or was it right away that you found chemistry?
Dorian Missick: No, I mean, you know, it was – there’s always a struggle when you’re kind of like the new kid on the block. And this particular situation was really extra daunting for me simply because I was a huge fan of the show long before it was even an option of me being a part of it. But everybody on the cast is great. I mean we get a little training at the academy so it gives you the opportunity to get to know everyone and, you know, figure out everybody’s personalities. And Regina and I have a lot friends in common but I had never actually had a chance to meet her until we started training and I think it was ((inaudible)) the first time I’d ever met her. But no, it was cool. I mean everybody is really open and friendly. And so yeah, it was a nice, smooth transition actually.
Q: Regina, what will your tweeting strategy be as the social media ambassador during the SAG Awards. Are you going to be picture heavy or have you not thought about that yet?
Regina King: I’m still figuring it out, you know? I probably will try to be as picture heavy as possible. I think most people, myself included, love to see photographs. Everybody, you know, gets a kick out of seeing photographs especially photographs that you may not actually have the opportunity to capture yourselves. I feel like the more I can give people an idea of what happens visually on the road to the awards the better the outcome will be from my tweeting world. This whole tweeting thing is new for me. I’ve only been doing it for like 3-1/2 months. So I’m still getting the hang of things. My first week in I thought I was sending direct messages and I was sending open tweets. So this – it’ll be fun. I’ll probably find my Twitter voice throughout this SAG journey.
Q: Is there any truth to the rumor that you and Jackee might be getting your own talk show after your stint on Watch What Happens Live?
Regina King: I didn’t know that there was a rumor.
Dorian Missick: I would watch it. I started it.
Regina King: You started it?
Dorian Missick: I started that rumor. Yeah.
Regina King: Funny. As of now that is only a rumor. But hey, you never know. Jackee can handle a show on her own. Definitely.
Dorian Missick: I love that.
Q: Southland has such strong writing and the characters are so strong and nuanced, for both of you as actors do you feel that because of the level of quality that sort of emanates from the show? Do you feel it’s easier to be a part of an ensemble so that you don’t have to carry quite such a heavy load because everything is so good and everyone does such a good job? Or is it easier to play a lead?
Regina King: Well I mean for me my choice was to be in a show that was an ensemble. I’m not really interested in 17 hour days every day. And that’s kind of what you get when, you know, the show is all about you and I just think it’s a little more interesting personally when I’m watching TV and I watch a show and there are quite a few different stories going on. It brings me in more.
Dorian Missick: Yeah. One of the thing that I particularly love about this show, having done other television shows and things like that, is that the writers really do pay a lot of attention to detail and that enables us to kind of feel more taken care of from an acting perspective. You feel more – you feel safer walking into a room every time you get a new script because I know from being on other shows, sometimes you get a script and you want to pray over it before you open it because you have no idea how good or bad it’s going to be. Whereas on this show it’s not like that. And I really appreciate that. You can tell that the writers care about the – about every character and they care about the story lines enough that they, you know, put in energy to develop them. And so that helps. You know, and then – so whether it’s playing a lead character or being a part of an ensemble it – I don’t – it – what the main focus is, is really just the writing. You know, you can be the main person of the show and if the show, you know, is stupid then it’s not that much, you know, you’re not having that much fun from an acting perspective. But here I think that good writing attracts good actors, which attracts good directors. And so just from an artistic standpoint, it’s everything that you want.
Regina King: There’s definitely a trickle down effect.
Q: Regina, do you feel that the writing is better in television or do feature films take priority over that?
Regina King: I think right now as far as actors are concerned I think we just want – we just are looking for things with good writing just like great characters. And just with all the different cable networks there just happens to be in television right now, especially on the cable networks, you know, they’re just writing more that’s interesting for actors. That’s why you’re seeing so many movie actors on TV. I’m not saying that I’m giving up on movies or anything like that. I just am going wherever the art is inspiring. And my journey right now has been it’s inspired me the most, you know, on Southland. But there’s just like a lot of great shows on TV now and there’s not that line that used to be there like film actors were just film actors and television actors were just television actors and there was a definitive line. Now that’s all gray. You know, if it’s good work you’re going to respond.
Dorian Missick: Period. Yeah.
Regina King: Yeah.
Dorian Missick: And I totally agree with that. It’s about the writing. I mean there’s good writing and bad writing in all mediums. You know, coming from the theater I’ve done some really bad plays and that’s the worst because you’re stuck saying these terrible lines for like six to eight weeks, maybe a month. So I think any actor worth his salt they just – they chase after good stories and good characters. Just right now it’s happening a lot in cable television particularly but it’s happening a lot on screen. And then, you know, I think the film industry is going to have to shrink to a certain extent because these big event movies aren’t making the money that they wanted to make in the past and the writing isn’t that good oftentimes. And so now it’s like there’s a resurgence of independent films and television happening. I think we’re in a great time creatively.
Q: Speaking of independent films, there are a lot of actors who are sort of taking the leap to develop and produce themselves. Are either of you moving in that direction, establishing your own production companies and developing more?
Regina King: Yeah, definitely. I started a production company a few years ago with my sister and have been developing a project that has been very close to us for a couple of years and I’m hoping that everything will be in place, that once we wrap Southland on – in February that it’ll be my theatrical directorial debut. It’s a book called Let the Church Say Amen. It’s an author named ReShonda Tate Billingsley. She’s written several books and this is the first book that opens you up to a particular character named Rachel who is kind of the lead character in a lot of her other stories. And it was an Essence bestseller and a bestseller on a few other lists. But it’s about a father who’s a pastor who’s kind of neglected his family to put time into building his church. And as a result, he now has this dysfunctional family so we kind of meet this family right in the height of their dysfunction. And we see how they deal with that. And I feel like although the characters – the family is a black family that theme is a universal theme where the matriarch or the patriarch neglects their family and the family suffers. You don’t have to just be black or white or Asian to understand or relate to that experience. So I felt like this would be a great thing for my first piece to tackle because it did – does have such a universal theme.
Dorian Missick: That sounds dope.
Regina King: And yeah…
Dorian Missick: Yep.
Regina King: …I’m excited about.
Dorian Missick: I also – yeah I also have a production company. And we’ve been developing for the last couple of years a project about the ’70s writer (Donald Duane). We’re working on that. Obviously this is the first time I ever talked about it. So yeah, it’s myself and Pete Chatmon, the guy who directed me and Zoe Saldana in Premium. So we’ve been developing that for a couple of years and we’re looking to shoot more than likely in the next eight to – seven, eight months.
Regina King: Yeah, it’s definitely a grind but it’s a natural – I think move for actors to be more – to have more of a role behind the camera, especially in a time when the – where media is going is, you know, with reality TV and with the internet, you know, a lot of people don’t even have cable anymore or TV. They watch everything on the internet. So it’s just I think smart for entertainers to make themselves more familiar and educate themselves on the world of production so that when the shift happens hard core we still remain a part of it.
Dorian Missick: Right.
Regina King: The shift to new media.
Dorian Missick: It’s just responsible. It’s a responsible move in any industry, particularly this industry but in any industry. It’s responsible for you to learn the ins and outs even above and beyond what your job calls for because as the economy changes and as the structure of any kind of job changes you want to be well versed in all aspects of it so that you can continue to keep yourself around, you know, that you can still be – continue to be valuable. Because if you’re only – if you’re a one trick pony, once people are done with that trick you’ve got to find something else to do.
Q: It would seem that because Southland is so critically acclaimed that there would be more interest from the various award shows. Why hasn’t the show gotten the kind of press that it deserves on that particular level, from the Emmys, from SAG, from all of the other award shows?
Regina King: You know, that’s a hard question to answer. I mean honestly I don’t know. We love what we’re doing, we – we’re really proud of it. We have a crew that like works – an amazing crew that because they are so amazing. You know, the crew is just so amazing and it’s – when, you know, when a show gets recognized it also is a pat on the back for them as well because it would not be wonderful just because it’s great actors. There are a whole lot of other pieces that go into making a show a good show. So of course I’d like to see the show recognized just as a cast member but I would like to see it recognized just because there are so many people that are involved with making this piece of art a great piece of art, a great piece of work. So I don’t know why but even though we’re not – we have not been recognized it does not make us feel like – make us feel any less. You know, we still feel very strong about our show and feel like we are putting, you know, something good on TV. And, you know, you – we have comfort in that.
Dorian Missick: You know, that – which is – that’s a plus. I mean from a fan turned cast member’s perspective I mean a lot of the fan favorite shows such as, you know, The Wire or shows that are like grittier and more down to earth and similar to our show, a lot of times they don’t get recognized until after a few seasons. And so something has to happen that the buzz picks up. But I mean the buzz on the street about the show jus from a fan perspective is hey, I mean people really love it. We have very loyal fans of the show. So I think it’s only a matter of time as long as we continue to do good work. We know that it touches a certain audience and, you know, after a while the Academy and, you know, all of the different nominating committees, I have full confidence that they’ll turn around and start noticing us. Not that it’ll make…
Regina King: And they might not. They may not. I mean, you know, like – as you said, you know, The Wire was probably – if you talk to half the people in the US and you ask them what are their top five favorite shows, you know, over the past ten years and The Wire is in their top five and it never received any awards or nominations. So, you know, I think the most important thing is, you know, what Dorian said, that the – on the street, you know, we are getting feedback that let’s us know that we are doing, you know, good work. And you’ve got to be satisfied with that because they’re the reason why we’re on. Because they’re watching the show. You know, there are some shows that get recognized by the Emmys and things like that and then they’re canceled. So…
Dorian Missick: Right.
Regina King: …if I had to choose between being on air or an Emmy I’m going to take being on air.
Dorian Missick: Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. I’m going to go with that one too. Yeah. There ain’t nothing cool about sitting at home and everybody telling you how cool you are.
Regina King: Right.
Dorian Missick: I’d rather go to work.
Regina King: Exactly.
Regina King & Dorian Missick Interview, “Detective Lydia Adams” & “Detective Robinson”
SouthLAnd Season 4 Premieres Tuesday Night, January 17th at 10 EST on TNT
December 19, 2011