8 Questions With Jon Tenney of TNT's New PI Series 'King & Maxwell'

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"King & Maxwell" - "Pilot"
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Tonight Sean King and Michelle Maxwell will join the current TV fray of D.C. defenders alongside Kerry Washington and the "Scandal" crew and Claire Danes and the other "Homeland" heroes. However, these two former and somewhat shamed Secret Service agents turned sleuths — created by best-selling author David Baldacci, brought to TV by "NCIS: Los Angeles" creator Shane Brennan, and played by Jon Tenney ("The Closer") and Rebecca Romijn ("X-Men" films, "Ugly Betty") — expose Beltway baddies and keep the capital crime-free using fairly different tactics. They're willing to bend the rules, flirt with ex-boyfriends in high places, throw punches, and use laser pointers as a sniper rifle dot stand-in in a pinch. Plus, King brings a law degree to their snooping stable.

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Tenney spoke with Yahoo! TV exclusively a couple weekends ago at the show's junket in Beverly Hills, and the first case we tried to solve was the mystery of the missing mutant model.

We've been told Rebecca is out of town. You're on your own to sell the show.

I am here solo, which I am sad about but also selfishly [pleased]. I get to say the first word and the last word about "King & Maxwell" and Michelle Maxwell can't say anything, although truthfully I do love to banter with Rebecca.

Your relationship seems so natural in the pilot. Did you know each other previous to working together?

I knew of her. Who doesn't? I knew that she was beautiful and talented, but I didn't realize she was so smart, funny, and down-to-earth. Rebecca is just ... I won the lottery.

[Photos: Model Citizens of Primetime TV

That's a lot more pleasant than showing up and figuring out you hate the actor you have to work with for the next six months to 10 years.

It would be a real drag if we didn't get along, although it would be great for the tell-all book later. But no, it's been fun. Not to say that we aren't all professionals [who] could go to work and act, but it's more fun to get along. It's been fun as we're discovering the show and who these characters are.

Give us the 30-second synopsis of the show.

It's a comedy that keeps you on the edge of your seat. He is the man of words and she is the woman of action. They love each other and hate each other, [yet] they don't know that they love and hate each other.

What drew you to play this character?

The thing that I love about it is that they complement each other really well, but they're not always aware of how much they need each other. And whenever they do realize how much they need each other, it gets them upset because they don't want to admit it. There is this great push-pull above and beyond whatever attraction-nonattraction there is.

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In the premiere, he mentions her messiness as the reason they couldn't be married. Yet their romantic tension is palpable. Will they become more than partners? Do you want that to happen?

But the fact that he's thinking about if they could get married, isn't it interesting? I was talking to someone and they were saying, "So is this ''Moonlighting''?" And no, it's not, in the sense that that show was really all about 'are they or are they not'? I think that's an element that is going to be floating around in the background, and it's going to come forward and back, forward and back. It's certainly not what the whole show is about. It'' about a lot more than that. Their relationship is in some ways even … I don't want to say more complex because God knows love relationships are complex, but there's a mystery every week. There's a crime to be solved, and they work together to do their job. How well they work together or don''t work together will always be in play. And how much they are attracted or not attracted to each other also comes into it. I think that the more we can keep all the tensions — romantic, emotional, career — going, the more we can keep those alive, active, questioning, and unfulfilled, the more fun it's going to be for everybody.

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How is this different from other private detective shows?

The private investigator genre is very familiar in some ways, but [our series is done] in a very contemporary way. It's set in Washington in present day. D.C. is a character in the show in the sense that we are in the world of politics, power, and money. Most of the cases will involve that world. In the pilot, we''re dealing with defense contractors, government contracts, and blackmailing a senator, so that's exciting. Edgar Roy, the character we help the pilot, does come to work for us. At the very end, we say we could use some bookkeeping. He shows up in the next episode, and that's a great relationship, too. The three of us sort of form this family. It's a fun dynamic that we're exploring.

There's an action element to the show. Have you had to do any training?

We have been training, but one of the dynamics is that she is tough and can take care of herself. Michelle Maxwell is the ex-Olympic rower, and she dives in gung ho. She's really fit. Sean King sort of reluctantly agrees to go along, although he's the one that often gets hurt. Isn't that the way it always is? Like OK, I'll back you up but I'm the one that doesn't quite make it. I would prefer not to carry the gun. That's a fun dynamic to play. That's another way that we need each other.

"King & Maxwell" premieres Monday, 6/10 at 10 PM on TNT.

 

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