Southland Preview: Michael Cudlitz on Cooper's Future on the Force and Breaking in His New Boot

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Southland's Regina King on the Show's Uncertain Future and Stepping Behind the Camera
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Southland's Regina King on the Show's Uncertain Future and Stepping Behind the Camera

Southland is back on the beat this Wednesday (TNT, 10/9c), protecting and serving the people of Los Angeles.

A lot has changed, professionally and personally, for the series’ officers since we last saw them. Michael Cudlitz gives TVLine the scoop on the criminally underrated drama’s fifth season, including insight into John Cooper’s personal life, and makes a case for why the upcoming episodes are the series’ best yet.

VIDEO | Southland Exclusive: Lydia Returns to Work, Cooper Lays Down the Law

BACK IN BLUE | Picking up “six months to a year” later, all the characters have “moved forward in their relationships,” previews Cudlitz. While some LAPDers have grown in good ways, others have made questionable choices, which makes for more of the edgy, complex storylines that fans have come to expect. There’s no easy answers, especially for cops like Ben Sherman (played by Ben McKenzie), who finds himself in a messy situation thanks to his shady new police pal (guest star Chad Michael Murray). “That’s one of [Southland's] strengths actually — that it does present the moral and very ambiguous life choices and lets you decide on your own how you feel about these things,” says Cudlitz, who praises the network for not shying away from that grit. “From an advertising standpoint, I think TNT has certainly embraced the darkness of this year. The on-air campaign that they have is very representative of the show,” he adds.

GOING DEEP | If you’re a fan of Southland‘s brief glimpses into the personal lives of its officers and detectives, we have some very good news: “It may be one of our strongest, more balanced seasons to date and very internal, in a lot of ways, because it’s a lot more character stuff,” previews Cudlitz. The season opener even features a rare and revealing peek at John Cooper at home and the toll that his work has on his romantic relationship. “Last year, we got away from that a little bit,” he continues. “This year, we’re going to go deeper into how these crimes — and how this lifestyle — affects each of our officers personally and what is going on in their personal lives.”

RELATED | Exclusive: Southland Elevates C. Thomas Howell to Series Regular in Season 5

IN THE DRIVER’S SEAT | Season 5 picks up with Cooper doing what he does best: training a new boot named Steele (Derek Ray, pictured on the left). “He’s an ex-Iraqi war vet who’s basically decided to go into policing as a career because it pays well and he thought, ‘I can do it,’” describes Cudlitz. But what Steele thought would be a smooth career change “turns out to not be such an easy transition,” Cudlitz says. “We realize he is not fully adjusted from what he has experienced [in Iraq]… There’s a huge difference in wartime soldiering and peacetime civil policing. He really can’t separate those two. It’s a really interesting dynamic to see the things that Cooper will tolerate [versus the] things that this guy won’t tolerate.”

THE END IS NEAR | Last season’s “Legacy” episode sets the stage for Cooper’s contemplative arc this year. “Even if he has however many years left on the force, he knows he’s at the tail end of his career,” explains the actor. “He’s looking back at life. He’s a middle-aged gay man who is not in a stable relationship, doesn’t have kids… So once he retires, what does he have? What will there be at the end of it? What is his legacy? What has he achieved? What has he not achieved? Is the world as he thinks it is? Has he made a difference?” In typical Southland style, there will be “a lot of questions [and] not a lot of answers you were expecting,” Cudlitz says.


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