Southland's Michael Cudlitz Previews the 'Satisfying, If Not Aggravating' (Series?) Finale

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Eye on Emmy: Southland's Michael Cudlitz on Cooper's Journey and That Killer (?) Ending
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Eye on Emmy: Southland's Michael Cudlitz on Cooper's Journey and That Killer (?) Ending

The cops of Southland sign off this Wednesday (TNT, 10/9c) with an intense season — or is it series? — finale.

If this is the bubble show’s last year on the beat, the police drama is going out big with “42 minutes of crisis,” previews Michael Cudlitz.

Below, TVLine talks to the actor about his Officer Cooper’s recent trauma, how it’ll impact him going forward and why the season ender will satisfy and aggravate viewers.

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TVLINE | Last week’s episode was so harrowing. How physically and emotionally daunting was it to film?
It was very physically draining. The cool thing about it was that [director/executive producer] Chris Chulack shot it in chronological order. Typically, we’ll jump around, but we actually went in order with this, which helps out a lot. It’s intense stuff. Everybody brought their game. The guys who played the meth heads [Tobias Jelinek and Ryan Dorsey] were phenomenal. We could not have done what we did were it not for them. And obviously, Anthony [Ruivivar as Hank Lucero] was incredible, as well. Just a really wonderful experience. As an actor, you dream of those kinds of situations where you can play like that. I’m very, very proud of that episode.

TVLINE | You were in a really awkward position for most of the episode.
It’s good because we got to call back on John’s physical issues that he had. They kept beating him on his back. For the audience, that’s pretty rough because they’re with him. They know exactly what’s going on. But yeah, being dragged around basically in your underwear on carpet… Carpet burns and being shellacked around and bruised up and cut and outside, it’s very physically demanding. And it was awesome.

TVLINE | Did you and Anthony have a heads up that this was how their partnership was going to wrap up?
I knew a little bit earlier than him, but we both didn’t know what was really going to happen. Chris has been wanting to do an homage to The Onion Field story for a while. The script has to be right. It really is potentially very, very risky in the sense [that] to do it right is very hard. I found out around Episode 8-ish, maybe the end of [Episode] 7, that it was maybe going to be happening. … Anthony found out, I think, one episode prior. But he knew he was only signed on for one season. As an actor, coming into something like that — a cop show that has already killed one of its lead actors — it can go any way.

TVLINE | When the finale picks up, is Cooper still in the thick of it? Or is there a time jump?
We come back 18 days later. He thinks he’s ready to start going back to work and has his act together. On the surface, everything seems fine. The department still won’t let him carry a weapon and won’t put him on full active duty. So there’s some issues there. Over the course of the episode, you realize whether he is or is not ready to be back on the streets again. Across the board, it’s an intense episode. It’s going to be a very… [Pauses] satisfying, if not aggravating episode.

TVLINE | Uh-oh. Why aggravating?
It’s just there’s a lot to wrap up. It’s very intense because every relationship is at critical mass in the show. [Ben and Sammy's] partnership is at crisis point. They will have some resolve to that. There’s a lot, a lot of stuff going on. This week is more balanced between the three cars in telling those stories and making it so that everyone feels satisfied for this being a season finale.

TVLINE | Does Cooper have a new partner now?
He’s not put out on the streets. He’s working behind a desk. If you remember, he’s spoken about working behind a desk in Season 2 or 3. It’s probably the worst thing he could ever imagine happening to himself. So he’s not necessarily dealing with that the best he can. But he does know it’s part of the process of getting back. We’ll see how this event will shape who he’s going to be from this point forward.

TVLINE | Does what happened affect his plans to want to start a family with his ex?
It definitely feeds into what’s going on with his family and how he wants to move forward from here in his future relationships. Some choices are his, and some choices are out of his control.

TVLINE | It said a lot that Ben went off to help find Cooper even though they weren’t on the best of terms. Do they get a moment in the finale?
No. [Laughs]

TVLINE | You’re breaking my heart here.
[Gruff voice] Life’s like that sometimes, sweetheart!

TVLINE | If this is the final season, how do you feel about the way Cooper’s arc wraps up?
It’s been a fantastic ride, if this were to be the end. But I’ve said this before: We go through this every year. We’re always on the bubble. We’re always on the verge of cancellation. We actually have been canceled once. So I’m very pleased [with] where Cooper is right now. I look forward to seeing where he goes.


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