Goodbye 'Southland': The stars discuss the cop show's legacy

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Image Credit: Greg Williamson/TNT

Sometimes being great just isn’t good enough. After five years of beautifully crafted storytelling, realistic portrayals, award-worthy performances, and some of the most shocking moments on television, Southland has reached the dreaded end of watch.

The cop show that was watched by few but loved enough for many told the stories of the LAPD in a way that viewers had never seen before. For five short seasons, the perfectly rough-around-the-edges drama sucked fans into the professional and personal lives of its complex heroes. From the rookie cop who lost his moral center to the veteran who tried desperately to find happiness in a sea of devastation, Southland‘s stories left an impact on everyone who chose to partake in the show’s journey.

And now, we say goodbye to Coop, Ben, Sammy, Lydia, Dewey and all those in blue whom we got to know. But before we let go, we chatted with Southland stars Michael Cudlitz, Ben McKenzie, Shawn Hatosy and Regina King for our finale post-mortem, and we asked them about the show’s legacy if this were the end:

Michael Cudlitz: “We’ve gotten a three-year extension on a death notice, so no matter what, we’re thankful to everyone at TNT for that. The network has not asked us to change our vision or do something else that may or may not get better ratings or be easier to market. They have loved the show. They have specifically told us to make the show that we make. And we feel that we’re living and dying by the sword in the sense of we have not compromised. So we can walk away from this at any point feeling that artistically we have set out to do what we wanted to do and achieved it. And we are all extremely, extremely proud of what we have made, as I know is Warner Bros. and TNT. And if we were to have to walk away, we would all be better artists for it and have left a wonderful footprint in this business.”

Ben McKenzie: “I would hope [viewers] take away that it was an honorable show. It was a well-intentioned show that did its best to portray a certain side of law enforcement, particularly LAPD officers and particularly, from my point of view, patrol officers, although there are detectives in it too. And it used some of the cutting-edge things that are happening in television right now — technology, more cutting-edge storytelling, some improvisational dialogue and a real commando mentality — to what had previously been a safer way of shooting these things in less intense, less visceral ways of filming your ‘typical cop show.’ [Southland] brought depth and reality and immediacy to that. That’s what I would hope people would get out of it. I just hope we made a good show and people enjoyed it, and I hope it stands up. I hope people can watch years from now and say ‘That was a good episode,’ ‘I like what they did there,’ ‘I like his performance,’ or ‘I like that shot.’ I think it’s a good show, and I think that the people that really like it really, really like it. I would rather fewer people watched it and loved it for its attempts at authenticity.”

Shawn Hatosy: “It’s rare that you get to create something as artistic as Southland. To me, it feels like art. We all work so hard and being an artist is kind of like being a parent in the way it’s something that comes from within you that you create, you put out there, you nurture, you care for, and truthfully, if you’re good at it, nobody’s going to love it more than you. And that’s the same way with a kid. We had this screening for episodes 9 and 10 and it was just an opportunity. I wanted to look at the people, look them in the eyes, and just enjoy the notion that we created this together, because I do think that in years to come that, people will put Southland on a list of one of the best cop shows ever. So I just wanted to take a moment to look at the people who spent five years working on it and just embrace that a little bit, because you don’t really get a chance to do that. So I was thankful to have that.”

Regina King: “The bar has been set so high with this cast and crew that I can only hope that any project that I work on from here on out can at least come within 70 percent of what we have on Southland. It’s going to be really hard to duplicate that, all the way from the quality of the work to the work ethic of the crew. The LAPD has been so amazingly supportive. I just hope that at this point, if this is the last season, that at least we could get some type of award recognition — Michael could be recognized for an incredible season. If we’re not coming back and that happens, that would mean it would at least feel like all of the work that all of these people have done did not go unnoticed. However, it does not make the show any less fantastic.”

Read more:
‘Southland’ cancelled
‘Southland’ finale post-mortem: Stars talk show’s uncertain future…and John Cooper
‘Southland’ season (or series?) finale: ‘We’re just getting into the meat of who these people are’

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