As the second season of "Major Crimes" opens, the crack LAPD team headed by Capt. Sharon Raydor (Mary McDonnell) seems to have finally adjusted to last year's leadership change.
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"I certainly wouldn't say it is happy-go-lucky [at work], but I certainly think that they found a way to work well together for the most part. The crimes and life are bigger than them," McDonnell explained at a junket promoting TNT's top-rated drama earlier this month. "So whatever we were dealing with has abated a bit and people are working very deeply. That doesn't mean there won't be any issues."
Tony Denison (Lt. Andy Flynn) added, "There is still that little bit of friction that goes on that I've seen in the writing, but it's not animosity like it was the first year, which made for interesting television. But James (Duff, the creator/writer/producer) keeps finding a way to make it interesting."
G.W. Bailey (Lt. Provenza) chocks up the attitude shift and what he describes as Season 2's workplace "domesticity" to the natural tendency to let your personal life bleed into your work hours. "I think we've been domesticated a little bit, which is wonderful. At any job [where] you are that close with people, what happens in their personal lives is going to spill over. There's just no way it can't," Bailey reasoned. "There's a whole wonderful consistent second story that has to do with Capt. Raydor's life and how it relates to us, and it does. It happens with us, too. The episode that we're shooting right now, there's some personal stuff in Flynn's life that spills over into our workplace."
It also helps that Raydor has proved herself a dedicated and capable boss. "Flynn and Raydor could have easily been at odds the whole season, except very early on James put this one scene in there where suddenly Flynn [realized], 'Wow, she really knows what she's doing.' That respect immediately overcame the "Oh, now she's in charge?" thing.
The introduction of Rusty Beck (Graham Patrick Martin), the homeless teen taken in by Raydor after he becomes a key witness in a murder trial, is part of the reason for the sea change. "Rusty has certainly served as a catalyst for our relationships. I was not willing at all to give her any slack, not an ounce, until I saw how she was affected by this kid," Bailey said. "That was really the opening for me and still is."
Despite Raydor officially being Rusty's guardian, he is a bit of a team mascot. "He's our collective child. He brings out feelings and stimulates openness in us. He provokes a deeper connection that I think has helped us work together, McDonnell theorizes. "He's been our link in a way. It's a beautiful thing that children do. They link you to your best self."
Also helping bring the team together is the introduction of a common foil — new Deputy District Attorney Emma Rios (Nadine Velazquez). She challenges Raydor's intentions and leadership and generally shakes up how things are done in the department.
"I don't think she is against anyone. She's for herself," McDonnell said. "She's for how she perceives that the district attorney's office needs to operate, but given her personality, her youth, and her ideas about things, she does run up against all of us at one point or another."
Bailey jokingly added with a giant guffaw, "She's pretty much a universal irritant, but wonderfully so."
He is also the first to remind that despite a shade more insight into these cops' off-duty drama, "Major Crimes" will still bring that cop series slice of life, or more accurately, death. "There are some more personal issues at stake [but] the driving force is still that this is a procedural, a crime drama. There's no question about that. We make that clear when we open with a dead body, and there's always a dead body."
The department will take on some of the most challenging cases thus far, including the killing of a big-time Hollywood film producer's wife, an apparent murder-suicide, and a ride-along that leads to a startling discovery. Denison most enjoyed working on the episode that features guest star Elizabeth Pena as "deliciously evil. [She's a] heartless mother who makes Mommy Dearest seem like Mary Poppins."
Bailey continued, "Anytime you can watch Elisabeth Pena work, she's quite a treat."
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McDonnell has started to notice a theme running through Year 2's villainy. "Every crime and murder is a tragedy, but it seems to me that the crimes have an element, an underlying story of innocence so far in the victims that is extraordinary. It ties in to what G.W. was saying. There is this family [theme]. Family is very important this season, and that is true in our division, in the families of the victims, and in the families of the criminals. There are some really truly horrific moments."
"Major Crimes" premieres the "Final Cut" episode June 10 at 9 PM on TNT.