Shane Brennan knows a thing or two about building romantic tension on procedurals. He shepherded fan-favorite couple "Tiva" for several years on NCIS before teasing Kensi-Deeks fans weekly on NCIS: Los Angeles. And with his new TNT drama King & Maxwell, Brennan is at it again.
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"It's always intrigued me the way people of the opposite sex maneuver and negotiate their lives when they work together," Brennan tells TVGuide.com. "In life, love is the most powerful of all of our emotions. The expectation from the audience is if you put a male and a female character together that there is going to be some sort of sparks at some point. You can't ignore it. You have to confront it."
This time around, Brennan is borrowing characters from a successful series of novels by David Baldacci. Sean King (Jon Tenney) is a former Secret Service agent who was unceremoniously dumped eight years ago after the presidential candidate he was protecting was killed. After a battle with the bottle, he's cleaned up his life, earned a law degree, and is now working as a private investigator with partner Michelle Maxwell (Rebecca Romijn), who also just so happens to be a Secret Service reject. (She let her protectee get kidnapped.)
Brennan, who says he was looking to create a new kind of P.I. show for a while, was immediately intrigued when he read Baldacci's books. "The characters really popped off the page," he says. "P.I.s often end up getting smaller cases; we didn't want to find missing dogs. I was looking for something that had a new edge to it, and because these characters live in Washington D.C. inside the Beltway, it struck me as just being a really, really interesting place for P.I.s to work."
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On the series premiere (Monday at 10/9c, TNT) the duo investigates the murder of one a Sean's good friends, a lawyer whose death seems to be tied to his representation of Edgar Roy (Ryan Hurst), an autistic savant about to be tried as a serial killer. The investigation ultimately uncovers political corruption, high-level defense contracts and more. The plot is borrowed directly from one of Baldacci's books, but not every novel will be a simple case of the week.
"The fans of the books will instantly recognize the characters," he says. "In the first season, we will follow the course of one of the books in which we discover why Sean was let go from the Secret Service. Instead of doing one episode, we take that book and we spread it out over the whole series as an ongoing arc."
Brennan also plans to stretch out the sexual tension as long as he can. "There is a hint of romance in the series, but it's a much, much slower burn," he says. "The audiences that have watched Kensi and Deeks and Ziva and Tony, [will] probably throw their hands in the air in despair because it's slower than those relationships."
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As shows like Bones and Castle have recently proven, partnerships don't have to remain platonic to keep a show on the air. But Romijn suggests there are other reasons why the duo won't immediately hop in the sack. "I think Michelle is very attracted to Sean but will never admit it," she says. "Because she's a former Olympic athlete and was in the Secret Service, Michelle has spent so much of her time being singularly focused [and] she's never allowed time [for] a relationship. So, she won't admit it to herself and might even feel like admitting that is weakness."
That's not to say she doesn't have the ability to run through men. "She's got an active dating life," Romijn says with a laugh. "We meet a lot of guys Michelle has dated."
But that won't necessarily be the biggest obstacle to a possible pairing. "Michelle's issues with the Secret Service are much fresher. They're much more raw for her," Brennan teases. "They happened only 18 months ago, and in her mind, she's only one case away from proving to the Secret Service that she's worthy and they can take her back. [Sean] definitely wrestles with that, and... it becomes an issue between them. Sean would never stand in Michelle's way, but from where he stands, he believes... they can do more good working as P.I.s."
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And even though Sean doesn't necessarily want his old job back, his obsession with finding out the truth about his dismissal will be equally tough on Michelle. "In the books, it's Michelle who pushes him to take a closer look," Romijn says. "In the show, when he starts going down that path again, she's freaked out by it. She thinks it's toxic and unhealthy that he's going down this rabbit hole."
King & Maxwell premieres Monday at 10/9c on TNT.