Where you know Kevin Alejandro from is a kind of Rorschach Test for your TV viewing habits: To you, he may be Hilda’s late husband Santos on Ugly Betty, or Celia’s passive-aggressive Mexican kidnapper on Weeds, or gangland police detective Nate Moretta on Southland. And now he’s juggling two cable favorites with TNT rebooting the formerly-on-NBC Southland and HBO’s True Blood hiring him as a new love interest for blood dealer/short-order cook/male prostitute Lafayette. He called us from the set of the steamy vampire drama — which returns for season 3 this summer — to chat about fighting gang warfare (which comes to a head on tonight’s Southland, at 10 p.m. on TNT) and wooing Bon Temps’ vampiest multitasker.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: How has Southland‘s switch from NBC to TNT been?
KEVIN ALEJANDRO: We’re finally at a place where everyone understands the show we’re trying to make and we can make it our way. They seem to understand it a little better. They’re a little edgier.
Does that mean more swearing and nudity?
I’m not sure about that. But there will be a lot more rawness.
Tonight’s episode has a lot of that already, with your character and his partner discovering a cache of gang weaponry. How do you prepare for all this intense, gritty stuff?
We’re really out there, we’re really in those territories surrounded by people who are reformed gang members. That’s reality, and that’s what makes this show so great. All of us went through pretty extensive research. We did a lot of ride-alongs and late-night shifts that go from evening well into the morning when all of the bad stuff happens. We did fly-alongs with the helicopters and went through really intense weapons training. We went through police academy school. Some actual instructors came in and taught us what they teach their new recruits. Along with the reformed gang members who are extras, a lot of our background people are off-duty police officers and detectives.
How are you handling the transition from such a starkly realistic show to, well, True Blood?
They’re really completely opposite characters. It’s what every actor really wants.
What can you tell us about your character?
I’m introduced pretty early in this next season as a caretaker for Lafayette’s mother, who’s played by Alfre Woodard. I’m his love interest, and that’s all I can say. It unwinds tremendously – I mean, you know True Blood. There’s a lot of stuff going on. I got lucky. It’s one of the shows that I watch and love, and now I get to be here.
Is your character a vampire?
That I cannot tell you. I really don’t know. They’re really good at keeping it secret from everyone. I think it’s kind-of cool not knowing.
Photo Credit: Chris Haston/NBC