'Southland' one year later: EP, stars weigh in on the odds of a movie
One year ago today, viewers watched their final hour of TNT’s Southland. After five seasons of barely surviving (and once getting canceled by NBC), arguably one of the greatest cop shows of all time went out with a literal bang when fan favorite John Cooper was shot. It was the perfect cliffhanger to end the season, but not one that fans wanted to end the series. And the feeling was mutual among Southland‘s cast and crew.
Nearly a month later, when news spread that TNT canceled Southland, rumors began about a Southland movie, or at the very least, another episode to answer some burning questions: Is John Cooper alive? Can Ben Sherman be forgiven? Has Lydia really found happiness? And what is Sammy going to do next? But sadly, nothing ever came of the so-called “wrap-up” to the series.
“There were some ramblings and rumblings about it when we were finishing up, because I think Veronica Mars made such a big deal on Kickstarter,” Shawn Hatosy (Sammy Bryant) said. “We were like, ‘Oh, if people will do that, they’d love to see this show turn into a movie!’ We were very excitedly talking about how it would come to fruition, then I haven’t heard from anybody in about a year,” he said with a laugh.
“I certainly had the hopes that maybe we could do a Kickstarter thing and get some money raised or that maybe TNT would say, ‘Hey you’re not picked up for a whole season, but come back and wrap it up,” Executive Producer Christopher Chulack added. “There was that hope flying around, but nothing came to fruition, and then that has since died down.”
So is the hope still alive? Chulack certainly isn’t ruling anything out. “That’s not to say that I wouldn’t still try to promote that idea, or if anybody wanted to get involved and raise money or try to go out and sell it hard, I’d certainly be on board with that.” And he isn’t the only one. “If there is a show geared towards being able to make a film, I think this group could do it for Southland,” Hatosy said.
Furthermore, Ben McKenzie (Ben Sherman) has an idea for how it could all come together. “That show in particular would be great to have a two-hour event — a school with an armed gunman inside and the entire group of Southland characters have to work together to defuse the situation — whatever the scenario is. You could do something really cool with the tactical-driven elements we tried to employ with the character stuff,” McKenzie said. “We have established that that’s a part of the show, those big events, and I feel like it would make sense to have a big, big event that brings us all together and kind of bonds us, has us have to work together.”
With a big event or even without one, Chulack believes that, if given the opportunity, the writers could create a satisfactory farewell for the show in just two hours. Although, don’t expect it to wrap everything up in a bow. “I think it would be like a finale,” Chulack said. “I think you could come right back and do it in the same format and then integrate a common thread. Or maybe everybody else is doing their separate thing, and [we] just have the characters overlap in their daily work. That’s what made the show interesting: Sometimes we had a real singular driving story, but usually everybody had their own thing going on and it kind of paralleled everybody else’s life or it was a metaphor for what was going on in somebody else’s area. The concept of Southland was, ‘Who are these men and women who work in this interesting job and how does the diversity in their personalities affect how they float in society carrying a gun and a badge and affect how they are on the job carrying a badge and a gun?’ That’s why I think the show was fun.”
Regardless, if a next installment were approved, there is one thing that would have to change: The timing. Now that a year has passed since the show wrapped, it would pick up a “littler further down the line,” according to Chulack. And if that’s the case, what would the people closest to these characters like to see happen?
For Hatosy, a next installment would mean the opportunity to work with people that maybe he didn’t get enough time with in the first five seasons. Perhaps they’d throw in a scene between Cooper (Michael Cudlitz) and Sammy or more screen time with Regina King’s Lydia. However, no matter how much time has passed, Hatosy is confident that Sammy will still be done with ex-partner Ben Sherman. “That [relationship] is over,” Hatosy said. “Once Sammy decided to go back on patrol, he was pretty confident in the cop he was or he is, so [he decided] to head back and try to give these guys some sort of insight as to what they’re going to face and the decisions and how to face them. It sort of blew up in his face with Ben, but it’s all a learning experience. I think that that’s his goal as a police officer. I always enjoyed the fact that there was that line that he would sometimes maybe go over, but in the end, he knows who he is and he’s ultimately a decent guy. He’s had his issues, but he wants to make the right decisions.”
So if Ben has lost Sammy for good, what might he be up to? The way McKenzie sees it, it could go a number of equally exciting ways. “There’s endless material there. I think we were getting to a place where you’d seen [Ben] fall down the mineshaft into true self-obsession in terms of he’s no longer able to separate his career from what he ought to do. Everything is built around protecting himself and protecting his career and working his way up the ladder, which leads him into making choices that are morally pretty reprehensible, so I would say if you picked him up in the future, it would be interesting for me if he had actually succeeded in terms of moving up the ladder but his personal life is still in shambles. But you could jump forward and he could’ve maybe put those demons to rest. I think you could go any number of different directions with that. It really depends on where we pick him up and where he is in his career. Is he a detective now? Is he already starting into the upper echelon of the LAPD officer ranks? Is he moving into being a captain or something like that?”
But McKenzie’s personal favorite is an idea that was thrown around when the show was still on the air — Ben Sherman as a member of SWAT. “I think that would be fantastic. That’s always been a very exciting idea for me, to throw that character into yet another incredibly challenging environment where he is yet again the new kid on the block, the one who has the most to learn and has to learn it quickly. And I think SWAT [is] the closest thing within the LAPD to the actual military — the way that it’s run, the way that it has to be obsessed with tactics and training and protocol. That kind of attention to detail and military precision, I think, would really appeal to him. And so if you jumped ahead and he was in that environment already or getting his feet wet into it, I think that sort of ups the bar a little bit and could be a really great jumping-off point. Maybe there’s a scenario like [a school shooting] and SWAT is called in and all of a sudden you realize that Ben Sherman is actually a member of SWAT.”
So if young Ben Sherman were making his way up through the ranks, what would that mean for his onetime training officer? Everyone can relax. Yes, John Cooper is alive. “I don’t think John Cooper died in that alley,” Chulack confirmed. Because, as McKenzie put it, “You can’t kill the Cooper.”
That being said, if they caught up with Cooper a few years later, maybe he’d be off-duty, Chulack added. Cudlitz agreed. “I would think there would have to be a massive change, even if he was given some sort of pass,” he said. “I always thought that Cooper lived and then all of his suspicions were actually confirmed, that we actually found not just the one gun that I knocked out of the other guy’s hand, but another gun. The other guy was packing another gun behind him in his waistband, and then we found possibly a bunch of other weapons inside the house and it was a drug situation. His instincts were all correct, [but] his way of dealing with it was completely out of line, thus confirming that he should not have been on duty, he should not have been carrying a weapon, like his captain told him. So where does he go from there? Does he go and train at the academy? Does he totally remove himself from law enforcement? Because that does complete him, that is something that he lives for and defines him in a lot of ways. He’s very much alive, very much dealing with his past as he has been from day one.”
Does that mean that John Cooper could actually get a happy ending? Cudlitz wouldn’t go that far. Cooper could be happy “for a bit, maybe, but nobody wants to watch people who are happy all the time. That’s just kind of boring,” Cudlitz said. “It’s TV; it should be exciting.”
And speaking of exciting, whatever happened to Dewey? Well, no one knows, but that is one thing that Chulack would like to have answered. “I want to come back and see if Dewey got fired from the LAPD for being such a knucklehead,” he added, laughing.
At the end of the day, they’re all good questions. But taking a step back, will we ever actually get answers? Honestly, there’s no way to know. For right now, they’re nothing but “what if” scenarios. However, there are options moving forward. For starters, there’s crowd-funding, an idea that McKenzie stands behind. Or Cudlitz brought up getting TNT to back a Southland film. And if all else fails, “maybe the only hope is to do an independent movie,” Chulack added.
All in all, there’s still a lot to be worked out if this were to ever come together, but the good news is that everyone is on board. Even though Regina King was too busy to chat, her colleagues assured me she’d be interested. And Cudlitz, for one, sees this happening. “I don’t have any doubt that there will be some sort of next installment,” Cudlitz said. After all, “Everybody loves the Southland.”
I couldn’t have said it better myself.
NEXT: Chulack, Hatosy, McKenzie, and Cudlitz remember their favorite Southland moments
But if for some reason we’ve watched all the Southland we’re going to get in our lifetime, why not spend a few moments reminiscing? Here are a few of the cast’s (and Chulack’s) personal highlights from the five critically acclaimed seasons that stole our hearts:
Chulack: For me, the last year of our show was, I think, the most fully formed and what I originally imagined the show to be. I just think that that last year was clean and really thought-out. We got a jump on all the storylines before we started shooting. It was my favorite year, actually.
Hatosy: For me, season 3 was [when] they really put Sammy through it. He comes home, his wife’s pregnant, it’s all he ever wanted, and then it turns out she’s having an affair and it might not be his. And then he’s living on his partner’s couch and then his partner gets killed in the line of duty right in front of his face. And then he’s the only witness and they want him to ID the guy in a lineup, and he CAN’T. So he uses the police force, which he works for, to illegally figure out who the guy is, he tracks him down, he takes him out to the desert, he makes him dig his own grave, and then he doesn’t kill him. It turns out the baby is his, he finds out through a paternity test, and she has the baby in the 10th episode of the third season, and the guy that killed his partner ends up getting killed on the street — street justice. It doesn’t get any better than that. As an actor you really can’t ask for anything more.
Cudlitz: I always loved the teaching scenes that were with Ben, that sort of started out as me teaching him but ultimately Cooper learning something from the experience. These sort of quiet moments of insight into the character. I always enjoyed that. I loved working with Ben. I had a really great time working with Lucy [Liu]. It was a whole different dynamic, it brought out a whole different side of John. So the whole experience is pretty terrific, but my favorite scene in the whole series is Shawn and Michael McGrady when Shawn tells him he’s done. Shawn tells him the baby is born, shows him the picture, and then says, “I need to go back on the streets, I think I could teach these young guys something.” I just think that’s a beautiful scene that Shawn just destroyed.
But my favorite scene of mine would still probably have to be the scene with Ben sitting there talking about the baby choking on an apple and how you have to let it go. “You can’t fix everything, sometimes you just have to let stuff go.” I think it follows when [Ben] beat the guy for choking the girl. He beat the crap out of him, and then I tell him [how] I showed up on the scene and the baby had choked on an apple and as hard as I tried, I could not bring the baby back, and sometimes you just have to let it go. “You did everything right and there are still consequences.” All my stuff with Gerald McRaney as well! And I love the scene under the bus with the girl who gets run over. I would go on and on if we really started dissecting it.
McKenzie: I really liked the first season because things I was going through as an actor were being mirrored in terms of what the character was having to go through. Though I like all the seasons, and I think the last season in particular was really effective, and I thought the performances across the board were fantastic. We went out on maybe not a high note emotionally, but a high note in terms of how the show was working and how we were all working together on it, and I’m really proud of that.
So, would you watch a Southland movie? More importantly, would you help fund one? Let us know in the comments below!