The Rookie star Titus Makin on Jackson's big challenges ahead and going 'beast mode'
Jackson West is under pressure. And not the good Queen-David Bowie kind.
The Rookie’s youngest recruit, portrayed by Titus Makin, has a lot to live up to and overcome. Episode 2 of the freshman series saw West struggling to prove himself to training officer Angela Lopez (Alyssa Diaz) after freezing up on her during a shoot-out in the premiere.
Capt. Zoe Anderson (Mercedes Mason) had some serious questions about why West’s gun hadn’t been fired at all during the stand-off, while Lopez discharged her weapon several times. Lucky for West, Lopez covered for him, explaining that she advised him to stand down because he didn’t have a protected position. But let’s get one thing straight: She didn’t do it to protect West, she did it to cover for herself, because if Commander West’s son fails at being a cop, she can kiss her dreams of being a detective goodbye.
While Lucy Chen (Melissa O’Neill) deals with a new T.O. who’s happy to play meter maid and Nolan (Nathan Fillion) and Bishop (Afton Williamson) get swept up in a missing-persons case (when he’s not destroying the force’s vehicles, that is), West must prove to Lopez that he’s up to the job. She purposely responds to high-risk calls, testing his mettle with a hulking perp high on PCP and a majorly scary member of the Aryan Nation.
West responds admirably, talking down the drug-addled vandal and engaging in an unexpected fistfight in the back of the convenience store when a trip to the restroom takes a fateful turn. He proves he’s got some fight in him, and in the words of Lopez, he may not be good, but he’s getting there.
EW caught up with Makin to process the nitty-gritty details of his character and attempt to take the fingerprints and get a mugshot of what the season might hold for the LAPD’s newest and youngest recruit.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: We saw Lopez cover for Jackson with the captain, but then quickly turn around and say she did it just to cover herself because of his father’s power. Later, she does tell him “nice work.” Will their relationship and trust grow stronger from a genuine place, or will she always be looking over her shoulder because of his father?
TITUS MAKIN: She definitely does start trusting him a bit more. It’s inevitable. He’s constantly proving himself. There is still that slight chance that I could slip up, so she’s going to be looking over her shoulder and still making sure that I have it together. There’s not going to be full trust, but there definitely is growth there, as you’ll see in the next episode.
Jackson says, “Failure is not an option.” How much pressure is he under to succeed because of his family? We certainly have hints of it, but have we seen the extent of it yet?
Exactly. We haven’t seen the full scope yet. The pressure he feels from his dad is exactly what you would think it is. His dad was super-successful and worked his way up to commander of Internal Affairs, and he has to live up to that. His dad has been training him to be the perfect cop since he was younger, so anytime something goes wrong, he knows that it’s not just Jackson that’s going to get the harsh punishment, it’s also his dad coming down on him. I have to uphold the name in general. If the West name does something bad, it comes back on all of us.
We see Jackson rattling off the side effects of PCP, and then later they call him Officer Extra Credit. Is it fair to say that of the three rookies, he’s the most studious and book-smart, and that colors his approach to being a cop?
Yeah, absolutely. He’s pretty vocal about that himself. In the future you’ll see him describe how book-smart he is. Not in an arrogant way; it’s very factual. He’s just the best studied in the history of the young ones coming out of the academy. He has done the best with test scores and knowing his craft. It’s a fact at this point that he is the most studied, but he’s also the least prepared on the street, which obviously he’s coming to terms with now.
He’s the most prepared officer in the history of the LAPD, according to his fellow rookies. What does that mean in actuality? Does that ever really translate to the streets?
It really is such an amazing metaphor for life because we all sit in classrooms all our life. We’re trained to sit, read books, take tests, and then when we get out in the real world, we’re like, “Oh, why did that person stab me in the back? I didn’t learn about that in school.” It really is an interesting metaphor for life that you can be as prepared as you want, but it still comes down to experience.
You have a very physical fight scene here — being rammed into shelves, put in a chokehold, and then gaining the upper hand. What was it like shooting that? What kind of stunt training did you have to do?
That was my first fight scene ever in my career, so I was super-pumped about it. It was as difficult as you would imagine. I definitely came out very sore; there was new parts of my body I was moving that I hadn’t moved before. I’ve always wanted to do fight choreography and be in some awesome action sequence, but we did a day of rehearsals. I met with the stunt coordinator. They mapped it out for me. I got to film it on my phone, take it home, practice all the beats of it. It was choreographed just like a dance would be. The day of as we were actually shooting, they loaded me up with a bunch of pads under my uniform so that if I hit anything I wasn’t supposed to hit, I would still be safe. But the physical exertion of it is what I wasn’t expecting. Doing that fight sequence for eight to 10 takes, different angles, you’re exhausted. It made me have a newfound respect for stunt people. It’s hard. It takes a lot of cardio to keep up with that.
We saw Jackson get two big wins this episode — one that required a very calm, methodical approach and one that was much more physical — but we still haven’t seen him have to use his gun again. When will that happen? Is he going to be able to move past his paralysis?
That’s a reveal that I feel like the public has to wait for. Because it’s such a big hurdle with Jackson. An officer that’s afraid of gunfire is such a big deal. That moment we hopefully get to see [him] come to terms and use his gun is a big moment that I can’t talk about.
Can you say whether or not we will see him have to use a gun again this season?
Yes, he will use a gun for sure. Obviously, as a cop, we fully expect him to have to get over it at some point because that gun has to be pulled out somewhere along the line.
Will this freeze-up be Jackson’s biggest challenge this season? Or something else?
It is one of his biggest challenges, for sure — to conquer that fear. Not more so, but equally with that is proving himself, because he is the youngest one and his dad is the commander of Internal Affairs. There are all these things built up against him that he has to rise up against. Even once he gets past the gun issue, he still has to not do anything wrong for the sake of his dad coming down on him, for the sake of people waiting for him to do something wrong because of his dad, so they can just throw that back in my face, that I got it handed to me. Overall, he’s always going to have some adversity there because people are wanting him to fail.
Showrunner Alexi Hawley told us we’re going to meet Jackson’s father later this season. Can you tease what that will be like? Does Jackson have a good relationship with his dad?
Realistically, I’m still trying to figure that out myself. We do get to meet his dad. Him and his dad have an interesting relationship. I don’t really know the official word to put on it yet. It’s difficult, I will say that. Just because he can feel the pressure of trying to live up to his father. Jackson himself can feel that pressure, but there also is something with the mom that’s undefined at this point. I would say it’s a complicated relationship. As I’m learning about it myself, Jackson is in the same position where he’s like, “What is this? I don’t know how to be perfect for you. I’m trying to be the best cop, but, at the same time, I know I make mistakes. I’m the best-studied. I did everything you’re telling me to, but why am I still not enough?”
Lucy and Nolan have a romance happening. Is Jackson aware of it at all, or does he suspect anything?
Jackson doesn’t know about it. No idea about it. But because he is so close with Nolan and Lucy, and they’re always pinned together as the rookies, he starts picking up on little flirting moments. They do stuff and leave him out, and he definitely comments on it. They brush it under the rug. He’s aware something is different about their connection, but it’s not clear they are hooking up. He’s onto it because he definitely asks questions, and he notices that there’s little inside jokes.
Will we see Jackson get any romance of his own this season?
When I spoke with Alexi early on in the season, there was a plan for that. At this point, there hasn’t been anything, but according to what I’ve heard, there is a hopeful romance a-brewing, coming around the corner.
Can you tease next week?
In episode 3, we get to start seeing that build to Jackson’s confidence. We’re already seeing it in episode 2, but it goes even further and he gets to become RoboCop, where he’s like, “Okay, I understand where my strengths lie. I can conquer this.” You get to see him move a step further in the direction of not being afraid and understanding what the streets have to offer, and just being “beast mode,” really.
The Rookie airs Tuesday at 10 p.m. ET on ABC.
The Rookie (TV series)