The LAPD Major Crimes team is back to work tonight when four wealthy one percenters are left lying in the back of an SUV outside the emergency room of a hospital. How they got there, what they had in common, and who shot them is the mystery that needs to be solved.
“It’s like the beginning of a James Bond film,” LAPD Lt. Provenza (G.W. Bailey) says, because how all these rich people could be murdered at one time and nobody knew where they were has the makings of a good thriller.
Heading the cast is Mary McDonnell as Los Angeles Police Capt. Sharon Raydor, who is in charge of a special squad within the LAPD that deals with high-profile or particularly sensitive crimes.
Her team of investigators includes the aforementioned Provenza, Tony Denison as Lt. Andy Flynn — and her new love interest, Michael Paul Chan as Lt. Mike Tao, Raymond Cruz as Detective Julio Sanchez, Kearran Giovanni as Detective Amy Sykes and Phillip P. Keene as tech expert Buzz Watson.
Other episodes in this fresh batch of eight will see the return of Sharon’s ex-husband, Jack Raydor (guest star Tom Berenger), who returns to defend a man who wants to withdraw a hand-written confession admitting to killing his wife. The Major Crimes squad will also investigate a murder during the taping of a reality competition show pitting married couples against each other. And Detective Andy Flynn will get tripped up in pursuit of a mysterious murder suspect with great legs, leading to a closer relationship with Sharon than either of them planned.
McDonnell and Major Crimes creator and executive producer James Duff spoke to Parade.com to answer burning questions for the new season of the police drama. Check out the scoop:
Sharon and Andy’s relationship is progressing. Will there be problems because she is his boss? How does the team feel about their relationship?
James Duff: I think their relationship is go-slow. Slower than, I think, Andy would like but not as slow as slow as in the previous 10 episodes. In the first episode back, Flynn has an accident. Unlike accidents that happen in other shows when cops get hurt, we are playing this out over the whole eight episodes because that is how long it sometimes takes to recover from what happened. That changes the trajectory of their relationship.
Mary McDonnell: What I’ve noticed is that as in life, it is the life that happens around you when you are in a new relationship that starts to teach you the relationship. It is almost in spite of how fast or slow you go, you learn about that person because of what happens, not what either did or a date you went on. So there is this unveiling of more of each other. I think it has a very lovely progression.
I noticed last season and now in the premiere episode that Provenza is taking the lead on investigations before involving Sharon. He still seems a curmudgeon, but is he enjoying this role?
Duff: We are being more true to how the LAPD operates. We are managing when captains actually get involved in the story. Sometimes Sharon does go to the crime scene. She has been to two crime scenes this year. One when it is a major crime scene, like when you have fallen police officers and she needs to be there from the get-go.
Actually, Provenza has been managing the crime-scene load for three years and most of the first season, too. I guess you could say it is theGunsmoke model, where the crime is set up with Festus and then solved by Marshal Dillon. (laughs) It’s not really that.
It is how police work is handled. If you watch it, it is like passing off the baton in a relay race. The evidence is gathered by the team and the strategy is formulated by the captain.
There is a really nice “aha” moment for Rusty (Graham Patrick Martin), Sharon’s adopted son. He gets affirmation of his abilities from outside the squad room by a judge. What is ahead for Rusty?
Duff: What is really nice, too, is Rusty has been talking about writing about the rise of digital textbooks to Sharon. It doesn’t even look like Sharon is paying particular attention in that moment. Then later the judge says, “I think you should be writing about something more important than the rise of digital textbooks.” Rusty suddenly looks at him and says, “Did Sharon talk to you?” And the judge says, “I ask the questions here.” So you have a feeling that Sharon brought her issue to the judge and the judge willingly helped her. And the affirmation did come outside the squad, which was important, but not without Sharon’s machinations. She is a strategist. She knows when to put her hand in and when to hold it back.
McDonnell: If you remember the end of the season, the judge told her to “stay out of it, mama.” She takes it seriously. She respects him; she respects the law. So she’s finding a way to let go of every step of Rusty’s process while, as we do as parents, keep a distant eye. Also, your children are as stable as the village they are raised by. She knows that.
Duff: It’s hard in some ways to watch your child become a successful, independent adult. Because you want to be a part of it. On the other hand, it is necessary to step back some and trust that you have put the child on the right path and that, ultimately, even though the child may make mistakes, ultimately the child will do the right thing. That is what we were playing with Sharon this year: I will trust you. The whole theme of the back eight episodes is all based on trust.
Will you have any episodes coming up that single out a team member, like the ones where Sanchez had to deal with anger management?
McDonnell: There are, but there is something I felt really strongly in these eight. There’s a diversity that makes the show surprising every week. I read the scripts and we are interacting differently. So the case itself is dictating new behaviors with all of us. So while there might not be one story after another told about each one, you are going to continue to have reveals about all of these people in relation to all of these interesting things that happen.
Duff: The characters are not changing. Their core is not changing, but how they perceive everything changes. The cases impact them more. There is more of the entire ensemble coming together to form one protagonist in a couple of these episodes. But it is almost pretty much always led by the captain. The strategy is always put together by Sharon. It plays out with different elements of the ensemble. But it is all acting on that one stratagem.
And then you have Rusty, who becomes fascinated with the story of who murdered Alice. As you see in the beginning, he begins telling that story and a lot of that story will happen online.
You mentioned playing out Flynn’s accident. Can you elaborate?
Duff: In the back five, after these fall eight, in episode 414, we have a terrible health issue for Flynn. It escalates in a very big way. He has a recovery process that is off the charts in some way. I would say you have an emotional episode for him and the whole squad has to react to that.
Will Jon Tenney be back?
Duff: Jon Tenney is the assistant chief of the Special Operations Bureau of the LAPD and he is back in several episodes.
Any other spoilers?
There is a terrifying story about a couple who get beaten in a road rage incident and that is right as Thanksgiving is about to start. Provenza and [Assistant Chief] Taylor [Robert Gossett] are both very upset because they are going into triple time if they don’t solve the case by Thanksgiving. And Flynn has to have his surgery.
We also have a lighter case about diamonds being stolen. And we have a dark case about an athlete’s missing child that we thought was maybe the darkest story we were going to tell this year and then we got to the finale. And it got very, very dark. We hope we don’t irritate film school students. It is a very different kind of story for us.