Major Crimes continues toward the end of Season 4 tonight with the second of five special episodes, as they delve into an ongoing case that is proving more difficult to solve than normal.
“In this case we didn’t know what was happening, and because it’s multiple crimes, a hot case and a cold case, and it brings up so many people’s professional pasts and the tensions going on there, it was so complex,” Mary McDonnell, who plays Captain Sharon Raydor, tells Parade.com. “So in a way, the realistic frustration and, at times, this feeling of helplessness against the complexities that we couldn’t solve, that was very different to be inside of week after week until we finally got to the end.”
On tonight’s Hindsight—Part 2 episode, Sharon and her squad of detectives rush to capitalize on a shocking discovery made in a church. Stephanie (Julie Ann Emery) and Sanchez’s (Raymond Cruz) connection grows as they bond over lost loved ones. Rusty (Graham Patrick Martin) learns from Provenza (G.W. Bailey) that his biological mother’s ex, Gary, is a fugitive on the run. And Tao’s (Michael Paul Chan) old partner Mark (Jason Gedrick) pushes him too far.
But first, McDonnell spoke to us about how different it is to do a continuing arc instead of a crime-of-the-week story, double jeopardy, if Sharon would ever like to throw away the book like Brenda Johnson (Kyra Sedgwick‘s character on The Closer), her relationship with Andy (Tony Dennison) and Rusty, and more.
You’ve been playing Sharon for a while now—first in The Closer and now Major Crimes. How do you keep her fresh?
It’s odd, because it doesn’t feel like we’ve been going that long, and I can’t explain why. I suppose that’s the writing, really. We’re not just telling personal stories every week; we’re actually dealing with a new crime, a new situation, a new set of people, responding to the multitude of amazing guest stars that frequent our set. Perhaps that allows us more immediacy than if we were not always focused on a new crime.
TNT has been canceling shows, but Major Crimes got an extra five episodes. What does that say about people still watching?
I think people love Major Crimes because it stands on its own in that it is a procedural, but the cast of characters that [creator/executive producer]James [Duff] and the writers create and that the actors have lovingly played for so long, they have a quirkiness and a relatability that is unusual. There’s nothing sentimental about Major Crimes, but it’s also not the darkest, most dysfunctional police squad in America. Quite often the people that you’re following week after week on procedural cop shows carry a tremendous amount of dysfunction.
I honestly feel like people love Major Crimes because you can take a breath because the characters are good people, they’re not crazy, and we don’t wait to see what will be the next dysfunctional road they go down. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy all these other shows, I’m just saying I honestly feel like we offer a different kind of police environment for people to visit, who love that kind of show.
Do you ever talk to police about the series, and if you do, what do they say?
They love the series. The LAPD is incredibly supportive of Major Crimes. We’re very connected to them, as is, by the way, L.A. County Sheriff Jim McDonnell. He absolutely loves Major Crimes. The way he described it to me was he said he felt like Major Crimes understands what it’s like inside the familial aspects of law enforcement and the justice system.
The final episodes of this season are a continuous story. Is it different playing that than the normal crime of the week?
That’s a great question. It was completely different. At times, we would just stand there and shake our heads like, “Where are we?” In fact, “where are we?” was the truth of the energy of the episode, because we couldn’t solve it. We’re used to playing the texture, the subtleties and the drama inside of a crime that has an arc that we are at least somewhat clear about the ending before we begin to shoot the beginning.
I loved it because I loved the feeling of it all being so much bigger. I loved what I experienced with Sharon. I found out something about her mind, because she just never dropped a thread, you know? She never forgot a moment. She just kept adding little pieces inside here and there, going at it from this angle and that angle, and it was fun to experience her. Sharon likes to get things done, so it was fun to experience her not being able to.
The reverend in this case is a cop killer who got off and he can’t be retried because of double jeopardy. Do you think Sharon ever wishes she could throw away the book that she follows so carefully and be more like Brenda Johnson to bring this guy down?
No, I think it makes her sad that the justice system is not always able to offer us complete justice and that there are these people who emerge from it somewhat unscathed, but I think that she’s such a realist and has such a deep respect for the law that I think she understands how to live with that reality.
I suppose, yes, on a given day, she’d love to throw out the rules and break the law. Wouldn’t we all? For sure, but I don’t think it’s something she spends a lot of time fantasizing about, honestly. I think she is a very realistic human being and has a way of going about things that taps into some kind of ethical center. It’s hard to undo that. I’ve met people like Sharon, and they stick to it, and I find it kind of admirable. I want to yell and scream and kick things.
When I spoke to James Duff he said this arc is going to allow him to go deeper into people’s lives, so what can you say about the relationship between Sharon and Andy?
The way I experienced the last five was that the actual reality of working together had a dampening effect on their relationship, in that there wasn’t time for them together—the whole squad was so completely taxed trying to get to the bottom of this case. But on the other hand, there are a few moments during the five, where the real issues that Sharon is experiencing as both a professional and a woman of conscious, the kind of frustration you were just referring to and the question about does she ever want to just throw out the book and adopt some of Brenda’s ways, that were so exciting, I think she does in this.
Andy and Sharon have a few conversations in this five-episode arc that, I think, speak to their intimacy as adults if not so much yet the romance. We know the romance is there, but what we don’t know yet is how would these two people be as adults together; as partners someday maybe, if that is ever going to happen, and how are they as confidants with each other, and how do they address the bigger issues that adults who are together address—issues of conscience, issues of failure, issues of professional failure.
We’ve seen a lot of how they both respond to certain things with his daughter and with Rusty, things like that, but we get more of a glimpse of how they may or may not support each other as mates; as soul mates, and I liked having a glimpse of that. But as James has said over and over, we’re moving very slowly. That is just the way he wants it, and that is totally the way it is, but the thing I like about that is that I do think that there is a critical energy that has to be maintained when it is a workplace romance. They’re too good at what they do and they both have too much conscience to allow this romance to get in the way of their jobs. It’s really interesting to me.
One of the things I love about Sharon is she has this roundabout way of getting Rusty to be where he needs to be without telling him what to do. Do you agree with that description of her parenting?
James and I had a lot of talks about parenting at the beginning of this, and I personally have a 21-year-old son, so as I’ve been going through this with Rusty, I’ve been also raising my own son, or more appropriately, letting go of raising my own son, because it’s at that juncture where you have to let go and advise from a distance. I think that I have a very, very close relationship with both of my children, and I’ve had to learn personally so many things about being subtle, letting go, opening up ideas to them, and encouraging them to make the right choices, as opposed to telling adult children what to do. Those days are long gone.
I’m a hot-headed Irish gal at the core, so I’ve had to very consciously learn how to negotiate choices with my children as they were growing up, so I wanted to use some of what I had learned in that area in Sharon, and James has a wonderful understanding of how he would like to have been parented or parent. He has an ideal about that, but I think he is able to accommodate that a little bit with Sharon without making her too perfect.
It’s been this wonderful collaboration of: If we could do this right, how would it be done? It is what Rusty needs, because there were no assumptions that could be made about this child at the beginning. We did not know where he was going to go or how he would react to anything given his background, so it had to be thoughtful and mindful parenting.
Major Crimes airs Monday nights at 9 p.m. ET/PT on TNT.