I had the pleasure of speaking with Southland star Ben McKenzie about working on the series, the fan effort to save the show, and also his special message for The OC fans! Check out what he had to say below!
Can you talk about what originally drew you to the Southland?
Benjamin McKenzie: I thought the script was really well written, and the characters were really unqiue and distinctive. I thought I could relate to the character of Ben and that I could play him. Then I saw the people involved and I knew their track records – so I just felt like it was too good of an opprotunity to pass up. I had to convince them to let me play the part, and thankfully they did.
When you say you related to the character, do you feel that you’re more comfortable in this role than you were playing a teenager on The OC?
Benjamin McKenzie: Yes. Yes. I wasn’t incredibly old when I started out on The OC, but certainly by our fourth year when we were all in our mid to late 20’s – I think we were in a good place to stop. I think moreso than the age, I just relate more to the character of Ben Sherman than Ryan Atwood, because it’s closer to who I am. Ben Sherman is from a rich family and I’m from an upper middle class family. His father is a lawyer – my father is a lawyer. We’re both, I like to think, intelligent and ambious young guys trying to make sense of the world. I don’t know – I just get him. I understand him. He’s a guy I would be friends and get to know.
In doing this role, have you learned anything about the LAPD that has surprised you?
Benjamin McKenzie: Yes. They are fantastic jugglers. They’re wonderful, multi-talented people. They’re really good people by and large. It’s hard to appreciate that until you get to see it up close and personal for yourself. The cops have a job where you really don’t hear about any of the good work that they do. You only hear about the bad work. The bad work is what gets on the 10pm news. You never see them when they’ve defused a situation, or taken out a bad guy before he’s committed the crime. It’s difficult to understand that until you get to spend time with them. They’re good people.
Is it challenging shooting in LA amid the public?
Benjamin McKenzie: We shoot on the streets of LA. We don’t build sets, so sometimes we’re in really public places like Hollywood Blvd and Sunset Blvd. We put up signs saying that if you walk through this area you consent to being filmed. People will just walk through shots, and that’s what we want to capture. People do stop and look at the cops when they go down the street – it’s only natural.
I’ve heard that you guys went through some pretty intense weapons traning. Can you talk a little bit about what all you’ve gotten to do?
Benjamin McKenzie: We shot the weapons that they fire on the show – whatever was appropiate for our characters. I was using the 9mm, the Glock. I shot the police shotgun, got in helicopters and fired bazookas.. um no that’s not true. But yeah, we did fire the guns that we fire on the show. It’s good training to have. It’s good to have respect for the weapons and understanding of what it’s like to carry around something that can take the life of someone else. You need to respect it.
Now there’s been a huge outpouring of support online for Southland and even the The OC when it was cancelled and people wanted to bring it back. Do you ever go online to see what people are saying? Or do you try to stay clear of that?
Benjamin McKenzie: I try to not indulge in that too much. Every once in awhile you can’t help yourself… but no I’m really very grateful to the fans for saving the show. I really do think they had a large part to do with it and us getting involved with TNT. So I’m grateful for it, but I don’t want to get too involved with all the in’s and out’s of it.
Has there been any talk of doing more episodes other than the ones you all have finished?
Benjamin McKenzie: Yea, I talk about it all the time – every day. We hope so. It all just depends on the ratings. We definitely want it to succeed and so does TNT. They don’t want to just fill a programming time, they want to show good programming. So it’s just going to depend on the ratings.
What do you like to do in your downtime? Do you have any TV shows that you follow?
Benjamin McKenzie: Yeah, I’ll watch No Reservations, the Anthony Bourdain show. I’ll watch Cartoon Network, 30 Rock, and sports.
I have to ask since FanBolt still has a really active fanbase for The OC, and I’m not kidding you we get about 500 emails a month asking who to contact to get a Season 5 or why certain things happened on the series. They’re just die-hard fans. So I wanted to know if you had a message for the fans of The OC?
Benjamin McKenzie: Thank you. Wow, that’s incredible I can’t believe you get that many emails a month. No, that’s fantastic – just thank you. And if you liked The OC, you’re going to love Southland. Basically it’s like The OC, but set in the world of cops. So you’re going to love it.
What do you have going on now? What’s next for you?
Benjamin McKenzie: I’m just waiting for some resolution on the show. So I’m kinda unavailable till then. So I’m just waiting, waiting, and waiting. Hopefully we’ll know a lot more next month.
Be sure to check out Southland if you haven’t already! New episodes start tonight on TNT!
Interview By: Emma Loggins