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Law & Order: LA Interviewby Pattye Grippo    

Law & Order: Los Angeles

This is a transcript of an interview with Executive Producer Dick Wolf and Cast Members Alfred Molina and Alana De La Garza on March 6, 2011 about the show Law & Order: Los Angeles.

Question:
Given how bullying is such a hot topic, how did it feel for you to step into a storyline with the message that raises questions about bullying?

Question:
Dick, you've always mentioned that there's not a lot of violence on Law & Order because you've come in after the crime. This is a very violent first episode with lots and lots of shootings, several people killed by the end of the episode. Is this a change of heart?

Dick Wolf:
No, I don't think it's a change of heart, but we have had sort of violent episodes of all the brand's iterations over the years. It depends on the specificity of the crime and what the suggestion of the crime was. Obviously this was a watershed episode for us. The last time a cop was killed on Law & Order was George Dzundza after the first season. We don't do it lightly. And this is a really bad guy. So the violence seemed completely justified and mirrors exactly what has been happening, certainly just South of the border and at times in the United States.

Question:
Alfred, there's a really good Spanish sequence this year. You actually grew up learning Spanish from your father, is that right? To what extent, when you're playing someone with roots in Mexico rather than Spain, what differences do you have to do?

Alfred Molina:Question:
Dick, when the season started you said the way of getting both Alfred Molina and Terrence Howard on the show was to use them only every other week. Now that that's going to no longer be the case, can you talk about logistically how things are working out?

Dick Wolf:
It's one of these things that it's more work but more predictable. I mean I think that it's really a dream to have both of these guys on-screen every episode. I don't want to exaggerate too much, but it was a little like I had the feeling that we were all fighting with one hand tied behind our back a lot of episodes. I think for the working style it's probably a little bit tougher but much more predictable in terms of, they each do one half of the show now every week, as opposed to having a week off. But the frustration of not having long enough off to go to Europe or something. This is just more predictable I think.

Question:
Alfred, how's the transition been for you, going from courtroom to detective?

Alfred Molina:
Court room to the street as it were. It's been fantastic. You know when Dick pitched the idea I must admit part of me was a little surprised, but very excited at the notion because it's, you know, this is a very bold, very audacious step. And I think it was something that was bound to create a great deal of interest and excitement. But on a personal level, I was very thrilled by the idea because, you know I love to work. I'm one of those actors, I just like working. And I must admit, I was finding the one episode on one episode off regime was very luxurious for those of us who were able to enjoy it, I was coming into work on my episodes thinking you know, "Oh I've got to, you know, I've got to start up again." I felt like I was missing out on something. And I happened to blithely say one day, "I'd like more to do." And I think somebody must have reported back to the management."

Dick Wolf:
Not the usual response of serious actors, I might point out.

Alfred Molina:
You know it's really been absolutely fantastic. And from a creative point of view, it means that the character goes somewhere that has, I think a great deal of mileage in terms of how we proceed over the next few years. You know I think the fact that Morales has this background of law enforcement, as well as being a prosecutor. I think it opens up a whole area; something for the writers to explore. So it's been all good as far as I'm concerned. I just hope the audience are as enthusiastic about it as we are.

Dick Wolf:
And I will point out that it is not really unique, made up out of whole cloth sequencing; that there are a surprising number of prosecutors who actually - especially in major cities - who did start out as cops. I don't know of any that have gone back. But the forward momentum is well trod.

Question:
Dick., obviously the big news is that there's been a sort of cast shakeup - three cast members have departed, we have Alana back. I'm just wondering, what was the decision making process that went into that? And how do you think this new cast configuration will benefit the show going forward?

Dick Wolf:
Look I think that this goes into the whole history of the show. I think that I was one of the more surprised people on the planet when the mother-ship Law & Order did not come back. It was sort of in everybody's plans that was going to continue. There had been a different schedule laid out with Los Angeles coming on after a sort of final group of episodes from the mother-ship. When that didn't happen, we were in a very much break-neck race to get on the fall schedule in time.

We had not shot a pilot, that this was basically a transition at 60 miles an hour. And some things get to go through their growing pains on-screen, which is never the first choice of the people making these shows. I would have liked to have had more time at the front end to sort of explore some different options. When we had the situation with Fred and Terrence that I had two of the best actors in America who were only getting used 50% of the time, that showed up pretty early in the season. And we were given the opportunity to retool. And for that I'm very, very grateful to Bob Greenblatt, because he came in, we had a very honest conversation, I think the second, third day he was there, that he had some problems with the show. And he specifically had some problems in the front half; that he just didn't think it was clicking the way it should.

It wasn't a question of, "Do this, do that," it was we had a very open discussion and he was, frankly very supportive of the idea of having Fred and Terrence in every episode. And it sort of evolved into that. And obviously when Fred went back to the street, we wanted an additional presence sort of to bolster Terrence in the back half. And Alana was somebody who very quickly came to mind. I think, you know that she was well loved by the mother-ship audience. Everybody who has worked with her is crazy about her. And the opportunity to put her in, we felt, was too good to pass up. And as I said, It was definitely evolutionary, but it was rather revolutionary to change clothes on-screen, or just off-screen. Never done that before but I think that, frankly the proof is in the pudding.

For those of you who've seen these first two episodes, I think that they're both better than anything we did in the first 13. Sorry we didn't come out in our terpsichorean finest at the beginning, but you know it's one of those things that we were given the chance. If I had my choice, I'd almost call it Law & Order: Los Angeles 2.1 that - or 2.0, that this is a real major change. And the rhythm of the show is different. I think the rhythm of the show is better. It's a pretty world class group of actors across the board. I mean I've known most these people for an extended period of time and seen them do great work over a large number of years. So as I said, You place your money, take your chances. This is a bigger risk than any show that I can remember in recent history taking. But all I can say is, If given the same set of circumstances, I would un-hesitantly do it again with the talent involved.

Question:
Alfred, you're obviously transitioning from the Order part of the show to the Law part of the show; how has that been for you? Do you enjoy doing more location work now? And it's really a different side of your character. How are you enjoying that transition for you?

Alfred Molina:
Well I mean I'm enjoying it very much. You know it sort of makes complete sense, you know. And it would have been very odd if it had been a completely different character. But it's someone who is going back to his original place, as it were. You know, the transitional episode sort of makes that clear, that he was you know, he's basically going back to where he feels he's most effective. But the interesting thing, from a creative point of view, is that he goes back with all the knowledge and all the experience and all the insight, and wisdom hopefully, that he's gained as a prosecutor going back to his original job as a detective. So there's lots of room for the writers, lots of room for all the creative team to really explore that. I think there's, you know it adds up. You know, when you have characters that reveal themselves to have many folds and crevices and creases that's where all the interesting stuff happens. You know, there's plenty there.

Dick Wolf:
And I have to say that, because I can, you know, unabashedly beat Alfred's drum, that the interrogation scene in the second episode with the secret service agent is one of those wonderful scenes that you would have a hard time accepting that if you were just dealing with a guy who had been a cop for the last 25 years. It was so, sort of intellectually elevated the way Fred conducted it that it utilized the best of both a really good cop and the knowledge of how to deal with somebody at this level that he has obviously gained in the prosecutor's office. So that one scene, you know, when I saw that, that was really worth a fist pump, because it showed that it was sort of additive; that the experience that was in his back story really came home to roost.

I'll give you one insight that, when I called Fred I said, Look, I've got a proposition for you. And he was very surprised but very supportive because it was organic. It was something that came out of a situation that sort of made the decision rational. Which you know, you're always worried if an audience is going to accept that. When I told him this back story I said, Look, I don't know if you knew this, but before you became a prosecutor you had been a cop for 12 to 15 years and you were actually a pretty senior detective. And Fred said, Oh that's marvelous. I'll be able to use that so fruitfully in my back story. I said, Well, how about front story? He went, Oh, my. What a surprising idea. But luckily he embraced it and I think it was really, really as I said, Additive to the power of the show.

Question:
Alana, I'm just curious about the process, about how you were invited back to join the Law & Order family, you know as Dick mentioned, The mother-ship; you came from the mother-ship. How were you invited back to participate in this new Law & Order show? And how have you been enjoying it so far?

Alana De La Garza:
Well first of all I've been loving every second of it. It's very much like moving into a brand new home and somebody already put everything away for you. You know what I mean? It's so comfortable, but completely new and fresh and genuinely fun. And you know to be cast in such a fun, exciting way, kind of a last minute you know, Hey, what do you think of this? And of course I jumped at the opportunity to work with such incredible actors, but also a team that love and that I know. And so for me it's just been fantastic. And truly just came about with an email that said you know, Hey, don't do anything rash and move on to anything. We're trying to resurrect Connie. And the next day they made an offer, which I was thrilled about.

Question:
Can you just talk about the different sides of Connie that we're going to be seeing with you in this new show?

Dick Wolf:
Connie came out to Los Angeles, basically to take care of her mother and left the New York DA's office.

Alana De La Garza:
Right. And you know, the fun thing I always say about Connie is that, She's kind of sassy and smart and quick, and will apologize later, and will go head to head with anybody and question them in that sense. And with Joe Dekker she does the exact same thing, behind closed doors will question and discuss. But then in the end, that's her partner and team and they're out for justice.

Question:
Alfred, when they first explained the idea of the big change from the attorney to a policeman what was your initial thought, just in that moment that they explained to you what was going to happen?

Alfred Molina:
Well I was very surprised, but sort of delighted as well by the notion. Because when Dick first mentioned it, I thought he was talking about an interesting bit of information that would inform the back story of the character. So I sort of said, Oh that's great. Yes, how interesting. Yes I can use that. I'll be able to play with that when we're rehearsing the courtroom scenes. I thought maybe it might give Morales a little bit more, a bit more kind of a street edge, you know he could be a bit tough about.

And then I think I said you know, That's an interesting bit of my back story. And I think Dick said something like, Well how about if it was your front story? And then we started talking about it in more detail, as I picked myself up off the low stool that I was sitting on at the time. And I began to think about it very seriously because, you know it's an audacious move. But like all, you know interesting things that happen in show business, you know it's - you know the bold and audacious things tend to be the most interesting.

And I thought about it and it began to feel very, very good, and very sort of right. And I thought, "ell this is something that rhythmically, emotionally, intellectually I can really get a hold of. And let's see what happens." Dick's enthusiasm for the idea, all the writers that I spoke to, they're enthusiasm for the idea; everybody seemed very, very positive about it. And so I thought, Well the fates are trying to tell me something. And I dived in head first.

And I'm really, really glad because I think we've hit a new stride, if I can be so bold as to say myself. I think the show has hit a new stride. And I think Corey and I work very, very well together as the detectives. We have, you know, very different rhythms. We complement each other I think. And there's a nice energy, which you know, is crucial if you want to sustain a show over a length of time, you know? And so it feels wonderful. And I'm very, very, very pleased and you know, very happy to be here.

Dick Wolf:
Good.

Question:
Alana, how does it feel to be back?

Alana De La Garza:
You know, I love my job and I love the people I work with. Like Fred was saying, I'm an actor who likes to work. And I like the hours and I like to go. And to do it kind of back in a family that I adore is really a dream. And actually when I booked New York, I was living in LA. So it's kind of nice to, you know, go home to my own bed and you know, be in my home at night and then do what I love to do for a living. So it's really been a blessing.

Question:
You recently starred in CSI Miami; do you miss your old job? And how does it compare with Law & Order?

Alana De La Garza:
On CSI Miami, my character was the damsel in distress. So to be a part of Law & Order and kind of defend the damsel in distress is a real gift. And it's a lot of fun to be that passionate, strong, intelligent, you know, woman. And CSI Miami was a wonderful experience as well, it's just completely different. So you know, as actors we live to kind of move from role to role and become new people. And so it's kind of part of the journey.

Question:
Alfred, what do you connect with playing Ricardo and how he switched jobs?

Alfred Molina:
Well, I was very happy to discover that Ricardo Morales is remarkably similar to Alfred Molina, in many, many ways. It was just a happy coincidence that you know; he's the son of an immigrant family, he's the first person in his family to go to college, he carried the weight of responsibility of his parents' expectations and his own ambition, which has left certain buttons that can be pushed, certain chips on his shoulder.

s I was discovering this about the character, I sort of thought, Hmm, this reminds me of somebody I know rather well. So it's a very easy fit in that way, which is crucial really when you're working or trying to develop a character that's going to last, one hopes you know, for a long time. It has to be a good fit.

And as far as the transition from prosecutor to detective is concerned, he was a detective originally, before he became a prosecutor. So the move isn't quite so drastic or dramatic as you might imagine. His increasing frustration with the politics and posturing of the prosecutor's office drives him to this decision to go back to being a detective; to a place where he felt he was more effective in putting away the bad guys.

Question:
Dick, you've managed to go for 20 years in countless spinoffs, coming up with creative ways of introducing and removing characters from your shows, as you mentioned, without having a casualty, fatality. What went into the decision to kill off this character? And can you talk a little bit about the conversation that you had to have with Skeet?

Dick Wolf:
An hour show is a form of polite warfare. That to get a show out in eight days, have it come in decent shape, certainly by the first day of prep to script, to have all the pieces fit together in sort of the insane jigsaw puzzle of trying to do this 22 times a season it's kind of like Shakespeare in Love. How does that happen? I don't know, it's a miracle.

The worst thing I've had to do ever is let people go. I don't think anybody would dispute it, but Skeet is one of the nicest actors I've ever worked with. He is a great guy. And it is the unfortunate history of the business that when something is not working it's my fault, it's not the actor's fault.

Skeet has an un-impeachable record of having performed very, very well in a variety of different shows, movies. He was the first person cast. As the show evolved it just is one of those things that, it's kind of like, Gee, I shouldn't have put the beige upholstery in the car, I should have put the red upholstery in. And I'm not being flip about it, it was just that there was an opportunity. The show was not performing at the level that anybody was really happy with. Bob came in and had sort of problems with the first half of the show more than the second half.

He did not mandate any changes, but when we came up with this solution he was fully supportive, which is a major step for a new Head of Entertainment coming in because obviously it was an expensive change. And he was willing to make that kind of change in the hope of getting a slightly different chemistry going. And as I said,"One of his overwhelming thoughts was that I've got two world class movie actors that I am only seeing half the time. So I'm again, not being flippant, and at some time somebody has to die so that everybody else can live.

And it was a very, very painful call. And it's not something that, in the abstract Skeet deserved. It's just, that's the way it evolved and he was the odd man out. Whatever analogy or simile you want to use. You know, it's always musical chairs and this time there was one less for him. But look, I'm sure it's not what he wants to hear. I would unhesitatingly use him again as an actor in something that I think called on his strengths better than this one did. But I remain a fan and as I said, One of the nicest people I've ever worked with. And not something that I enjoyed or hopefully will have to do ever again. But my fault, it's not his fault. I don't know what else I can say.

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