DragonCon 2014 panel: Major Crimes

August 30, 2014
Atlanta, GA
Moderator: First, please welcome a lady with an incredible career. She’s played alongside such actors as George Clooney, Danny Glover, Robert Redford, Sidney Poitier, and Edward James Olmos. And that barely scratches the surface. Please welcome our own Captain Sharon Raydor, Mary McDonnell. [applause as MM enters] Our next guest is no stranger to television. You’ve seen him and you’ve loved him in such shows as Star Trek Voyager and Next Generation, 24, The Sopranos, and Dollhouse. Please welcome our next guest, our own Dr. Morales, Jonathan Del Arco. [applause as JDA enters]
JDA: Hey, Captain.
MM: Hey, Doctor.
JDA: Heyyy. We like to talk sexy on set, don’t we?
MM: We do this all the time. Do these come out? [re: her microphone]
JDA: I came out when I was 18. Here honey, come here. [helps MM remove microphone from table stand]
MM: I’m such a helpless woman. [sarcastic]
JDA: Hey guys!
MM: Hi! Yay! I understand that some of you have been here since nine o’clock and that is really awesome, thank you for that. We wondered where you were; we were over at the Walk of Fame and I’m like, where’s the Major Crimes people?
JDA: This is the first fan event we’ve ever done, really.
MM: It really is.
JDA: Our maiden voyage. Cheers!
MM: I emailed James Duff last night and said, “Jonathan and I are doing the very first Major Crimes panel at DragonCon ever; this is the beginning of many more.”
JDA: Indeed.
MM: I know that you probably have a zillion questions, we’re hoping, because to me, the most fruitful events are when we get to address exactly what you want to know about our show. I’m sure many of you are Closer fans. Jonathan, of course, has been with us since the very, very beginning, and we just love him so much. As you know, I stepped into this role as Darth Raydor, and I loved the trench coat and I loved the role, and when I was told that actually I was going to perhaps blossom into Sharon, we weren’t quite sure! But I’m privileged to be here, I really am, it’s been wonderful.
JDA: I’m so excited. I’ve been doing conventions for 20 years but this is the first time people recognize me out of costume. So that’s kind of cool. They go, “I love your show,” and I’m like, “Star Trek?” “No, Major Crimes!” So it’s nice to continue forward with the fans who have followed us probably from all our projects to now and it’s super exciting to be here with Mary. So we would love to know what’s on your mind.
Question: Is there anything you bring from your other roles that you had previously into this new role that you’re on here on Major Crimes?
MM: Is this for both of us?
Question: For both of you, actually.
JDA: You want to go first?
MM: Sure. Yeah…Yeah. I’m totally typecast. No, I…particularly from my last role as Laura Roslin, there were some things that I learned about women in power and wanted to continue to explore about women in power. Because I’m hoping that pretty soon we have THE woman in power. The ideas of what it is for a woman of my generation to have been able to get to this point requires tremendous compromise, precision, and economy. And all the women I know who are in powerful positions in the government or corporate sector or wherever it is, have a similar experience. So that’s one thing that I do feel I learned as Laura Roslin that I find is also available to me in Sharon Raydor.
JDA: For me it wasn’t really other characters I played, but the thing I brought to the character was really myself because James Duff wrote it with me in mind, so there were elements of the humor of the character that were my own. I like to say that Dr. Morales is me after one cocktail. One martini. To be specific, one martini. Very much to the point, says what he’s thinking and feeling. So it’s really my own personal life that was used more. Prior to that I was playing other gay characters that were much more stereotypically flamboyant, if you will. This was not required of this role and I really loved that about it. So in the same way that Mary was saying about women being empowered by being strong, I think as a gay male being empowered by being great at your job, not by the fact that you’re incredibly funny! And sometimes bitchy. Oh, there’s children here, I shouldn’t say that word.
MM: I think they’ve heard it before, we know this crowd.
JDA: So my own life informed the character more than any other roles I’ve played.
Question: This is actually more of a comment. When Sharon talks to her older son and tells him how disappointed she is in his reaction to the adoption of Rusty, my husband was just getting home and we stopped to watch it, looked at each other and went “YES!” Because when you’re raising kids, your kids always sit there and tell you, “There’s no other parent that’s like you.” That is such validation for us as parents, and it was just so nice to see that.
MM: Oh that’s great. You know what I loved about it? Because, you know the relationship with Rusty is very specific and has had so many extraordinary qualities to it and so many beautiful things. But it requires a carefulness, because he’s not my son and he’s got a background that I don’t understand. I never wanted to drive him away and I didn’t want to panic him. But I raised this other kid, and I know him inside and out. I know what he’s made of, and he just wasn’t being himself. I was just not going to let that pass muster. When I read it, I just called James Duff and said, “This is completely right on.” This is how you raise kids, you know? If you don’t give this to them, then you’re not doing your job. That’s how I feel. So thank you for your comment. I was thrilled too.
JDA: It’s one of my favorite scenes of the season, and some of your best work, too. At the table read, it was so moving to watch Mary be mom, you know? And be strong mom, loving mom, but saying, “I’m so disappointed in you.” It’s a great, great, amazingly written scene and it came out so awesome, so it’s exciting.
MM: Thanks. You know my favorite line in that scene, and I wish I’d played it earlier in the raising of my own children, is, “It’s better than what I’m thinking of calling you right now.”
JDA: Well, and you were such a little “ughhh” saying things like “lonely,” like “from the bottom of my lonely heart.”
MM: From the bottom of my ever-so-lonely heart. Yes, I’m so lonely [sarcastic]. Sharon Raydor loves her life, and Dr. Morales loves his.
JDA: He has a good time.
MM: I bet. I want to go out with him one night. Sharon Raydor and Dr. Morales go party. I want to see what he does outside of work.
JDA: Oh, you know what I do.
Question: Speaking of Rusty, and the dynamic with all of the police force, some of the dynamics are really cool. I love the dynamic between Sykes and Provenza. Provenza is always talking about retiring. How do you guys feel about how they’ve turned all the dynamics around and how the characters have evolved? What are your thoughts? Because we love it.
JDA: It was amazing to watch the transition from The Closer to Major Crimes. There are very specific things that the creative team did beyond our work as actors that were genius. One was obviously the introduction of Raydor, the antagonist then the hero. That transition was really seamless. Also creating the sense of Brenda going away but she’s still somewhere near in the universe. There were all these elements, and the rest were character developments of characters we had already known. The really interesting thing that most people don’t realize is the way the show was filmed on The Closer was from Kyra’s perspective and everyone else was almost peripheral. With this it’s really about her [Raydor], and about Provenza, and about each individual story, so the camera work is a little closer to us. We’re not as far apart, you see much more of us. I think that’s the technical element that created the intimacy. You think you’re seeing more of us—
MM: You are!
JDA: —which in fact you are. We’ve always delivered that, you just weren’t necessarily on us as much.
MM: You know what? If I may add to that, one of the reasons it worked organically is that, one of the things James and I talked about, is that Sharon Raydor’s management style is inclusive. I mean, she is a delegator and she draws people out. That’s something he and I were both interested in because that is something that women are bringing to leadership roles. That isn’t quite the same as what maybe some men bring, if I may, and so right then we’ve got a conversation between two actors that is drawing out their dynamics as well.
JDA: In some ways it is a much more realistic portrayal of the police department. You make deals and you have to work with people, right? Good question.
Question: You guys have a great ensemble cast. If you can comment on what work’s like in that ensemble environment and who, other than Jon, who I suspect is one of the pranksters, who is the next funniest person off set?
JDA: Describe “funny.” Funny annoying, funny great?
MM: You mean the person, like backstage?
Question: Yes.
JDA: Tenney’s pretty funny. Jon Tenney wins the funny award.
MM: He’s impossible to work with. You don’t want to be in a room with Jon Tenney, ever.
JDA: He loves rehearsal.
MM: You can’t get him out of rehearsal. Once his coverage is done, he’s very funny. I can’t even look at him.
JDA: We all have a sense of humor, but I would say the vibe, we’ve all been together many years. We all know each other, and a lot of us socialize together. We go to each other’s weddings and Christmas parties and we see each other a lot. We’re all friends, so there’s that fun friend feeling. Backstage and behind the camera. Sometimes it’s a slog because you’ve got to get through a long episode and I’m extremely fortunate. I’ve spent a lot of days learning my technobabble, but I’m usually in and out in one day. So I’ll come back and three weeks later it’s like the dynamics have completely changed. I’ll be like, “what’s been going on Mary? Fill me in.”
MM: I’ll always do this: I’ll go, “Thank god I’m in the morgue.” I literally do.
JDA: So yeah, it’s a very fun work environment. It’s very familial. It’s like a big family.
Question: This question is for Mary. You’ve faced a lot of loss in your personal life. Has acting helped you channel that grief and move past it?
MM: I think one of the gifts of being an actor is that not only do you have a natural ability to somehow contact your emotions, which can sometimes be seen as the overly sensitive kid or the dramatic kid, but in fact it just means you have access to things. So when you are a professional actor you have the opportunity to activate those feelings and mutate them into a different form to express that. I find that that is for me one of the greatest parts of it because people in general are afraid of their feelings and they’re afraid to grieve and they’re afraid to be vulnerable, myself included. Honestly, if I didn’t do this, I would be out of my mind. I already am, but I mean MORE out of my mind. So, yes, I do think it does help. It is a gift for us to be able to process the losses of life through our work.
Question: My question is for Mary. I think you are a fantastic actress and robbed of an Emmy.
MM: I’m sorry, I didn’t hear that.
Question: I said you were robbed of an Emmy.
MM: Say it again, please! [audience laughter]
Question: Your role as Laura Roslin, I can see a picture of you and Eddie and I cry because Roslin/Adama is an epic love. On Major Crimes, Sharon/Rusty is so sweet and heartwarming and makes me cry. I was just wondering if you watched your work and if you can appreciate the kind of emotion you bring to other people.
MM: Thank you for that, for that E-M-M-Y thing. I don’t watch my work, much. I check in when I need to. If I really need to look at this or that, I really need to look at lighting or hear the sound of a character’s voice, or want to look at a particular scene, or someone says to me I have to. I do watch the show eventually but it’s usually when we’re on hiatus. I do go back and look at them all. And I learned this a long time ago: I’m not one of those actors that can keep an eye on herself while she’s doing it. I have a very fast, critical mind. If my mind gets engaged when I’m working, I’m cooked and I can’t be present. So I don’t watch a lot. But thank you. [To JDA] Do you watch a lot? You do.
JDA: I’m such a narcissist. I’m like, “oh my god, that’s awful.” “But that’s pretty good.” “Oh god I look like shiiiit.” I do, I’m a watcher, I like to watch. It’s not easy to watch yourself. I watch myself critically, but it doesn’t affect me when I go back. Most of the time while I’m shooting I’ll know if I gotten to the place I wanted to get to. I like watching the show, I’m a fan of the show as well. I’m not on every episode, so I watch it all, right? I try not to read the scripts I’m not in so I can be kind of a fan. And be like, “oh my god, I can’t believe that happened.” Which is tricky when you go shoot something and you’re out of order. You go, “oh, what’s going on here?” I’m comfortable watching, yeah, I’m fine. We were talking about this yesterday. The weirdest thing about being an actor and having been on television for a long time is watching your aging process. It’s bizarre, because even having been on the show for eight years and I look back when The Closer was on, back then I thought I looked terrible in that light. Now I’m like, “I looked so much better in that light than I do now!”
MM: That’s exactly the thing! I had this conversation with my assistant. We were pulling out my pictures getting ready to come to Dragon Con, and I started looking at them and I go, “God I feel so OLD. God. I actually looked good then and I didn’t know it.” My assistant said, “Okay, hold on. Do you understand that you’re doing the same thing. You can’t see yourself in the present.” I said, “Oh, okay, so you finish my pictures, I’m going to go do something else.”
JDA: You also can’t see yourself as others see you.
MM: No.
JDA: Which is usually much better than you see yourself.
MM: Right.
JDA: It’s interesting, being an actor. Rob Lowe said being famous, which he is, was a series of bad haircuts, because of all the photos of himself.
Question: I’m here because your performances have both been so great from The Closer, and my parents will kill me if I don’t convey their compliments as well. They’re not really DragonCon people but they love Major Crimes.
JDA: We love parents.
MM: Yes we do!
Question: I wanted to ask about, you touched on it a little earlier, how much of a deliberate looking back to the beginning of The Closer was there at the beginning of Major Crimes? It seemed like some of the same patterns with someone new taking over were repeating. Sharon goes from being a foil to Brenda to being in parallel with her. It’s interesting.
JDA: Are you saying…
Question: Was there any, from the actors of from the writers, deliberately looking back?
JDA: I don’t think so, fresh fresh! A new look altogether.
MM: But I do think if a woman takes over in a corporate or other position, you’re going to run into some of the same issues. We were just talking about this backstage. You sort of have to get used to, and figure out how to overcome the fact that if a man tells people to do something, they’re more apt to just do it. That’s just how we’re conditioned. So whatever conflicts a woman has coming into a new situation are going to happen there.
JDA: I wish I could sing. I’d start singing, “It’s a Man’s World.”
MM: [singing] W-O-M-A-N.
Question: So I think you’re both great, I have a question for both of you. Dr. Morales, I am very impressed by your medical jargon because there is nothing I hate more than watching an M.E. who doesn’t know what they’re talking about or a doctor who just says the wrong thing, like, “push that or that.” Did you have to go through any special medical jargon class?
JDA: I should have. No, here’s the funny thing about medical jargon. Spanish is my first language and a lot of the medical jargon is Latin based. I read things and I completely understand what they are because they’re Latin based. I know the origin of the words, so that helps, and how to pronounce them. Learning them, on the other hand, while conducting an autopsy, with a poor person in dead man costume makeup on the table, with my fellow actors who are all looking at me because I’m doing a presentation on something I know nothing about, while having an attitude about it and being pissed about something or another as a character, is really tough. Some days, when I have like two pages explaining all this stuff, it takes me days to learn it. I can understand it, but to learn it, wow.
MM: He’s really so good, that’s part of why I look forward to the morgue, because he’ll be doing all the talking. He will have these passages that we couldn’t do, we just couldn’t do.
JDA: They’re nuts!
MM: We would not be able to pull them off. And all I have to say is, “Really?” And then he goes on and on, and I go, “And, what do you think?” It’s quite amazing to watch him and he gets better and better at it. These people have been doing this show for a long time, and I am blown away by the fact that everybody’s work is growing, that’s a tribute to this cast.
JDA: You have to recommit every time. Every year that the show is renewed we’re so grateful to have jobs because not all of our friends have jobs. You just go, “Okay, yes, would I rather be doing a Rusty and Sharon scene at the house? Yes! I want to be with Rusty and Sharon, but I have to be at the morgue, it’s my job!” Emotional work is much more fun for me to do. Things that are of a human nature are a lot easier than medical jargon. But I think you find a way to bring that into it. It’s a challenge, it’s really a challenge, but thanks for the compliment. I’m not really a doctor, though I do attempt to convince people that I am.
Question: Well, I commend you on your quick breeze through medical school there. Sharon, this question is for you.
MM: I love that you just did that. That’s never happened. Thank you.
Question: Oh well.
MM: Sharon!
Question: The first time I ever saw you on TV was when you were the antagonist in The Closer. Ever since then I’ve just been really mesmerized by your voice. The cadence in which you speak, and your enunciation, and I was wondering, did you go through any sort of voice…I mean you speak like no one else, the cadence and the enunciation, so did you do anything to make that happen?
MM: Um, when I was a little girl, in Pennsylvania…where’d you go? [to the young man who asked the question] Oh there you are. I was talking to you, sir! I don’t know if you saw my last show, Battlestar Galactica, but there’s something called an airlock… I grew up in Pennsylvania in a very Irish neighborhood, third generation immigrants. So I think way back there, some of that was laid in. And when I was in college and spent a year studying in England, and I absorbed a lot of that sound and I did voice training there. Then some more in the States, then I worked in Canada, forever, on the battleship Galactica. And Canadians…some people think I’m Canadian. So it’s a little bit mixed up with Canadian-Irish-English. And I don’t know why, really.
Question: It’s the cadence, it’s like the Queen’s speech.
MM: Oh, well that’s it. I really like you. Can you just come follow me around?
JDA: I thought I had the Queen’s speech.
MM: We’re just a couple of queens!
JDA: Yeah we are.
JDA and MM: [to questioner] You are released.
Question: Hi, this is for Mary. My first experience with you was Dances with Wolves. When you came onto The Closer, I thought, she needs her own show, so then came Major Crimes. My question is, on some of the scenes that I’ve seen, has there been anything between you and Andy Flynn?
MM: Between Sharon and who? Well, it would appear that something is going on. I couldn’t tell you what it is, but yeah, there’s something going on there. And that’s about all I can say.
Question: I do have a Major Crimes question, but first I wanted to ask, did you see the Ladybucks commercial that was going around a couple of weeks ago?
MM: I did. It’s on the John Oliver show, “Last Week Tonight.” It was a segment on the fact that woman are underpaid. Which hasn’t changed. So one of his solutions after the statistics was to create a dollar bill that had a woman on it but was only worth 83 cents. And he says, “What about this, we can have a dollar bill with Geena Davis, we can have a dollar bill with Julia Louis-Dreyfus.” Then he said, ‘or like this, we can have a dollar bill with President Laura Roslin.” And the best part about it was, he used my character, because he loves Battlestar. So I did see it. I tried to tweet it but I’m so bad at tweeting I don’t know where it went. As we all know, I struggle with social media. I did see it, I loved it.
Question: The actual question I wanted to ask is, Major Crimes is one of the procedurals where I like the characters and cast dynamics more so than the plot of the week. A lot of times the plot of the week kind of passes me by. I look up and that guy died and I don’t really know why, I know there was a line where someone explained it, but I missed it. Every now and then there are plots that stick with me, and I would say that recently, where the women are getting kidnapped from the bars and fed horse pills and sold to the human farm in Mexico. For you guys, are there plots of the week that really stick out in your memories, either for good reasons or for bad reasons?
JDA: The seasons are starting to blend. There was one difficult one late last year, the transgender girl that got murdered.
MM: Last season.
JDA: That was just so disturbing on every level. On the human level, the fact that it’s just such a misunderstood thing in our culture, you know, and the tragedy. We were all very sad that week. That really affected everyone. We have amazing artists that create some of the bodies. We don’t always have an actual actor. They did an amazing head of the child, with a wound. It was reverential, really. The feeling in the morgue that day felt like you were paying respect to a body. It’s amazing the artistry of the guy who did the piece. That one really hit us all really hard.
MM: I think that for my taste, I have an attachment to the episodes such as this one that are really what I call issue-centric. You know what I mean? It isn’t a random murder or somebody got mad at their wife. Not that those murders aren’t tragic—they are. But when we actually go into a social issue, that’s when I think we all get very excited.
[Laughter heard from panel in adjoining room]
MM: Well, they all thought that was a riot.
Question: I just wanted to say, I did watch The Closer and right at the time you came in I knew that there was going to be some kind of spinoff on it and you would be the main character.
MM: Wow, I didn’t know!
Question: I always pick up on that, if I think somebody’s going to be that way. What I found is that even though Brenda was strong, she still had a weak personality. She was not quite as strong as you are. In reality, you don’t have any weakness, even your ex-husband wasn’t your weakness. You seem strong from the beginning to the end. We don’t ever see you cry, or fall apart or anything, you’re always very internalized but you do a great acting job. And Morales you do a great acting job in the morgue. Whenever I watch a TV show I watch it as if it’s real. Whenever I go to talk about a character, I talk about that character like it’s real. I know it’s not, but being in the show and really paying attention to what you guys are doing, you have to see it as real. So we call you by your names in the show. I have someone who watches a lot of TV and lives with me, and when we talk about you, we talk about you like you’re that true person. We really appreciate all that you do.
JDA: Wow, thank you. So tell me great spinoff psychic, how are you feeling about the coroner?
Question: Have you heard of Jack Klugman, when he played Quincy?
JDA: We do have a little inside joke. Should I tell them?
MM: Yes.
JDA: On the show, we call me Mr. Quiiiiiincy. Señor Quiiiiiincy. I’m just teasing.
Question: Just wanted to add that we rarely get the kind of show that you bring and the kind of talent that you bring to DragonCon. We got many many sci-fi shows but we rarely get something that’s not sci-fi, so thanks for coming.
MM: We’re hoping to grow this and get the whole group here some year.
Question: For Mary, as a growing feminist, you and the characters have really shaped my view on my own femininity and what I think about feminism. It’s not just the character, it’s the stories you choose to tell. I’m just wondering if you could talk about the decisionmaking process in picking those sorts of stories to tell. Is it a conscious decision? Are you aware of the impact you’re going to have on the audience? Does that influence how you choose your roles?
MM: First of all, I’m glad that you are a feminist. I think that’s great. Feminism is humanism, do you know what I mean? So I would say that most of my career, the roles have found me rather than me choosing the roles. I’ve been really lucky, but people seem to send me things that require some of the ideas that we talk about. I’m not sure why that happens but I do think that people get excited by certain ideas, actors get excited by certain ideas. That sends something out into the ozone and the roles come to you.
Question: Hi Mary, I really enjoyed that you called yourself Darth Raydor. My question is, kind of your style evolution and even the evolution of the character. It’s almost like they colored your hair with shoe polish, it was so black in The Closer. I love the scene where you have the bean bag shot.
MM: The what?
Question: The bean bag shot, in The Closer.
MM: I’m so great with a bean bag gun.
Question: Just going from being out in the field to becoming a softer kind of character in Major Crimes, what is your thought about that? Would you like to be back out in the field, and a little more rough-and-tumble?
MM: I actually want to make sure that Darth Raydor does not get lost. I love her, and every once in a while she pops up, so it was a conversation we were having. I felt like, you know the season finale this year, that scene with Rusty’s mom, that was vintage Darth. And I read that script and I said, “She’s back!” That part of her that we had to let recede a bit in order for Sharon to become central in a new way. It’s coming back. I’s integrated. The difference is, I couldn’t have done that scene, and James couldn’t have written that scene, in the first episode. Given that we’ve had time to understand her more as a woman, and understand about her vulnerability, whatever it is, then when you bring Darth back, it’s rooted in all these other things. When she was Darth Raydor in The Closer, we didn’t know anything else about her. I’m fairly tickled by the potential there.
Question: For Jonathan, based on your personality, you must have a good story about trying to reanimate one of your corpse actors during a scene?
JDA: We had our share of interesting actors playing corpses. We had one young guy who fell asleep. It was a very long day in the burrito room. They call the burrito room where they’re stacked. There’s one up in the shelf and we’re shooting and we all hear, ”zzzzzzz.” This guy had been asleep for like eight hours. He was young so I think he’d partied the night before. I have great sympathy for them because they’re lying on a metal table. I haven’t had to be too mean.
Question: Mary, Brenda Leigh had the chocolate and the Ding Dongs in her desk drawer, so what’s in Sharon’s desk drawer?
MM: I can’t say!
JDA: I think it’s in mine too. Paperclips!
MM: What I will say is that I panicked one day on the set, because what’s in the drawer no one else knows about. I panicked one day because I saw Phillip, who plays Buzz, taking some people on a tour of my office and heading towards my drawer. So I said, “Stop! Stop!” That was a good question!
Question: Hello, first I have a question from my husband. He is wondering whether or not there was ever any script where, the cast, they just really did not want to do it.
JDA: Like we would tell you!
Question: Because it’s so horrific.
JDA: No, to be honest, I don’t ever remember anyone going “ugh, this is awful we’re not doing it.”
Question: No, not for that reason, more for the emotional content.
JDA: Nah. Never, no. We trust every script is so thoroughly written and rewritten by James that by the time…we have questions, like, “Why am I saying that, that makes no sense” or whatever. We had one this past week where there was some religious undertones about a couple of characters. Something came up that I was, “Why would I know that?” I’m Latino, and I grew up in a Catholic environment where I would know this information. So the questions come up where you go, “I’m not so sure about that because we’ve never talked about that about my character or so and so’s character,” but they wrote it in the script. It’s so thoroughly thought out that they usually win the argument. You’re like, “Yeah you’re right. I’ll just say it and then you can edit it out.”
Question: The other thing that I want to say is that I really love both of your characters but I really love the part Sharon plays with Rusty. You do such a wonderful job with him and it’s amazing to watch. Thank you.
MM: Thank you, and Graham Patrick Martin is amazing to watch. I think that’s the gift that keeps on giving there. They found this actor that was so real and honest and skilled. And looked young enough to be able to pull this off, do you know what I mean? Anyway, we’re thrilled.
Question: I have a question for Mary. Sharon has a lot of funny, but slightly awkward, mannerisms. She loves to fidget with her pockets or kind of dart back and forth, and I’m just wondering how much of that is Mary and how much of that is Sharon.
MM: As you can see, part of it is me. They do do a lot of little things with her, I’ve noticed. I think part of that is, part of it you don’t know about yet, but you will some day. Sharon has a huge emotional life. It…it’s amazing. She has systematically trained herself to keep it down, keep it under wraps. Her marriage—well, whatever that was—there’s some history there that has not allowed, or Sharon has not felt fully able to be free of all that energy. Eye darting, I’ve discovered with her, when she thinks her eyes go cuckoo. And I like it. Because she’s always looking to stay ahead of what’s going on. Some of it is me, I do that too. Most of it is because I found out really early on what was really underneath there with her and it is not fully expressed.
Question: I’m actually a brand new fan, and I’ve never seen you in anything else. I just wanted to say that your voice, like when you’re talking to Rusty and he’s told you something horrible, your voice is, “Yes, this is horrible, but we’re going to find a way to fix it.” It’s just such a mom voice and I’ve started using that with my kids. They’re both teenagers. It’s just the perfect cadence. Thank you for that.
JDA: I see a self-help tape career in your future. Can you imagine Mary guiding you through a meditation?
MM: I couldn’t do that. I’ve had a lot of good therapists in my life.
Question: This is in regards to Rusty. People have talked about that they lose the point of the show during the crime of the week. But I want to know, “what’s Rusty doing now, what’s Sharon doing with Rusty to help make everything all right?” The relationship with you as the second mom that can help him build trust again is so wonderful and inspiring, so thank you.
MM: Thank you so much.
Question: I love watching the show with my mom on the phone. She lives in Virginia and I live here. So we’ll watch, “OMG did you see that?” She loves seeing characters that are her age or older and are very professional, and I love seeing characters my age. You’ve got Asian characters and Latino characters and women in power. I think the thing that drew us both to it was the diversity of it, in such a natural way that you don’t feel like it’s shoved down your throat. Obviously I wish every show could be like that, but I guess my question is, is that something that you guys do deliberately or was it just a natural progression of things?
JDA: It is 100% deliberate. James Duff as the creator believes that the show, which takes place in LA, should look like LA, and in particular the police force and the coroner’s office is full of a lot of immigrant doctors. Doctors that, that’s the best job they could get in the States having come from another country. He was very adamant about it representing LA on every level. And the guest stars and stories are from different communities: Asian community, black community, Latino community. LA is a huge city with a lot of cultures and he’s very adamant about casting it that way.
Question: I think this is one of the best ensemble shows on TV, and I look forward to seeing everybody appear next year [at DragonCon]. Two quick questions. The first one, who are your favorite characters to interact with? And the second question is, can we hope to see Brenda in a cameo?
MM: I think that you can hope. We hope. I wouldn’t answer who’s my favorite character if you paid me. That’s like saying, “Who’s your favorite leading man to kiss?” Uh uh. No way. I love interacting with all of them, I really do.
JDA: I’ll tell you this much, I really prefer when Raydor’s in the morgue. There are some people that are your favorites to work with, per se, but like Mary said, we’re not going to tell you. We all love each other, we all have relationships with each other. It’s always fun to see one another. I think they’re all kind of fascinating because they’re all part of James’ mind. Sometimes you’ll watch an actor and you’ll be like, “Oh, that’s James’ X side.” Because he really uses parts of himself in the show.
Question: I was really thinking more of the characters, not the actors. Like Buzz, you guys really crapped all over him all the time when he drove his Prius. But I understand what you’re saying.
Question: I wanted to say I love the show and my parents love the show and it’s great that we have something we can talk about together. G.W. Bailey, I’ve only know him from his wacky Police Academy character, and he is such a treasure on the show. I was wondering if you could talk about working with him because he’s the most hilarious person.
JDA: He’s the sweetest grump in the world.
MM: He is a very skillful, funny man. He’s very smart to work with as an actor. Very funny, very generous, and, sometimes…sleepy.
JDA: He really delivers a lot of himself in that role. The soft side of G.W. is that he runs a nonprofit for children with cancer. So he brings the kids out and we’re very involved with the Sunshine Kids. He’s just a sweet sweet man. That part you don’t see as much in Provenza that often, but it comes out, you know?
Question: I’m definitely one who’s more interested in the characters than the crime of the week. I love G.W., but I think the writers have missed an opportunity between him and Julio. My favorite scene is, “Julio got shot again?” this season. I think there’s an opportunity for the writers to have Provenza pick on him in future scenes.
MM: We’ll tell ‘em, we’ll tell ‘em.
JDA: I’m sure Raymond will be thrilled to hear that. Something that’s not on the schedule: Mary’s going to do a photo op and I’m going to be there.
MM: Everyone who is coming to the Walk of Fame: everything that I earn is being donated to Sinte Gleska University on the Rosebud Reservation in South Dakota. It’s an amazing, wonderful thing, and some fans out there are already very invested. It is on the reservation, and many of the extras and language teacher Doris Leader Charge from Dances with Wolves are from the Rosebud Reservation. You’ve been great!
Thanks to Lauren H. for transcribing this panel.