Common Law’s Co-Executive Producer Karim Zreik Talks About The Show’s Inspiration, Filming in New Orleans and More

Common Law

USA Network has a new series to add to its repertoire of fun summer shows. Common Law premieres this Friday, May 11 at 10/9C and stars Michael Ealy as Travis Marks and Warren Kole as Wes Mitchell. They are two partners who – apart from their polarity and odd couple behavior – have a seven-year track record as the Los Angeles Police Department’s best detectives in the Robbery-Homicide Division.

Executive Producer Karim Zreik took a few moments to answer some questions from the set in New Orleans (which plays Los Angeles on the show).

On what inspired the show and how it came to be created

Karim Zreik: It’s a great story. I have one third of Junction Entertainment and that consists of Jon Turteltaub, Dan Shotz and – and myself. And every year, every development season, we sit around and we try to figure out shows and what topics we want to explore and about two years ago we sat around and I was throwing out ideas, they were shooting them down, they were throwing out ideas, I was shooting them down, and at one point I was like I hate you guys. [LAUGH]

The back story is we’ve been working together for 13 years, the three of us, and I’m like “I love you guys so much, but I cannot deal with you.” And someone said, “Well, what if we all went to therapy and like talked it out?” Ding. Buddy cop show, guys get sent to therapy, just to see the dynamic of how that would work out.

We pitched it to CBS [and] they bought it right away. They took to it right away and created these characters – Wes, Travis, Dr. Ryan, Captain Sutton – and brought it to life. And we had it at CBS for a year, we developed it there for a year and the direction they were taking the show in was just a little different. It was more procedural and it was sort of losing the character stuff. Thankfully, they gave it back to us after passing on it, and literally the next day we sold it to USA.

On how the boys deal with meeting the “ex”

Karim Zreik: We started episode 106 today. It’s called The Ex Factor. Travis’ former partner shows up and he’s now Beverly Hills PD and he comes in with his, what we call the Travis 2.0. So it’s the new Travis. And now Travis’ old partner and his partner have to work with Travis and Wes on a case. And it’s the dynamics of having to work with your ex, boyfriend, girlfriend, whatever it is. So everybody starts analyzing them AND trying to figure out why is it so weird between the two of them. It’s cute.

On how the show will tackle the difference between men and women when it comes to communication

Karim Zreik: The producers want to explore is how men communicate with each other because it’s such a different dynamic than women. These two men have been working together for seven years, have their own way of talking to each other and communicating and when things go wrong how do men handle it? You know, do men talk it out or do they shut down? I think one of the funny parts in therapy is they’re the only two men, straight men, in this group. And as the season goes on Dr. Ryan explains to them, you guys are a married couple and you’re going to have married couple issues. And you guys, whether you know it or not, have hit the seven year itch and it’s natural and you’re gonna hate each other and you’re gonna figure it out and you’re gonna talk through it with one another. And I don’t think they like to hear that because [they say] “we’re not married.” They fight it. But the more she explains to them, yes, you are, you’re going through married couple stuff like an ex coming back into your life or having financial problems – all that stuff we explore in the first season.

On how the guys will deal with the issue of cohabitation

Karim Zreik: [Wes and Travis are] on a stakeout and they have to share an apartment across the street and Travis is a mess and Wes is anal and likes things a certain way, the temperature in the room has to be a certain way and they are just not getting along. We’re just trying to hit sort of relationship points.

On whether we will ever get a peek into the past and find out about the days when the guys used to get along

Karim Zreik: Yeah, I think you’ll see a piece of that in every episode the way they solve crimes. When they have to figure something out they work well together. It’s the other stuff. It’s the personal stuff and it’s whether Travis eats like a pig and makes a mess everywhere and he makes a mess in Wes’ car, which drives him bonkers. It’s that stuff that they can’t figure out. But the captain will not split them up because when they’re working on cases they’re brilliant. They’re brilliant. They work off of each other. And you’ll see that, but then you’ll also see the mess.

On how the show is like Lethal Weapon

Karim Zreik: Lethal Weapon. 80’s buddy movies. That’s literally the tone we had in mind while making the show. Also Running Scared with Gregory Hines and Billy Crystal. Running Scared is one, Lethal Weapon, Beverly Hills Cop. We’re actually making fun of the Beverly Hills Cop, because Travis’ ex partner, is now with Beverly Hills PD.

On why they chose to have a female therapist rather than a male one

Karim Zreik: The dynamic just works better because it’s a different P-O-V. I think if it was a man giving advice to two men, they’d go. Most of her stuff is reactionary. She listens to them and gives them these looks like, “you’re both crazy.” What we do is we mix it up. So every week the couples are in different seats. The only one is Dr. Ryan, she never, she never moves from this seat.

On why they chose New Orleans to film the show

Karim Zreik: Good question. First of all, financially it sort of helped us with the type of show we wanted to do. Also [there is] something about doubling LA for New Orleans felt that it was easy to do. Just walking through downtown you can see that with the buildings and the sky rises. It’s all access here. And something about just giving back to New Orleans helped as well. It’s a thriving city. I keep telling everybody that this city has bounced back like I’ve never seen a city bounce back and the money and the business coming in here, especially in film, is booming. It’s amazing. It’s amazing to be a part of it. The people, the hospitality, are amazing. “Southern hospitality” – it’s no lie.

On why they didn’t set the show in New Orleans

Karim Zreik: There was a moment there where we actually talked about “let’s just set the show in New Orleans. We should be in the Quarter and we should be on Bourbon Street.” But story-wise it doesn’t make sense. It feels like if you’re going to be cops getting sent to therapy you’re going to be in a big city and it’s going to happen in LA because that’s sort of where the liberal police captain would do it. I don’t know if you could buy this sort of happening in New York or Chicago, but LA just felt like it was the right therapy city to do this in.

On the challenges of finding LA-type neighborhoods in New Orleans

Karim Zreik: The sort of rule we made with the writers is, you guys write what you want, as big as you want, and then we’ll sort of take it in and figure out if we can do it or not. They wrote a scene in the first episode, back in the pilot, where we’re in some sort of gang neighborhood. Comptonesque. We were able to find that, [and] the mansions we’re able to find. I don’t see us running out of locations. I think because our cops are in downtown LA, we will always be in downtown. You know, there will always be buildings to shoot in. Car chases are easy to do.

Common Law premieres this Friday, May 11 at 10/9C on USA Network. Be sure to check it out!

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