Exclusive Interview: SOUTHLAND’s Shawn Hatosy

Shawn Hatosy

SOUTHLAND is technically returning to TNT for its third season on Tuesday, January 4, but because only thirteen episodes of the gritty and absorbing police drama have aired so far, it feels like a much newer show than that. Add in the fact that the ten episodes coming up are the first to be produced strictly for TNT and it’s almost like Southland is getting a second chance to make a great first impression.

Series star Shawn Hatosy, who plays sensitive detective Sammy Bryant, is as excited as fans for the new season to begin airing. Daemon’s TV recently talked to Shawn about the upcoming season and what we can expect for Sammy and his unpredictable home life, as well as about his excellent guest stint on Dexter as the creepy serial killer Boyd Fowler.

Congratulations on ‘Southland’ returning on January 4th.

Shawn Hatosy: Thank you.

How was it coming back this season with the NBC fiasco finally behind you and having the show really be TNT’s this time around?

Shawn Hatosy: Well, it was well worth the wait. I’ll say that. We were down for a year. So from the moment that we started talking to the producers and the writers, it was probably the end of August. The first time that they started pitching me what was going to happen to these beloved characters I started getting goosebumps. We picked up right where we left off and it’s an action packed season full of raw emotion and I guarantee that the fans are going to love season three.

Have there been any noticeable changes made since it’s now a TNT show?

Shawn Hatosy: Well, yeah, of course. There’s tons of different things that have had to change just with the nature of going over. The budget is smaller. There have been some casting changes, but everybody is back. When I say casting changes it’s just in terms of the regulars, but everybody is back. The one main difference which you feel immediately is that the scripts, they’re the way that we want them to be. There’s creative freedom at TNT and they don’t really interfere with what stories we’re trying to tell. That just makes for a better show.

So it sounds like the feeling of the show is the same and there’s just more of it?

Shawn Hatosy: Yeah. It’s a better show. It’s like the brand new version of the phone that just came out and it’s a little bit leaner and it does a little bit more, which isn’t to say that the show wasn’t good before. It’s just now starting to hit its stride. I think that television shows take a minute to find their groove and we had a lot of obstacles in our way from the get go, but I think we’re finding our groove now. Even though it’s season three, we started season three with only thirteen episodes under our belt. So it’s really kind of technically our second season, but people are going to love the show.

What’s on the horizon for Sammy this season?

Shawn Hatosy: Well, he’s still dealing with unresolved issues with Tammi. Her presence is felt, in her usual way. I think that Sammy has a lot to deal with as far as that goes. The one thing that we focus on is that Sammy ends up needing some support and somebody to lean on and he kind of turns to Nate. We explore that bond, their relationship and outside of work and how Nate becomes the support system for Sammy. I really like Kevin Alejandro who plays Nate. He’s just a great actor and I enjoy the dynamic between those two characters.

I interviewed Emily Bergl a few months back and she hinted even back then that Tammi was going to make a big mistake. How bad is it going to get?

Shawn Hatosy: Well, you look at Tammi’s history and there’s nothing that shocks me at this point. It’s like you can’t even be surprised by her erratic behavior because that’s just the way she is. You’re surprised when she does something normal.

There are times when I wonder why on earth these two characters are together at all-

Shawn Hatosy: Yeah, but it’s so much of Sammy’s way, really. It’s also that part of it is these dysfunctional relationships, when you’re in them you can’t figure out that you shouldn’t be there. But looking at it from the outside everyone is like, ‘Oh, my God, he’s crazy. What’s he doing.’ But he’s got this little thing where he wants to fix people and help people and I think that has a little bit to do with it, but I also think that he has some personal things that he’s got to deal with for staying in that relationship.

What are the biggest challenges of playing Sammy?

Shawn Hatosy: Challenges. Well, the challenges are the best thing for me. Right away, when I read the pilot, I saw that he was an emotional guy and he responds to stuff emotionally and really impulsively. He really can’t control his emotions which I think is cool and as an actor that gives you a lot to play with. So the emotional stuff is a challenge, but it’s also what I like. So when I read scripts and I go, ‘Oh, god, he has to cry,’ or whatever, that stuff, when you first read it you go, ‘Oh, that could be hard.’ But thankfully we create very realistic scenarios and it’s never been too much of a problem. I will say that this season of ‘Southland’, as an actor I’ve never been stretched this much. They’ve really kind of piled a lot on Sammy and he ends up at a very, very low place. It’s pretty cool, man. I think the audience is going to enjoy it.

‘What Makes Sammy Run’ was one of my favorite episodes. Are we going to see another Sammy-centric episode?

Shawn Hatosy: Yes. There’s plenty of that.

‘Dexter’ ended its season last night, and your guest turn earlier this fall was quite a different role for you. Can you talk about that, how that came about?

Shawn Hatosy: That came about, I just got a call. They were looking for somebody to play this part and I guess I was somebody that they had thought about maybe from the get go. They told me about it, started explaining it to me and I was laughing. Well, they started to tell me, the one scene that he pitched me was that he gets me in the neck with the drug, but I tazed him. I was laughing so hard. It’s such a gift, that part. First of all, I’d been playing a lot of cops. So to play a darker character and somebody who’s as strange as Boyd Fowler was just a great opportunity and I had a lot of fun with it.

I love that show, but the problem is that I find myself feeling sympathy for Dexter and then also for your character which makes me wonder what’s wrong with me –

Shawn Hatosy: Well, I was talking about this before, and the way that I would approach any character but especially a bad character. Most characters that are bad have a human side to them. So it’s trying to identify what that was, and then also they don’t really know that they’re bad and so it was a lot of fun to figure out that he was just really desperate for a friend. He stumbles along Dexter and Dexter seems to have similar interests in dead things. I thoroughly enjoyed it and I did get an overall sense that he was a very likeable character even though he did terrible things.

How did you go about building that character, even the wardrobe choices, especially when you only had two episodes to do it?

Shawn Hatosy: There was at least a month of preparation before I started shooting. So that was helpful. I knew right away that there had to be facial hair. I don’t know why, but I just thought that he needed it, and then from there on, like I said, I tried to find that human side. But then you start to talk with wardrobe people. I forget the gentleman’s name, but pretty much they wanted me in pants, but we were both agreed that he needed to be in shorts. So these kinds of things happen and you just go from there. I was like, ‘I’m just going to button two buttons and leave my belly out. It’s these kinds of things that you can do whatever you want and thankfully they were open to that.

Did you have a favorite scene that you shot on that?

Shawn Hatosy: Yeah. I’m not sure that it played out the way that we did it. They’re all good, but there was a scene where I’m scraping up–actually, I take it back. The first scene where I meet him and there’s that dead raccoon and we’re talking casually about how he ended up there. I thought that was a lot of fun.

And then you have the iconic being strapped to that table. How was that? Actors often tell me in interviews that they’d like to be strapped to Dexter’s table.

Shawn Hatosy: It’s a pretty good place to be. I’m not going to lie. I remember looking at him and thinking, ‘God, this is a very, very interesting type of employment. You kind of do this almost everyday and it’s really, really twisted.’ But, yeah, it was cool. It was intense and hard and I wouldn’t have it any other way.

How do you choose your roles? Do you look for something specific in a character–are you always looking for something to speak to you in a role?

Shawn Hatosy: That’s basically it. You kind of have to identify what makes it work for you and that’s basically how I choose it. I especially like challenging roles and then deconstructing it and figuring out how I’m going to make it real. The more challenging the better I believe because it forces you to work. When you have stuff that’s easy you don’t work as hard. Although you should, but you tend to relax a little bit. So the more of a challenge the more that I respond.

Do you have anything else coming up?

Shawn Hatosy: I’m just focused on ‘Southland’ right now. I’m actually getting married next week. So between ‘Southland’ and wedding planning there’s not a lot of time for anything else.

Are there any other television shows that you’d like to guest star on at some point?

Shawn Hatosy: I love ‘Mad Men’. I love ‘Breaking Bad’ and ‘Boardwalk Empire’. So the answer to that question is yes. There’s a very cool trend going on now where the movie business has stopped making small dramas, but the TV business is definitely in the business of great small dramas.

The third season of Southland begins on TNT Tuesday, January 4 at 10pm eastern/9pm central. You can read all of our Southland coverage here.

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