Common Law’s Sonya Walger Talks About Her Character, Filming in New Orleans and How Her Co-Stars are Like Puppies

Sonya Walger

USA Network has a new series to add to its repertoire of fun summer shows. Common Law premieres on 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. Sonya Walger plays Dr. Ryan, a tough-as-nails therapist, who tries to help them understand and resolve their conflicts and confront their demons in order to enhance their ability to work together solving crimes.

Sonya Walger took the time to sit down with us in a beautiful restaurant in New Orleans (which will play Los Angeles in the show).

On what she thought when she first read the script.

Sonya Walger: My first thought was, as any actor will (if he’s honest enough) confess, it’s always about your role. You rarely read the script and think “oh interesting script.” You read it and you go “oh nice scenes.” That’s what I read. I was like “blah blah, cop stuff,” but “ah, interesting therapy scene.” If my work I’ve done over the years has got any common thread it is I really like doing stuff that is essentially about relationships. I really like playing the truth of how people talk and speak and miss each other and hurt and all of that. So I have not played a cop probably for that reason because I’m not terribly good at that stuff. I’m much better at the emotional side of things. So I read the script and just loved, loved the absurdity and brilliance of these two being sent to couples therapy. It felt, like I say, both preposterous and wonderful and appropriate and this huge comedy goldmine hasn’t been tapped before.

On how Dr. Ryan brings out the inner therapist in her

Sonya Walger: I like talking – I like talking about feelings, I like talking about things that are actually really going on. I’m much more comfortable with that – talking about that than I am talking about haircuts or something.

On what she’s learned from researching her character

Sonya Walger: I’ve learned a lot from researching groups and how groups work and how we replicate in a group the dynamic that we have in our world that we often bring into group – who we are with our brothers and sisters or who we are with our parents. And so the research side of it I’ve loved. I found it really, really fascinating. I’ve never had any experience in group therapy and it’s very different to couples or individual therapy. So I got hold of a group therapist and they went into it for a few hours and he recommended some books that I went and read. But he also came up with this genius idea. He said at the end of this two hour session that we had together, he said to me, “I’d really love it if you could watch us at therapy session, but you can’t because it would compromise the anonymity [of the people involved].” Then he said, “But if you want to bring eight actors together, I’ll do an improvised session for you.” So I went and pitched that to that to the creators of the show, who all agreed this would be a great idea. So we went to Manhattan Beach Studios and we got actors and then so we had the inner circle of the actors pretending to be in group with the therapist, and then this outer circle of all the [writers] observing. And so we did three hours of fake group therapy. It was intense. [LAUGH] Very intense.

On Dr. Ryan taking her therapy with the boys into the field.

Sonya Walger: Yeah, I do leave the office. I say to the boys that I can’t help them and they say [I should] observe them in [the field]. Usually, with a couple, then I would go to their home and observe them in their home situation and since their home is their work then I go and I go on a ride-along. So I’m in the back of the cop car for the entire episode watching them. It was great. It was hilarious. It was hot as hell in the back of a cop car. It was great and really, really fun just to get out of the community center and actually be with them in their world so it was fun.

On the chemistry between her co-stars…..and how they act like puppies

Sonya Walger: From what I’ve seen, yeah [there is chemistry]. They’re like puppies [and] they just won’t leave each other alone. They really don’t. I mean Michael’s pretty laid back and Warren is more high energy.I think of them like a Labrador and a Jack Russell. [LAUGH] That’s how I think of the two of them.

On an upcoming episode where the boys deal with joint custody….of a police dog

Sonya Walger: What we tried to do in the first season, the first 11 episodes, is try to sort of hit relationship issues. One of them is joint custody, which is one of our funnier episodes where, Randy – who was the K9 unit – something happens to her and they have to take care of the dog, Hudson. And [the boys are] “I want Hudson!” – “no, I want Hudson!” And it’s like sharing a kid – “why did you feed Hudson this? I don’t feed Hudson this.” and “Why did you keep Hudson up late?” There’s some really funny moments in that one.

On how the boys still protect each other, even though they fight like cats and dogs

Sonya Walger: When the chips are really, really down, if someone else comes in and dares to knock the other one then they will leap to that one’s defense. Not if that one is in the room, but if that one is missing, then it is a really lovely moment where Wes turns around to one of the cops and goes, “I can say that stuff, but you don’t get to” and absolutely shoots him down. So there’s a real loyalty there.

On how the boys go through the same stuff that real couples go through

Sonya Walger: That’s what’s sort of funny about the show is it transcends the fact that they’re cops. It actually does become about eight people in a room talking about their relationship. One of the things that’s really fun about watching the guys is that they – in the way that I think is so true of men – can have these huge blowout fights. Which, as women we don’t have, but if we did I know, maybe it’s just the English in me, but we would take like years to [get past it and] there will be all this unspoken smoldering that’s going on and all these icy lunches, you know. Guys just say it all and they have a food fight and then they come back and they carry on with their day.

On what it’s like filming in New Orleans

Sonya Walger: I couldn’t have loved it more. I’ve never been before and I just adore it. Adore it. So to actually get to be here for ten days and hang out and try different spots and wonder around the Garden District and the French Quarter, It’s just the people really for me that have sold me.

On why you should watch Common Law this summer

Sonya Walger: I think it’s really, really entertaining and I don’t think there’s anything on TV like it. I don’t if know there’s a show out there where you got two guys who have to go talk about why they don’t get along. I think it’s really fun to watch men struggle to be articulate and I think it’s fun to watch them have to talk about their feelings. I think it’s fun to watch them be answerable to a woman who I hope is not the ball buster, but is there holding them accountable in a way that they can’t wiggle out of. As cops you shouldn’t be able to flash that badge and get out of every situation and here’s a situation where the badge doesn’t count for anything.

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