Common Law’s Michael Ealy and Warren Kole Talk About Fighting On Screen, Being Friends Off Screen and More

Common Law - Warren Kole and Michael Ealy

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.

Warren and Michael took a few moments to answer some questions from the set in New Orleans (which plays Los Angeles on the show).

On how they keep the energy up on set……and apparently play like puppies

Warren Kole: I don’t know what to say to that. We don’t fight like cats and dogs – to continue to torture the metaphor a little bit more – so I guess it would be two puppies playing, maybe something a little more manly would be better.

Michael Ealy: Yeah I never rub his stomach or anything like that, you know what I mean?

Warren Kole: We don’t sniff each other’s butts.

Michael Ealy: No. No sniffing.

Michael Ealy: I think we definitely try to keep up the energy off camera similar to the energy that’s on camera. Like today, we were [working on a scene] and we got to pencil fight in-between takes. Our producer doesn’t know. We’re going to try and bring that into the scene because it’s something that we do, and it’s something Travis and Wes do.

Warren Kole: I’m very thankful that I’m working with an actor like Michael. He’s easy to work with every day, so we don’t end up killing each other.

On how they would you compare West and Travis to detective pairings in the past

Michael Ealy: I, I think this whole process has felt completely unique because of the therapy component of the show. When you get into therapy and you start talking about how we make each other feel and stuff like that, I mean I’ve just never seen that before. Yes we are a buddy cop show. That’s a component as you can tell; it’s a buddy cop show. That’s because we’re buddies and we’re cops but the minute we get into therapy I think we’re going into unchartered waters in terms of the buddy cop dynamic.

Warren Kole: Let me follow up on the therapy thing. The dynamic in couple’s therapy – not that I’m speaking from experience – is often, ‘I’m okay but he or she has issues.’ Do both Wes and Travis feel that way?

Michael Ealy: Maybe. That’s coming slowly, we’re starting to identify with our own flaws if you want to call them that.

Warren Kole: It’s like a sibling relationship in that way because there’s a feeling of you’ve been together with someone for so long and they don’t appreciate what you do, and it’s their fault that they don’t appreciate what you’re doing for them, and ‘if you’d just respect me and recognize you know how much I do for you then maybe I would swallow my pride and say the same thing back,’ but we never really get there. [We] haven’t got there yet.

On what they’ve learned personally from the therapy

Michael Ealy: You know, one of the things we say in the pilot – or Dr. Ryan says in the pilot – is you don’t have to like the same things, you just have to hate the same things. And I find that that’s actually quite true in any kind of relationship. If it’s me and my sister and we both hate vampire movies, then that’s a good thing, but if she wants to see a chick flick and I want to see Harry Potter, it’s two different [things].

Michael Ealy: I think what we are learning as detectives is there’s a need to compromise at times. We both hate crime. I think you see us get along in certain moments and then you see us not get along in certain moments, but when we don’t get along it usually has nothing to do with the crime. It’s something personal; my messiness or his tightassness.

Common Law - Warren Kole and Michael Ealy

On how much their characters argue and how they deal with being forced into therapy

Warren Kole: It’s tempered well with how excellent they are individually as cops and how the sum of the parts is greater than the whole. They’re really good professionally so it’s like you have to take the good with the bad, and there’s been so many blowouts in the public or in the precinct that what’s hilarious is it’s almost as if nobody even notices anymore. They’re just the Bickersons.

Michael Ealy: You almost feel like if we didn’t argue, we wouldn’t be able to solve the crime; like we almost have to do it in order to be able to be good at what we do. The minute we start to get along all the time, we don’t need to be partners anymore. I think the good thing is that everybody in the precinct knows that we didn’t sign up. We weren’t like ‘oh, let’s go to couples therapy.’ It wasn’t like I came to him and said ‘let’s do this.’ We were forced to go and Warren has the privilege of saying that repeatedly to Jack the captain.

On whether their characters will ever get along better

Warren Kole: It’s like ebb and flow, there’s a waxing, waning you know? It’s like ‘I love you, I hate you,’ and like any relationship, [we] drive each other crazy and know how to push the other person’s buttons.

Michael Ealy: I also think it’s just way too early. I think it’s a little early for us to start getting along. I mean we’re just now starting to really dump on each other.

On their characters physical aspects and how they deal with the action and stunts on the show

Warren Kole: I don’t know about you, but I kind of see stud muffin one and two right here.

Michael Ealy: No listen, I think you guys pretty much learn in the pilot, we love to go do all that stuff. It’s such a nice break from coming in here and talking about our feelings to going out there and kind of getting that adrenaline rush and taking people down and breaking people’s teeth and stuff like that. [Warren] is wicked fast and we always have to set him back a little bit further so he doesn’t pass me in the chase scene because he would pass me in a heartbeat.

Warren Kole: He likes to climb on shit too. I’d sit at the bar and I’d go, ‘did he just climb that wall?’

Michael Ealy: This guy will stand over a fucking railing, like fourteen stories up, and just be like, ‘let’s shoot, come on guys I’m ready!’ Meanwhile I’m in the hallway.

On whether or not the show will ever get heavy

Warren Kole: We have our moments when we dip into something a little more serious but it hasn’t really been the definition of the show so far.

Michael Ealy: We’re still quite entertaining in the therapy but I think there are some moments that bring a little bit of gravitas to the show. We have to do that in order to be incredible as detectives, as human beings, as people with feelings. I mean if you don’t really believe that he really misses his ex-wife you don’t buy into it, you know what I mean? You have to believe that and obviously Travis has his demons from his past and all that stuff kind of manifests itself. We just don’t do it a lot because we’re not that show.

On what demons come out for their characters in therapy

Warren Kole: My demons are the mistakes I made getting obsessed with excellence and competition and losing my moral compass a little bit as a competitor and a lawyer. And where [Wes] is willing to sacrifice that whole life and adopt a new kind of identity. [Wes] was shaped by a singular event, singular tragedy. Travis is a little different.

Michael Ealy: Yeah Travis, his [demons] are a bit more submerged and I think they stem from childhood, which I think are much deeper and a more difficult treasure chest of demons to get into. And I think it’s going to take him a little bit longer to kind of open up. A lot of that stems from his childhood in terms of a sense of abandonment and stuff like that. He’s that guy who’s ‘the more people around him, the better.’ He would love to sit here and talk to all of you and say ‘let’s break bread and blah, blah, blah.’ Me, I’m much more guarded. Travis has been so much fun to play because he is just so social and he wants to be light. He wants everybody to like him – whereas I could give a shit.

Common Law - Warren Kole and Michael Ealy with journalists

On the challenges of fighting on screen while still maintaining a friendship off screen

Warren Kole: I think it’s healthy because you can get a little frustrated with the day or whatever [and] it’s always nice to be able to let it out and work the problems out on camera and have a fight. It doesn’t seem to get tiring because it’s just a flow.

Michael Ealy: I mean we tend to have each other’s backs as actors. There’s a day like yesterday: I was a bit incoherent most of the day, it was just like, ‘yo man, hold it down today.’ And he’s done the same thing. It’s like, ‘thanks for making that scene work because I had no recollection of what just happened.’ The schedule is rough and we’ve got to kind of have each other’s back, but we always try to make the scenes as ‘Wes and Travis’ as possible and the more episodes we do, the more we actually understand these characters and the more input you have.

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

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