Exclusive ‘Murder in the First’ Interview: Kathleen Robertson Discusses Last Week’s Shocking Episode and More

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TNT’s Murder in the First has been one of the summer’s most pleasant surprises. The crime drama hails from TV legend Steven Bochco (NYPD Blue) and boasts a stellar cast with Taye Diggs and Kathleen Robertson at the heart of the series as partners Terry and Hildy. Last Monday’s episode found Robertson’s Hildy taking a dark turn when she killed a man guilty of domestic violence just as it was revealed that Hildy was a past victim of abuse herself.

Robertson recently chatted with TV Equals about the explosive episode, what it means for Hildy moving forward and why she feels so comfortable in Hildy’s shoes. Catch the fallout from last week in episode four of Murder in the First airing tonight, Monday, June 30th at 10PM ET/PT on TNT.

TV Equals: Post episode three, what kind of state of mind is Hildy going to be in?

Kathleen Robertson: Things with the Erich Blunt case are ramping up, so when she gets back to work she is very much aware that all eyes are on her and that after what happened she is being watched very carefully by everybody. She has to almost bury it and present herself as if it didn’t happen– she’s just back to work and it is business as usual. It’s difficult and it is definitely living within her, as it will forever, and it is a difficult thing.

She took a life, and regardless of what everybody said, and regardless that she knew she had to do it, it’s a huge thing. It’s obviously something that will change her forever.

TV Equals: Last week, Hildy also revealed she was a victim of domestic abuse. How does that part of her past affect how you play her?

Kathleen Robertson: For me, it was important to determine what it was specifically and what the backstory was. We don’t delve into it too much, but I thought it was really important for the audience to have some understanding of what happened. We delve into it in a later episode. It is very clear to me that her husband was an alcoholic and it got physical. When it started getting physical that was when she said this is over, we can’t do this anymore. I can’t let my daughter see this.

It definitely infuses her personality and her choices, and who she is. I think she is a really strong, tough woman, but I think she is also a little broken underneath. She does a really good job of hiding it for her daughter and everybody at work, but I think she’s dealing with a lot of difficult stuff from her past and she is trying to mask that and trying to move on.

TV Equals: What is it about Hildy that made you excited to play her?

Kathleen Robertson: Well, I think I really responded to the fact that she is juggling the demands of this incredibly stressful, high stakes job with the demands of being a mom, and not just a mom, but a single mom. I liked that the show depicted both worlds and you got to see the differences between her personal life and her professional life. The fact that she is dating and we get to see that world a little bit too– as an actor it gave me the chance to delve into all of the different aspects of her personality and not just being the cop, which on a lot of cop shows you kind of just get to be the cop, but with this I got to do everything.

TV Equals: Do you think Hildy’s job will interfere with her being a single mother?

Kathleen Robertson: It is definitely a challenge. There was a homicide detective I met in San Francisco that I used as inspiration for the role, and she was also a single mom. We talked a lot about the job and the demands and trying to do it all. She was very frank with me. It’s really hard, and there are some days where it works really well and you get to be regular mom and do it all, then there are other days where the phone rings at three in the morning with her boss calling saying there’s a dead body under the bridge and she has to get her daughter out of bed and haul her over to grandma’s house in the middle of the night to go look at a dead body. And those nights suck.

I think it’s difficult and we definitely explore that over the course of the season. She’s doing the best she can, which is all any of us can do.

TV Equals: What do you feel are the advantages of covering just one case over the course of a season?

Kathleen Robertson: I love the format, it’s kind of my favorite format. I just think it is really rewarding. From an audience point of view it is like investing in one, really good book or watching a long movie. You get to invest in these characters, and it has a very clear middle, beginning and end. I think this format, people are really responding to it. It’s that thing where you can talk to your friends about it– it gets that water cooler conversation going with people and you are just racing to get to the end and figure out what it is all about.

TV Equals: The dynamic between Hildy and Terry is so well drawn. How do you see their partnership?

Kathleen Robertson: I’ve always felt that deep down inside she has always felt very much an attraction toward him and a feeling that they would be a good match, but he has always been married and she was married, so it was something that was never going to happen. When his wife dies, it opens up a lot of questions and it opens up a can of worms, so to speak, and makes things more challenging and complicated for both of them as the season progresses.

I think ultimately they would be really good together and a good match, but the timing is just not right. It just can’t be, and I think they are both smart enough to know they have to be professional and they would both say it would never work. So there is this underlying tension that rolls through everything in terms of their relationship.

TV Equals: How much of Kathleen is in Hildy?

Kathleen Robertson: Well, I think I am pretty honest and I don’t edit. She’s that way too, which I like. I really feel comfortable playing this character. I’ve never played a cop and I’ve always wanted to because it felt like it would be a comfortable sort of thing for me to do. It has been. It feels like a good fit for me.

Sometimes you play a role and you feel a little bit outside of it, looking in. When I get Hildy’s boots on and her gear and pick up her badge, I sort of feel like, “Yeah, I’m her, I’m in it.” It feels good and really natural and comfortable for me. I really hope we get to do it again.

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