Behind the Screens with Joshua Maloni
It was a rough start to the summer for fans of FOX's "Lethal Weapon," as the show came thisclose to being cancelled. Good news came with a commitment for more episodes - but with a steep price: Actor Clayne Crawford was dismissed.
In the season premiere, his character, the iconic Martin Riggs, will die - the victim of a gunshot rendered in the last episode.
While that's not the path fans (or showrunners) would've chosen, there is a silver lining: Actor Seann William Scott has joined "Lethal Weapon." He will play Wesley Cole, an ex-CIA operative and new partner to LAPD Det. Roger Mayfield Murtaugh (Damon Wayans).
If Scott is anything like what he portrayed in "Bulletproof Monk" - suave, but often fumbling; tough as nails, yet with a soft spot; a karate master in his own mind - fans will quickly embrace Cole.
In previews for the third season, it certainly appears Cole is both a worthy foil and complement to Murtaugh's tried-and-true "too old for this $hit."
Plus, explosions. Lots and lots of explosions.
With the casting of Scott came a significant added bonus: Maggie Lawson would recur as his ex-girlfriend and the mother of their 12-year-old daughter.
The "Psych" standout, Hallmark Channel star and animal lover plays Natalie Flynn, an emergency room doctor who met Cole while they both served overseas with the military.
Lawson is one of television's most likable on-screen performers. Moreover, the actor is a super-solid scene partner who has not only held her own with the likes of James Caan and William Shatner, but who also has a track record of making the team around her better.
She was flat-out marvelous as Juliet on "Psych," a woman trying to build a relationship with "psychic" detective Shawn (actor James Roday), while being extra-patient with his immaturity, pretend powers and constant need to nickname Gus (actor Dulé Hill). Juliet was super sweet, but not a cop to be trifled with. She was physically capable of taking down the biggest baddies - sort of like Murtaugh and Riggs.
Of course, "Psych," the trio of sitcoms that followed, and her two Hallmark Channel movies each leaned heavily on comedy mixed with romance. This kind of action-adventure role is definitely new terrain for Lawson ... but, then again, this is unchartered water for the entire "Lethal Weapon" team. Imagine having a show that is both established and brand-new.
It should be a blast to watch this season.
Ahead of the "Lethal Weapon" premiere, BTS caught up with Lawson.
"It is a good show. I really love the balance of comedy, action, drama. They hit it all," Lawson said by phone. "It's done really well, and it's been really fun to play, overall. I've just so enjoyed being a part of this show."
An edited Q&A follows.
Roger Murtaugh (Damon Wayans, with Seann William Scott's Wesley Cole) is in a bad place at the start of "Lethal Weapon's" third season. We promise better days will follow. (FOX photo)
Q: This is different territory for you. And inasmuch as you were a cop on "Psych," this is a different kind of a series where the action is primary and the comedy is secondary. Is that one of the things that appealed to you about taking on a role in this series?
Maggie Lawson: One hundred percent. I've been looking to do something a little different. "Lethal Weapon" - I feel like there's a balance of everything, but you're right, it's more in the drama/action side of things than it is in the comedy side of things. And one of the things I love about this character is they sort of incorporated that. While the storyline is kind of heavy in that there there's a whole path - a very loaded, complicated path - between these two characters, between Cole and Natalie, or Seann and I - they have written it so that there are these moments that you just like - as in the rest of the show - these moments of sort of comedy, and even like a shorthand and an ease between characters, like a banter, that I, of course, love, and I always enjoy doing.
But one of the things that really drew me to this, and I think continues to draw me to this, is sort of exploring all of the different levels of those complicated, conflicting, torturous kind of feelings that people can have when it comes to their head and their heart, and love versus practicality; and with a kid involved, it's complicated.
And, granted, it is "Lethal Weapon." The show can keep a lighter tone on some stuff, but they're going there, with getting into this, and I'm so excited about that. It's been so fun to play, and Seann is like the most open, kind, loving scene partner. I just, I so enjoyed working with him.
So, yeah, very drawn to those parts - to those aspects of the show and this character. Very much.
Q: There are two things that I find that are very unique and interesting, with regard to this show. And one of them is the fact that, while this is a show entering its third season - and while it has an established fan base - it is on some levels going to be a new show this season. And so, I'm wondering if it's more fun to go into a different kind of a situation like that with Seann, where you have a partner to go through this together?
Maggie Lawson: Oh, for sure. Oh, for sure. And just sort of watch him, too, take on this role. Absolutely. Most of my stuff has been with him, so far, actually. I think in the upcoming episodes, that we haven't filmed yet, I get more involved with the other cast members. But, as of now, all of my stuff has really been with Seann and my daughter and Seann's daughter. And it's also been really fun to get into who these characters are, where they've been, where they're going.
And Seann and I do talk about that a lot, like before each scene that we have together, because we're not stepping into characters that have been established or storylines that anyone knows. So, we're kind of watching it unfold, and then I hope help shaping it, as well, as we go along. And that's dreamy. That's fun work.
Q: It's interesting, too, because, so many times, if you were to go into a show in the third season, fourth season, what have you, you would have to have some knowledge of the characters or have to talk with the writers to see how they all fit together. But you don't in this case, because obviously there's no reason why these characters would know Murtaugh or the police department. They're brand-new. So, in the one sense, you kind of have a clean slate. But in another sense, like you said, you have your character and Seann's character - you guys have a significant backstory, with being the ex-girlfriend, with the time in the military, and a daughter. Who knows how many years they've been together or how involved that backstory is.
What is the process of trying to meet someone on the set, develop your chemistry, and then, in a very short amount of time, develop this gigantic backstory with that person?
Maggie Lawson: Well, we get a lot of assistance from the writers, who have done an amazing job at writing to this complicated storyline, while kind of also giving the audience - and for Seann and I, as well - understanding of why these two characters were so drawn to each other to begin with. And, yes, there's a lot of time that's passed, but I think what has been so fun to play is like the sort of ease and banter and comfort that these two people have together, alongside the complicated, frustrating, abandonment (laughs) - like all this other major kind of emotional stuff that is behind how they connect with each other. And the writers have done a really good job, I feel, of balancing that out over a few episodes, which helps Seann and I so much to sort of go, 'OK, there's a lot here. There's a lot of love, and then there's a lot of kind of maybe unanswered questions.'
And you want to take baby steps. You know, we have a child (actor Shay Rudolph), who's 12 years old, and involved. They've written so well to this sort of, like, cautiously optimistic but also both parties being a little bit, like, you know, scared - ready to bail at any moment - because it's too much and, you know, wanting to protect their daughter and everything. It's just a lot. And to explore that, where I think I just wrapped up episode five or six, to be able to explore that while having these other major storylines also going on the show, you know, we're getting a few scenes each episodes to sort of do that. And the way they're linking all of it together is helping Seann and I so much to sort of figure out the great love that these two people have for each other, and how that can sometimes ... that isn't the only thing that needs to be there.
We've had a lot of conversations about it, and love is complicated, and relationships are complicated. So, It's really been a joy to sort of watch it unfold and play. And then I think there's another episode coming up, too, where we really get into sort of what connected these two people to begin with, and I cannot wait. I can't wait to do that.
Q: I find that, more and more with series like "Lethal Weapon," that I enjoy the stuff that you just mentioned as much as the explosions - and sometimes maybe even a little bit more than the explosions - because it is so rich and so deep and it adds so much value to the show and to these characters.
I'm looking forward to all that you've just mentioned, but I'm also wondering, you know, on the surface, I don't know why Natalie would be involved, necessarily, in a gunfight or an explosion or something like that. But this is "Lethal Weapon," and they do like to get the families and the friends involved. And they do blow up Murtaugh's house a lot. Is there the possibility that you might get involved in some of them more action-y-type things like that?
Maggie Lawson: Well, I'll say this: I'm an ER doctor. And because of the sort of chaos that follows Cole around, we've already had several scenes in the hospital. I assume those will be continuing. So, there's already that part of the world I'm moving into. But my hope is that, later, yes, that I get a little bit more into the action, now, because that would just be really fun to do.
I know in upcoming episodes I connect with the Murtaugh family - with Keesha (Sharp, who plays Trish Murtaugh) and Damon - and there's some stuff I know that's going on that brings us all together. So, we sort of meet.
I'm excited about that, too, just because I've really only worked with Seann so far. So, I'm hoping that, yeah, when we make all of those connections, that, you know - I mean, look, I was already a doctor in Fallujah, which is how we met - our characters met. So, I feel like they share a sense of adventure. And, while my life has settled now, and I'm a doctor, and my daughter and I are living a sort of more quiet life, I feel like my character is still very drawn to that part of Cole, and getting back in that world.
So, fingers crossed. (Laughs)
Q: Are the writers aware of how badass Juliet was on "Psych"?
Maggie Lawson: (Laughs) Well, one of the writers from "Psych" is on "Lethal Weapon," so I hope so! Bill Callahan, actually, who was on "Psych," is on "Lethal Weapon." He was actually one of the very first people I saw on my first day. So that was very comforting. So I know he's aware, and I'm hoping. I'm hoping. ... I'm just hoping that maybe it's not in heels this time, if the action happens, but, you know, I have some practice there.
[Lawson is co-founder of an organization, the Tiger Frances Foundation
, which "believes we can end the abuse and homelessness of all animals by teaching children, and their adults, that animals are sentient, emotional beings, deserving of our empathy and protection."]
Q: How is everything going with Tiger Frances these days?
Maggie Lawson: Great. It's so close to my heart. We are getting our education program out there and into more schools. We're forming more partnerships for "Love on Paws." We're slowly but surely expanding, and grateful for all of the support from everyone - from you guys, who let me talk about it in interviews, and also the "Psych-Os," the fans who have supported it all along.
We have some really cool stuff coming up, hopefully by the end of the year, that we can't wait to announce and talk about. But yeah, it's going very well. We actually have an event tomorrow with The Good Shepherd. They work with women and children who've been displaced for domestic violence. And we do this regularly, like once a month. But tomorrow I hear that they have a pretty full house, right now, so tomorrow will be extra special.
Cole (Seann William Scott) speaks with his new partner, Murtaugh (Damon Wayans), in the season premiere episode of "Lethal Weapon." (FOX photo by Ray Mickshaw)
"Lethal Weapon": Guest stars Maggie Lawson and Shay Rudolph in the "A Whole Lotto Trouble" episode airing Tuesday, Oct. 9 (9 PM ET/PT). (FOX photo)