Warren Kole and Michael Ealy
In a remote airplane hangar, tires are squealing, bullets are flying, and a kidnapper's escape is being foiled by two cops who look more like models. In fact, it's not clear what's hotter: the Louisiana location on this swampy spring day, or the actors doing the crime fighting. Especially the one with the flu.
"That was vicious, man," drawls Warren Kole, weeks after suiting up and shooting a day of on-set action sequences while saddled with a raging fever. "We'd just flown to L.A. for a mondo photo shoot, then back to Louisiana, all in like 50 hours. I think I caught something to bring back with me."
The "we" Kole is referring to is himself and Michael Ealy (Sleeper Cell), his costar on Common Law, the new buddy dramedy (premiering Friday, at 10/9c on USA Network) about two fractious but impossibly attractive LAPD partners — Kole's uptight ex-lawyer Wes Mitchell and Ealy's swagger-iffic foster-care grad Travis Marks — who've been relegated to couples counseling by their New Agey captain (Jack McGee). Filmed in and around New Orleans, which stands in for Los Angeles, it's the latest charmer out of USA's blue-skies smile factory. And like the buddy-genre-tweaking White Collar, Psych and Suits, Common Law boasts some uncommonly good casting.
"It was a long process because the chemistry had to be right," explains co-executive producer Karim Zreik while orchestrating a setup that has Kole and Ealy running around the hangar to stop a Hummer from roaring away with their rescue of the week. "We [cast] Michael first, and then brought him along to find a Wes." And they found him in Kole, a relative newcomer with who wowed the producers with his ability to spar and spark with the seasoned Ealy. "Thankfully, these two are magic together."
Indeed. In between takes, Ealy and Kole clown around like they didn't just pull their camaraderie out of a hat. "I didn't know Warren before," admits Ealy. "But we clicked when we started working together. And this s--t is like a marriage. We spend 15 hours a day together." The grinding schedule has paid off. "As our relationship deepened, so did the characters'," says Kole. "It is one of the healthiest relationships I have ever had," adds Ealy. "If either of us has an issue, we talk about it, squash it, square up and keep going."
The idea for these Bickersons with badges, Zreik says, came from his own long-term partnership with coexec producer Dan Shotz. After a series of failed pitches, "I turned to Danny and went, 'I hate you...I love you, but I hate you.' We immediately went, 'There you go!' Two cops who have the seven-year itch like we had, who can't stand each other but can only work together!'" By tossing in the couples counseling angle, Law gets to explore "how men deal with emotions," says Zreik. Adding estrogen to the bravado is Sonya Walger, who plays the pair's counselor, Dr. Ryan. "What is not to love about that?" laughs the Lost vet. "It's always fun to be the only girl!"
Ironically, as Travis and Wes open up to trust exercises and deal with the gun-pulling incident that landed them in therapy, it's their shrink who may need to practice what she preaches. "She's a slow burn," agrees Walger, adding that the enigmatic Ryan will "gradually reveal more about herself" to her patients.
This is the third time she's shared the screen with Ealy (they both appeared in Sleeper Cell and FlashForward), but don't expect the good doctor to get down with habitual bed-hopper Travis. We'll find out that she has her own issues going on at home, some of which may require an in with the police. Besides, even Walger knows this is all about the bromance. "The two of them together are really good," she enthuses. "They do an incredible job playing off each other."
Even with the flu. "The thing about this kind of work is that it's so much fun," says Kole. "So if you can at least stand up, you'd rather be working with these people than lying around feeling sorry for yourself." Sounds like our kind of occupational therapy!
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