There's a new face in the squad room this season on Major Crimes.
Former My Name Is Earl star Nadine Velazquez joins the cast of the TNT drama Monday (9/8c, TNT) as Deputy District Attorney Emma Rios, a bright and ambitious young prosecutor who's been assigned to work with the Major Crimes Unit. Unfortunately, Capt. Raydor (Mary McDonnell) & Co. don't exactly extend the warmest welcome.
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"They're not gentle and they're not holding my hand in any way," Velazquez tells TVGuide.com of her character's interaction with her new colleagues. "I'm a fish out of water, and they're showing me what the environment is like. So I just get thrown into these situations, and I learn quickly — maybe the hard way."
But there's a reason Emma doesn't exactly get off on the right foot with the unit: She has been assigned the Philip Stroh case and is dismayed to learn her chief witness, Rusty (Graham Patrick Martin), is living under Capt. Raydor's roof. Emma believes she has a better chance of winning the case if Rusty is removed from Raydor's home, but you can guess where Raydor comes down on that argument.
"The Stroh case is the big one, and she wants to win," Velazquez says. "Both [women] are ambitious, and that's where it conflicts. Emma knows the law, but Sharon is the Captain [with the] authority. Captain Raydor is so collected and calm, but yet she's firm. She never lets it throw her off, which is something Emma hopes it would do. But it doesn't work with her."
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Despite the conflict, Velazquez insists that her character isn't necessarily the bad guy. "There's a part of her that is oblivious to how she storms in because it's just how she gets things done. But it's not that Emma's not a team player," she says. "She has the legal answers. She is committed to the law, and she fights for it because she's passionate and ambitious. When it comes to anything that bends the law, that's where that harder edge comes in."
Throughout the season, viewers will also see Emma's softer side. In addition to her character's comical fear of dead bodies, the character will also struggle with her personal relationships, both in and out of work. "Sanchez [Raymond Cruz] is really smitten by my character, and Emma's not really aware of what he is doing," Velazquez says with a laugh. "It goes over her head, which I think is cute. But there's an episode coming up where she and Sanchez have a conflict, and it gets heated and she reveals something personal about herself. [There's] a real relationship problem with her ex-husband."
Ultimately, Velazquez says Emma will find a way to balance her goals with the way the team operates. And perhaps the team will also see things a little more clearly from Emma's perspective. "You'll see her eventually working more effectively," Velazquez says. "She just wants everybody to be more by the book because ultimately it is the attorney who has to make the case if it goes to trial. At that point, it's her against the jury. If anything is done incorrectly, that whole trial can be thrown away and no one will win."
Major Crimes airs Mondays at 9/8c on TNT.