Rescue Me, Larenz Tate
"It's not easy dealing with a Gavin!" Rescue Me star Larenz Tate tells TVGuide.com. Truer words were never spoken. Tate's alter ego, Black Shawn, still has a wild relationship with Colleen Gavin (Natalie Distler). And last week he endured a decidedly un-P.C. hose-down from her father, Tommy (Denis Leary). It's just going to get more dramatic this week when Shawn attends a Gavin family dinner at the request of Colleen's sister. Tate offers a preview of what's to come.
TVGuide.com: You have a big couple of episodes: the hose-down and then the family dinner. Both are filled with racial remarks. Do you ever wince when reading the scripts?
Tate: Here's the thing, it's all fair game. It's not just the African-Americans or the Latinos or the Asians or the Jewish or the Irish. We all get it, so it keeps an even playing field. As long as we do it in a mindful way, it's fair game if everybody gets it. It's that kind of show that's going to push the envelope and FX is good about finding those kinds of shows that are a little bit off-kilter. It's offensive, but there's always a joke behind it.
TVGuide.com: Things have been kind of rocky for Shawn and Colleen since you called her a whore, but you try to make a good impression here.
Tate: [Laughs] She's not a street whore! She's the at-home, wifey kind. She's a whore in the home. He's gotten cold feet because he didn't expect her to have so much experience in the bedroom, doing things that he would never imagine. The thing is, Colleen and Shawn's relationship is genuine, so of course he's going to be there for her. He loves the girl. [Tuesday's episode] is them finding themselves trying to make it work, but it's not going to be easy. Besides, it would not be Rescue Me without some misunderstanding!
TVGuide.com: And you have the courage to be there after what Tommy did.
Tate: Yes! [Tommy and Shawn's relationship] is a roller coaster. It's a step for them to grow. You'll see a combination of Tommy being more accepting of Shawn after this and not. What's going to happen is some of [Shawn and Colleen's] relationship is going to mirror what Tommy and his wife are going through. ... Ultimately, Tommy recognizes Shawn is going through the same thing he's going through and their bond begins to switch a little bit. It'll shape up in a different direction, but keep in mind, there's always controversy.
TVGuide.com: What was it like shooting the hose-down scene? Was that a real fire hose?
Tate: They built a shower for us. They had a fire hose and they said, "Listen, man, this is going to hurt." I said, "Listen, I have to go with it. I have to shout back, 'Yo this is racist,' because that is what a guy in my situation would do." Denis and Peter Tolan thought it was the best thing ever. Whatever you're going to say or do, it's appropriate, do it. Denis and I, we didn't know what I was going to say, so we just followed each other. I was really pleased to see how it all played itself out. We can easily believe that he's turning a fire hose on a black man from a racial standpoint, but that completely is not his point of view. He is trying to protect the integrity of his daughter and so it didn't matter who was in the shower — black man, white man or anyone else — this was something Tommy would do.
TVGuide.com: Why do you think you can get away with all this?
Tate: I think Denis being a comedian, he finds himself being able to do those things. Denis can make remarks about people or other comedians make remarks about people, and others will find it funny. If I were to say certain things, because I'm not a comedian, people could potentially take offense to it. We can do things on our show that other shows cannot do.
TVGuide.com: Do you think Shawn and Colleen make a good pairing?
Tate: Yes, I think, because opposites attract. It's not a racial thing, but it's a good thing to see on camera. They don't believe they're in an interracial relationship; they're in a relationship based on different ages and experience with relationships. Clearly, Colleen... has way more experience in a sexual manner than Shawn does. You'd think he would, but it's all talk. He puts on a front and his relationship with Colleen allows us to peel back all this bravado, all the layers that he puts up.
TVGuide.com: At one point this season, it seemed like you were on your way to getting married.
Tate: It shows you how guys get. We believe one thing and our own egos or our own hang-ups kick in. But they're not done yet. My character is dealing with a Gavin. ... I'm in the world of Gavins, but the world of Gavins is always interesting. It's always bizarre and weird, but it's intriguing and you want to engage in some capacity.
TVGuide.com: We're only halfway through the season, but what can you tease about the finale?
Tate: There's a cliff-hanger that takes a turn that no one will expect. It's going to affect everybody. We have to have a sixth season because we have to see what's going to happen with these characters. It's affects a combination of characters. I don't know what's actually going to happen [next season] because they're still brainstorming. We don't know until we actually come back.
Watch the video below to see what Andrea Roth (Janet) has to say about role reversal with Denis Leary, a particularly bizarre sex scene with Michael J. Fox and being a woman on a male-dominated show.