On Southland, violence can happen anywhere, anytime.
The show first demonstrated that in the Season 1 finale when Tom Everett Scott's Russell was gunned down by his neighbor. Russell ultimately survived, but in Tuesday's episode, Kevin Alejandro's Detective Nate Morretta was not so lucky.
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Heading home after a long day with partner Sammy Bryant (Shawn Hatosy), Nate stopped to chat with a small group of unruly gang members. Although things at first seemed under control, Nate was attacked by the mob, suffering a fatal blow to the head with a metal pipe.
"It was sad when [executive producer Christopher Chulack] told me what was going to happen, but I understand what makes good drama," Alejandro tells TVGuide.com, adding that the fateful scene was based on a real incident. "I thought it was very touching, very poetic. That's an explosive way to go out, and it doesn't fit into a cliché. It comes out of nowhere."
Chulack says the decision for Alejandro to leave the show was made shortly after TNT picked up the episodes NBC had filmed before canceling the series. When TNT renewed the show, Alejandro, who had already committed to a recurring role on HBO's True Blood, agreed to shoot four more episodes of Southland.
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Chulack says Sammy, who is already dealing with his estranged wife and her possible pregnancy by another man, will pursue justice for Nate, both on the street and in the courtroom as a witness to the murder. "It defines Sammy's character for the season, and he really makes some very hard choices," Chulack says. "He also has a little guilt and now he has the partner's family to deal with a little bit and that's always confusing."
But Nate's loss will be felt by others as well. "The other characters are very well aware of it and acknowledge the death," Chulack says. "So while they didn't personally know him, it's kind of a pall over the department."
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Alejandro says his exit from the show only added to the emotional intensity of those final scenes. "It affected a lot of us on a personal level. I can't tell you how many tears there were, especially on my last day," Alejandro says. "I was crying, Regina [King] was crying, Shawn — there was a room of people I felt really cared about my character and that I had established a personal relationship with. It's a roller coaster that we all went on together, so it was inevitable that it would be tough."
Alejandro, whose Ugly Betty character also was killed off, says dying on TV doesn't ever get any easier, but he's excited for what's to come for his character, Jesus, on True Blood. ("This year is the year of the witches ... It gets really crazy and out there," he says.) But he's most excited about watching what Southland does next.
"I'm glad I get to be a part of Southland as a fan now, and not be aware of what's going on," he says. "I'm really looking forward to going on that journey. ... It's a beautiful piece of television, and I hope it goes on forever."
Were you shocked by Nate's death?