After two and a half seasons of playing ruthless ATF Agent June Stahl on Sons of Anarchy, Ally Walker says she was ready to do something a little lighter. Enter the new Lifetime series, The Protector.
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"I'm not a sociopath," Walker jokes with TVGuide.com of her latest character, homicide detective Gloria Sheppard. "That's always a plus."
Homicidal tendencies excluded, this role does feel a bit familiar for Walker, who also starred for three seasons as an FBI consultant on NBC's crime drama Profiler. "I just have that cop gene going on," Walker says with a laugh. "I like strong women. I think a lot of women relate to strong characters, and a cop is still a strong character."
The major difference between The Protector (premiering Sunday at 10/9c) and Walker's past work, she says, is the tone. Gloria may be a whip-smart detective, but she's also got wit to spare. "This one had a lot more of a comedic flair," Walker says. "I like Gloria. She's funny, she's dry, she's quick. I like that buzzy energy that she gets. This character is just good at what she does. She's kind of an everyman."
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But she's also a divorced single mom raising two boys, Nick (Sage Ryan) and Leo (Thomas Robinson), with the help of her former drug addict brother Davey (Chris Payne Gilbert). As a mother of three in real life, Walker relates not only to the parenting, but also the way her character looks out for her partner (Tisha Campbell-Martin) and lieutenant (Miguel Ferrer).
"A lot of the times, [writers] make strong women just like men," Walker says. "But I think you are relied upon to understand more than a guy. You are relied upon to be like, 'It's going to be OK,' and to get that depth. I mean, that's what your mother did for you, right?
"[Gloria's] stronger in the fact that she's probably gone through a lot because she's been there for people," Walker continues. "I think this character has been through a lot of struggles. So, she's big. You can rest your head on her shoulder."
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Walker says those struggles, including her character's divorce and troubled upbringing, will definitely be addressed during the show's first season. "It's sweet. There are things that come up about her and her brother, and you start to see kind of how these characters were shaped into being who they are," Walker says. "It's just the two of us. I kind of helped raise my brother by myself. That's why we're so close. They mention later that I kind of rescued him. I think we kind of rescued each other."
But Walker insists that the show will always remain more chipper than the average procedural. "There are some things there that aren't light and sunny," she says. "But there's always that tone of having fun. ... We hung out with some detectives and they're funny. When I hung out with the profilers, they were hilarious. You have to be, otherwise you go insane. They have this wonderful sense of humor, these people. You might as well show that, too."
The Protector premieres Sunday at 10/9c on Lifetime.