The Pacific Dining Car near downtown Los Angeles is the kind of old-school, coronary-clogging restaurant where the walls are green, the steak is red and the clientele is LAPD blue. You won't find a Lohan or a Kardashian hanging out here, and the closest they have to a juice fast is a filet mignon smothered with Roquefort cheese. So it's only fitting that this is where the cast of the cop drama Southland has chosen to do an interview with TV Guide Magazine after a long day's shoot; the show prides itself on keeping it real. Plus, these actors are hungry. "We never get to eat food on the show," says Michael Cudlitz (Officer John Cooper). "We always say, 'What do you want to order and throw out today?' Because we get a call [on the police radio] right in the middle of eating — every time."
TV Guide Magazine: Do you guys hang out together often?
Cudlitz: We get together as a cast more often than most groups do.
Ben McKenzie: We have a really small cast. For those of us who survived, through luck of the draw, really, it's like a bunker mentality. We are the little show that could. We bonded over that.
Regina King: We have all been working together for a while, and we've never had any altercations.
C. Thomas Howell: Oh, when you're not around, I trash you! [Laughs]
TV Guide Magazine: It seems like you guys really get along.
King: It's very rare that you get an opportunity to be on a show's fifth season and you still really like the cast members. The show we shoot is not easy. We see our trailers in the morning and that's about it. We don't have cast chairs, because we're moving all the time. We shoot like we're doing a student film.
Howell: The show is really authentic. It's mandatory that people show up to the set prepared. Because we don't have the extra time at our locations. We're there for an hour and we have to go for an hour. We're ready on Take 1.
Shawn Hatosy: You might fumble a line and it ends up on the show.
Cudlitz: We're on a show where we're paid to be ugly. There's something real about that that the audience can connect to. There's a homogenous quality sometimes on network television, where actors are just standing around looking pretty.
TV Guide Magazine: What does the LAPD think of the show?
Cudlitz: I'm sure people aren't going out of their way to tell us the show sucks, but generally speaking, we've all been approached by large numbers of cops saying they respect the attention to detail and [that we're] getting it as right as we get it.
McKenzie: If you polled them, I think they would say this is the most realistic cop show besides NCIS: LA. [Laughs]
King: We were literally shooting down the street from NCIS: LA recently and we had our whole stunt team do a full-on fight scene. We shot everything — and they were still lighting their set.
TV Guide Magazine: Have you ever caught a break from the cops because of the show?
Howell: Tell your story, Ben!
McKenzie: There's no way to tell this story without sounding like a douche. Audi gave me an R8 to drive for a week. So I'm coming back with my then-girlfriend from Palm Springs, and sure enough, we're pulled over. I'm freaking out because the car is not registered to me. The cop's like, "Hey, are you who I think you are?" At which point, two possible scenarios crossed my mind: First, he recognizes me from The O.C., which means I'm getting dragged out of the car and he's gonna rail on me, or the second. So I go, "Southland?" And he just nods his head, hands me back my license and says, "Watch your speed."
Hatosy: I was riding a skateboard and this cop pulls up to me and says, "What the heck are you doing? Cops don't ride skateboards!"
King: I have never gotten out of a ticket since I've been on Southland! I've gotten two since I've been on the show.
Cudlitz: I was at the self-checkout in Ralphs and this guy in front of me was having problems with another machine. He starts shouting, "Can I get some help? What the bleep is going on here?" And he gets louder and louder, and there are kids around. The manager comes over and the guy keeps shouting. And I finally just said to him, "You know what? Why don't you just stop?" And the guy says, "Who are you? A cop?" And I said, "No, but I bleeping play one on TV!"
Southland airs Wednesdays at 10/9c on TNT.
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