For its entire five-season run on both NBC and TNT, the ratings-challenged Southland has struggled to stay alive. And after a heart-pounding and catastrophic finale on April 17 that drew a mediocre 1.8 million viewers, the gritty police drama is again facing cancellation. The day after the airing of what could be their final episode, which culminated in out-of-control John Cooper (Michael Cudlitz) getting shot down by fellow officers, executive producer Jonathan Lisco and Cudlitz looked back — and ahead.
TV Guide Magazine: So, is Cooper dead?
Michael Cudlitz: I did not die in that scene. I would be very, very happy if the show returns — and I return with the show.
Jonathan Lisco: A lot of people asked us, "How can you end it in that way?" This season was about the concept of legacy. Being a training officer is John's legacy. So even if he's gone, his spirit will live on in his students.
TV Guide Magazine: Cooper pistol-whipped a man and then tried to commit suicide by having cops shoot him. If he survives, could he really stay on the force?
Cudlitz: I would argue that John at that moment was clinically insane. His partner was killed in front of him, and his ex-wife wouldn't have his baby. Whether he remains on the force will be his journey if he and the show come back.
Lisco: Anything's possible. Was it suicide by cop or just that John was in a surreal haze? We welcome that ambiguity.
TV Guide Magazine: What would make Cooper sane again?
Cudlitz: I can easily see a situation where John goes to therapy and gets help for everything that's been bothering him. It would make for gut-wrenching television.
TV Guide Magazine: Ben [Ben McKenzie] hired his girlfriend's thuggish brother to steal an incriminating tape from Sammy's [Shawn Hatosy] house. Has he lost his soul?
Lisco: There's no question that we took Ben into a very dark place, but people are sympathetic to his plight, because he is the emblematic example of a guy who gets in too deep and then can't get out. Can Ben and Sammy ever come to a rapprochement? Most people wouldn't have imagined that Lydia would have ever repaired her relationship with Russell [Tom Everett Scott] after what he did to her. We have a ton of ideas about that for Season 6.
TV Guide Magazine: What is happening with Lydia [Regina King] and her former partner?
Lisco: They're not only coming together — maybe even in a romantic way because she needed someone who really loved her deep down — but very possibly it's the beginning of real meaning in her life beyond the badge.
TV Guide Magazine: If this is the end of the show, would you be OK with going out like The Sopranos, without neatly wrapping everything up?
Cudlitz: If this is our series finale, I'll go on record right now as saying we did it a thousand times better than The Sopranos! We went out the way we came in: hard, fighting and kicking Southland-style.
TV Guide Magazine: What are the odds of renewal?
Lisco: I would say probably less than 50 percent, but we've beaten the odds every single time. It may not be the bright, shiny win that some of our viewers want, but that's Southland.