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The old friends reunite for the fifth time in their professional careers
[Warning: The following contains spoilers from Tuesday's season premiere of 9-1-1: Lone Star. Read at your own risk!]
Gina Torres and D.B. Woodside have worked more with each other than with any other actor in their respective careers. In the last two decades, Torres and Woodside have shared the screen in an unsold CBS pilot (in which they played husband and wife), 24, Suits, and Pearson. And now, the close friends have reunited in the fourth season of 9-1-1: Lone Star, with Woodside playing a divorced pastor named Trevor who unexpectedly becomes the new love interest of Torres' widowed character, Tommy Vega, after they cross paths multiple times in the premiere.
Torres and Woodside spoke with TV Guide about reuniting in the latest season of the hit FOX procedural drama, how Tommy and Trevor's dynamic compares to the ones they've played in the past, how an upcoming episode will explore the challenges of dating as single parents, and whether they will reunite with more Suits alums on Lone Star.
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Gina, were you responsible for helping to get D.B.'s foot in the door for Lone Star?
Gina Torres: No, not at all, actually! [Laughs.] I thought he was busy, and quite frankly, I didn't think we could get him. [Laughs.] He's special, you know? He's at a [certain] level of actor and experience, and someone of D.B.'s pedigree, shall we say, isn't just always busy, but they often don't want to not know what the landscape's going to be. "Tell me what's expected of me. What's the character arc? How much are we doing?" And someone like D.B., like an actor of his level, sometimes wants to come in and stay a while.
So I, with the utmost respect for who he is and what he deserves, didn't even think about D.B. Then [showrunner] Tim Minear was looking at the people that have auditioned and looking at folks that are out there, and he says, "So what do you think of D.B. Woodside?" I was like, "Can we get D.B. Woodside?! [Laughs.] Is that possible?!"
D.B., how did you wind up joining the show?
D.B. Woodside: It literally was all because of Gina. I had never seen a single minute. I just got a phone call. My manager and agent called me up and said, "They wanted to know if you would come and do this." I had just done a series in Vancouver called The Night Agent, and when I came home, I decided I was gonna take a few months off and just be a dad and do some writing. But about a month and a half later, that phone call came, and I just couldn't pass up another opportunity to work with Gina. So I said "yes," and then she called me and was elated and said, "Are you serious?! You're really gonna do this?!" [Laughs.] And I said, "Yes, I am." So we had a mini celebration there.
It doesn't really matter at this point what the material is, when it comes to Gina and I, because I think that you're gonna get something different every time. So I've seen the show now, obviously, because I'm a good actor and I wanted to check it out before I messed it up. [Laughs.] And it's a wonderful show. It has a lot of heart, a lot of warmth, and it's funny.
Was Tommy giving him a heimlich at the county fair your first day on this set?
Woodside: [Laughs.] No, that wasn't my first day, thank God. By then, I think that was my third or fourth day on set. My first day on set was the scene where I show up at the fire house and ask her out on a date.
How much do you know about Trevor's arc?
Woodside: I don't know a lot. I think Gina was surprised because before I got the offer, we had talked about two months before that just as friends, and I had told her that I wasn't gonna be working for the rest of the year. I think she thought, "Oh, I just talked to him, and he told me that he was gonna be budged to do anything because it was really important for him to be at home and to be a dad and also to get this show off the ground that he's been talking about for the last two years."
Of course, it helps that it shoots in L.A,, so I don't have to travel. As it stands right now, they've signed me up to do six episodes. I think we're about to begin the fourth episode of the six at the beginning of February, so we'll see what happens. But I'm having a blast.
Why do you think Hollywood continues to pair you two up as romantic interests?
Torres: He's tall! [Laughs.] He's good, and chemistry is fleeting. It's like catching lightning in a bottle, really. So much of chemistry has to do with the tennis game, right? The tennis game of acting and getting as good as you give, and that back and forth that the audience becomes engaged in, because you are also engaged in this conversation and this journey between these two people. And that's not always easy to find. D.B. and I have been able to find that in different landscapes in different places—and not at the expense of the other, but genuinely engaged in what we're doing in that moment. And I think that's something that translates.
Woodside: Chemistry is a very tricky thing. You can have two people who don't know each other, or who may not like each other, or who may love each other. But when they appear screen together, there is magic there. Thankfully, Gina and I really love each other. We've watched each other go through some hard times in our life personally and have lifted each other up as friends when it was needed.
Torres: What's great about having a relationship with someone is that… you get to have a relationship with someone. There's a kind of shorthand that happens. We trust each other implicitly in terms of the work. "Where do you want to go? Should I zig and you zag? Should I zag and you zig?" So often in this industry, when you're actors, every single time you go into a new situation, you are tasked with creating relationships with total strangers. So what's beautiful about being able to have this relationship with D.B. is that all of that "getting to know you" part is done, and we can get to the task at hand, which is having a lot of fun and putting these layers onto something that's already existed.
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Gina, last year, you had an opportunity to explore Tommy's grief over the devastating loss of her husband, Charles, and she made some controversial, albeit very human, decisions as she started to reimagine life as a single woman. Where is she on that journey during the first two episodes of this season? What does Tommy need and want now?
Torres: Because of the decisions that she made, she's convinced, she realizes, and she knows that she doesn't need to be alone. And as a single mom, she is not willing to also sacrifice her womanhood and her own personal needs for company and warmth and all those things that come with being a woman that is still very much alive and up for exploration and a good time. So she's out there. The presence of her husband is still very much there because she has their twin girls, but she's also trying to figure out, Well, how do I even do this? I don't even know how we do this, but I know I'm going to need to do this. And then, I want to do this.
How did you want to play some of those more awkward and humorous moments, where Tommy discovers that she gave her number to the new pastor of her church and then has a hard time getting him out of her dreams?
Torres: Well, I tried to play them as honestly as I possibly could. That's an awkward situation. It requires a sense of humility and uncertainty. It's daunting for anyone out there who's starting over, whether it's because of losing a partner to death or divorce or however many versions of that scenario there could possibly be. Starting over is awkward when you're 25; starting over is even more daunting when you're in your fifties. With all of this, my motivation, my inspiration, is all of you. I want people to recognize themselves in these situations.
Why do you think Tommy decided to invite Grace and Judd to a dinner that Trevor might have thought was their first date? Did she not trust herself around him?
Torres: I think it's a couple of different things. I don't think she's convinced that dating a pastor is the right way to go. [Laughs.] She's hedging her bets a little bit—or a lotta bit. At that moment in the episode, it's really about letting him down easy, because you don't date a pastor just to have a good time.
D.B., why do you think Trevor decided to come back and give Tommy a goodbye kiss in the second episode?
Woodside: He can see through her armor, and I think that there are people who I would call empathic who, even if they're put into [an unexpected] situation, can see the fear in that [other] person—the fear of being afraid to open up again. Because he's a pastor, he's definitely empathic, right? That's part of his job.
So I think he comes back to give her that kiss because he's not going away. And if he needs to wait, if they need to take it slow, he will take it slow. They're both middle-aged parents. And I do think when you reach middle age, you've accomplished a lot in life and you have a different perspective, and there's no need to rush something if you really feel like it's right. He's come out of a divorce; she lost her husband. I think he's a little bit ahead of her in terms of being willing to come out of his shell and re-engage again. But he has a daughter, she has two daughters, and he sees her heart.
There were moments in Tommy's dream sequence, where Tommy and Trevor are all dressed up for their date night, that I could have sworn I was watching you guys on Suits again. How would you say Tommy and Trevor's dynamic is different from that of, say, Jessica and Jeff?
Torres: They're two completely different people! [Laughs.] You can't compare the pastor to Malone; you can't compare Pearson to Tommy Vega. These two entities could not be more diametrically opposed. So get that out of your brain; get that out of your system.
It's actually one of the hardest things about moving on as an actor. I've been so blessed to play characters that have become iconic in their own way. … But you also have to leave that other character behind, and it's incumbent upon myself to make sure that all you see is Tommy, and it also is up to the audience to just want to be around Tommy and not look for Jessica or Gina in any of those portrayals. Because trust me: I'm not thinking about what Jessica would do in that situation, because it's not authentic. It doesn't pertain to that moment, and maybe you had that flashback because we were all dressed up. He was in a suit. I wasn't in uniform. But they were still different. It was a dream sequence; it was a heightened kind of reality as well.
Woodside: They are different characters. I think this one has a sweetness to it and an innocence that you haven't gotten a chance to see between Gina and myself before. I do think between these two, there are some similarities [with] Jeff and Jessica, meaning that I think they bring out the best in each other. In 9-1-1, you get a chance to see us do more comedy, which is really nice.
Tommy and Trevor are also at a different stage of their lives, and they must deal with the reality of dating as single parents.
Torres: We have an episode coming up where we do navigate the sensibilities and the realities of dating with kids, because they have their own feelings about things, and they make them known more often than not. We as human beings have our own kids, and these characters have their own kids, so if it's still a Jessica/Tommy question, maybe [Tommy] is a little closer to Gina than Jessica was because she's really more entrenched in reality.
Woodside: There's a lot of comedy in [that episode]. Gina and I have some nice stuff, and Gina has some nice stuff with the young actress that plays my daughter, who is a riot, and so we just had a blast. I think people are really gonna enjoy seeing them being out, them being parents and trying to navigate those waters with these kids. We all found it to be extremely funny.
Gina, of the episodes that you've filmed, are there any storylines or emergencies coming up that really stand out in your mind?
Torres: These first two episodes as season openers are quite epic. We've got some insane rescues happening. I will say that this season reads like and is going to play out like a great mystery. A lot of twists and turns and a lot of unexpected things come up, and some of it's fun and some of it's dark, but that's what I love about the show. I think that's what we do best. We bridge all those genres and bring them all together.
Neal McDonough and Amanda Schull, with whom you also worked on Suits, are part of the recurring cast this season. Will we get to see you guys interact on screen at all?
Torres: I'll let you figure that out. [Laughs.] But the Lone Star universe is quite broad, as was Suits. There were things that happened on Suits and people that guest-starred that I never got to interact with, which really pissed me off sometimes. Like, "You're getting to work with [so-and-so], and I don't even get to walk in on a meeting?!" There were little things like that that would happen. And yeah, sometimes we run into each other in the scene, sometimes it's in the makeup trailer. But you'll have to watch to find out.
9-1-1: Lone Star airs Tuesdays at 8/7c on FOX. Episodes are available to stream the next day on FOX Now or Hulu.