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EXCLUSIVE TV Goodness Q&A: Shawn Hatosy Discusses TNT’s Southland [INTERVIEW] 

Photo Credit:  Doug Hyun/TNT
Photo Credit: Doug Hyun/TNT

As you know, Southland is our favorite cop show. We had the opportunity to speak exclusively with Shawn Hatosy (Officer Sammy Bryant) about the evolution of his character, his volatile relationship with ex-wife Tammi, his deteriorating partnership with Sherman, and so much more. Check it out below.

TVGOODNESS: When the series started your character was a detective and now he’s a beat cop on patrol. Can you talk about the evolution of your character?

Shawn Hatosy: “I believe that Sammy sees himself as a very ethically correct guy. And even though he makes mistakes – and he did as a detective – he goes as close to the edge as possible and then inevitably his heart kind of takes over and he makes the right choices. There were many events that led him to the decision to go back [to patrol], but I think he believed that he could help the younger guys that were coming up. Guys like Ben Sherman. So, it creates a really great character basically. [Sammy’s] not just a great character on [his] own. Once you add Ben I think it really makes it tense and engaging.”

TVGOODNESS: Tammi and Sammy’s relationship has always been so volatile, but they seemed to love each other at the beginning of the series. How do you think things got so bad between them?

Shawn: “They were too young when they committed to each other, they weren’t fully formed individuals that knew what they wanted and that happens all the time. And when you compound that with the kind of work that Sammy does it just creates these very explosive relationships. Tammi isn’t the most rational person on television. They each have their flaws and when they’re mixed together it’s just combustible. Sometimes people end up in a relationship where it’s just easier to stay in it. Or they think it’s easier to stay in it than to do the right thing, which is to step away from each other. The worst part about it is they let it get to the point where they actually have a kid and you wish they could’ve figured it out and done it for the kid but they didn’t.”

TVGOODNESS: How has it been working with Emily Bergl (Tammi Bryant)? 

Shawn: “Oh, it’s great. It’s great. Our television show has such a unique shooting style so it requires, demands excellent actors. [Emily and I] had two scenes this year, but the freedom that we have to create and find the truth in these scenes from beginning to middle to end, it’s incredible and she brings a lot to the character and a lot to the scenes so it’s wonderful.”

TVGOODNESS: Even with Tammi and Sammy going at each other on screen we still really like that dynamic, even if it’s uncomfortable. 

Shawn: “And it’s wonderfully morally ambiguous. You could probably poll 1000 viewers and maybe half of them would think that she’s right and half of them might think he’s right so that’s the kind of thing I like to produce. I like it when people are talking about it and they have strong opinions about it.”

TVGOODNESS: We like that every character is warts-and-all. How is it to play that?

Shawn: “You’re just trying to figure out what motivates [your character] and what inspires him to make the decisions that he makes. If you go back and look at the mistakes [Sammy’s] made, it’s taken awhile but he comes to the right place. And not to compare, but let me do it, if you look at Ben’s choices they’re from a very different place. And he doesn’t make the right choices. And he never comes to the [right choices] even when the circumstances and the answers are pretty obvious and easy. I think it’s a fascinating look at these guys because here is Ben, who was this wide-eyed rookie who joined the police to seemingly do good. He was so gung-ho and [had] this run and gun mentality and the job has changed him so much. And maybe it’s not just the job, I think you realize that there are things from his past that made him who he is but as he progressed as a patrol officer – and he’s done these questionable things – he’s climbing the ladder and he’s being rewarded for it. Sammy’s a decent guy with a pretty good heart, but it’s not happening that way. He’s made mistakes, like I said, but I think it’s a fascinating look at these two guys.”

TVGOODNESS: We love Sammy’s relationship with Ben McKenzie‘s Ben Sherman. It’s fun to watch even if they’re not getting along or if they’re in trouble or if they’re in conflict. That relationship has been deteriorating for a while now. Is there anything you can tell us about what’s coming up with them in tonight’s episode or in the finale? 

Shawn: “Well, I wouldn’t want to ruin anything.”

TVGOODNESS: We don’t want that either.

Shawn: “It’s very clear that it’s heading in a direction. I look at Sammy’s choices again and again and I see people’s opinions. It’s funny how some people so loyally, blindly defend Ben even though it’s very clear that what he did is really messed up. But then I’ll see people stay stuff like, ‘Well, but Sammy’s a bad guy. He stole the money to get the plumbing fixed’ or whatever. And then I think about it and I’m like, well nobody actually saw Sammy take the money did they? It’s just your opinion and in the very next episode you see him working off-duty as a security guard and he’s admitted to Ben that he’s been doing it for a little while so who’s to say that he didn’t get the money that way. But people form these alliances with the characters just because of who they like. Sammy never said that he’s going to confess to IA. He said, ‘It’s just not right.’ He didn’t feel right about it. We don’t know what was gonna happen and we don’t know what he did or what his plan was but he never jeopardized Ben’s job. I mean, to do what Ben did….”

TVGOODNESS: Are there any actors on the show you wish you had more scenes with?

Shawn: “Well, of course. I think maybe I’ve worked with Regina [King] in three scenes. We have forty-something episodes and I’ve actually spoken dialogue with Michael Cudlitz in one scene so yeah, that’s a bummer. One thing about this cast is that everybody is incredible and that’s the thing that is a shame. You don’t really get a chance to perform together.”

TVGOODNESS: How was Regina King as a director?

Shawn: “She excelled because she’s decisive. I thought her episode was wonderful, one of the best – if not the best – of the season. It was a powerful script. I think our show is at its best when there is a balance amongst the characters and everybody’s passing the ball around. I thought that episode in particular was really well-balanced. Her scene at the end with that serial killer, I thought it was phenomenal. ”

TVGOODNESS: We hope the show gets renewed for another season. If it is what would you like to see for your character?

Shawn: “These next two episodes are gonna clear a lot of stuff up for many of the [characters]. You’re gonna get some answers. It’s gonna be interesting. I’m with you, I hope [the show] gets picked up. It’s not often where you can say we’re doing something that’s really great. This is a good show, it’s fun to shoot, it’s creatively satisfying, people like it, and it’s on television which is a tough medium to do this kind of work. So I want it to go on forever. I’m so, so lucky. I don’t know, as far as what’s in store for Sammy as far as another season? I trust these writers. They’re very, very good. I can’t wait to see what they come up with.”

TVGOODNESS: Want to tell us anything else?

Shawn: “I just can’t wait for people to figure out this is the best cop show on TV.”

Neither can we. Part of our discussion with Shawn included social media. He loves going on Facebook and twitter during the airing of episodes to see how people are reacting. Below he discusses the Sammy/Ben dynamic in two episodes from season 4.

Episode: “Integrity Check”

Shawn: “Ben immediately thought that Sammy planted the crack pipe. I watched online and I watched the responses and everybody was like, ‘Sammy’s such a f*cked up guy.’ [The perp] is a bad guy and, of course, it turns out that it was because Ben didn’t pat down the car. It’s just these little things that make it really interesting. And then I look at some of the past stuff, like Sammy’s a bad cop or a crooked cop. Yeah, okay. His partner got killed right in front of him and he obtained information about this piece of sh*t who killed his partner, probably in a crappy way. He might have been reprimanded for it but wouldn’t have lost his job. So he takes the guy out to the desert, which was definitely wrong, but he didn’t kill him. He goes to that edge and then he comes back.”

Episode: “Community”

Shawn: “There was this really awful gangbanger leader [who] was raping young girls in the community and killing people at will and taking their money. He was a really devilish character. We got into a foot pursuit and me and Ben got split up. As a cop you’re not supposed to leave your partner. So Sammy cuffed the guy to a pole or something and then went to do what he had to do because that’s his job. He’s supposed to make sure he’s got his partner’s back and then the members of the community – the community that this guy had been raping and stealing from – they came out and killed him while he was chained to this pole. And people say stuff like, ‘That makes Sammy a bad cop.’ Well, no, he was actually doing his job. He didn’t feel bad about it but it’s street justice. This guy got what was coming to him. It’s very easy for me to defend Sammy Bryant just because I’m making the choices and I can justify anything if given the right opportunity.”

Edited for content and space.

Southland’s season 5 finale airs tonight at 10/9c on TNT.

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1 Comment

  1. Gotaway

    I love Sammy’s character cause it’s real, warts and all. He let himself get set up by his exwife. He lies to IA about it, A cop who doesn’t know another cop who has avoided punishment by not recalling all the facts is a downright liar. When you cross the line it’s someone else’s job to catch you, Why help. Their isn’t a Camelot mythology in the writing except for Ben Sherman. Why his character wasn’t stopped from being generic sooner is puzzling? Regina King is awesome but Michael Cudlitz is the breakout star of the show. Southland is the new “The Wire” of our times and I hope it gets picked up for 2 seasons.

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