“Lethal Weapon” has already survived the loss of Martin Riggs, but could the Fox action drama survive the loss of Roger Murtaugh too?
After the exit of his former co-star Clayne Crawford (Riggs) ahead of the currently airing third season due to bad on-set behavior, Damon Wayans (Murtaugh) said he was ready to leave the show too come December. And then December came and went, and not only was the actor still starring alongside his new screen partner Seann William Scott (who plays Wesley Cole), but the broadcaster had added two more episodes to Season 3.
So, if the show gets picked up for a fourth season — which it hasn’t yet — would the network be willing to do it without Wayans, should he really want out? After all, what is “Lethal Weapon” without both Riggs and Murtaugh?
TheWrap asked new CEO of Fox Entertainment, Charlie Collier, during the Television Critics Association press tour Wednesday if he’d be willing to do more without Murtaugh if Wayans wants out. And while he wouldn’t give a yes or no, he did say they’d “retrench” to figure it out.
“It’s so interesting, I watch the show right now and think … as I said on the stage, you know, it’s really hitting its stride, and I think what they’ve got is a chemistry that the studio values, we value, and I think [Wayans and Scott] have, you know, done a really good job this season,” Collier told us in a one-on-one interview following his first executive session as the new head of New Fox.
“With respect to pickups… I don’t want to answer that. No, no, I’m kidding (laughs),” he added. “I think we’ll evaluate it when we see what we’ve got, but I’m really encouraged by the chemistry they’ve brought to the screen.”
When we pushed a little harder, asking again if Fox would proceed with a fourth season if Wayans decided to quit, Collier added: “We’d all have to retrench and, again, I love what he brings to the screen, so what I’m looking at is what the two of them are doing that is pretty magical. And I think if — I wasn’t here, but if you read way back when, I think people will be really pleasantly surprised with where they’ve brought the show.”
Last October, Wayans spontaneously announced in an interview that he planned to quit the show in December because he was “too old” for the long days.
“I’m going to be quitting the show in December after we finish the initial 13 [episodes],” he told Electronic Urban Report. “I’m a 58-year-old diabetic and I’m working 16-hour days.”
The actor said at the time that he planned to “return to the stage” to “try to find my smile again.”
And then a week later Fox added a couple more episodes to what is now a 15-episode season, all of which are set to include Wayans, and the actor hasn’t spoken about his plans to exit — or not — since.
Following our interview, “Lethal Weapon” showrunner Matt Miller took the stage for a “Voices of Drama” panel, addressing Wayans’ status on the show further, saying Damon told the team he was having “medical issues” halfway through the season.
“As a result of that, it sort of made us all sit down, roll up our sleeves and say, ‘OK, we’re now really hearing you. What do you need?'” he said.
“He was tired,” Miller added. “And I think when all of us are tired we’re like, ‘Yeah, yeah, we’re all tired. Let’s keep going.’ And then he was like, ‘No, no, no, I’m really sick.’ And it was a cry for help, you know? And we all sat down and we worked on some hours and ways to fix his schedule a little bit and ways that maybe changed some storylines to accommodate him, since that time — and you should certainly ask him, I don’t want to speak for him — but since that time, it has been an absolute delight making the show. And I can say that for myself. He has come to work with a smile. He’s been thrilled”
Miller said the show wrapped production last week, and “seeing [Wayans] there with a big smile on his face the entire time brought the whole crew together.”
“It was tough for him, he’s not a young guy,” Miller added. “And this is not an easy show to make. And the amount of stunts that we do in the amount of time that we have is really, really grueling.”
The “Lethal Weapon” EP went on to address how the show handled Crawford’s exit last year, saying: “This is a show that is very much a character piece with a procedural element in it. And for two seasons we played that hand really hard with these two guys. And forgetting for a second the off-camera stuff that led to this, from a creative point of view we kind of ran that relationship into the ground. And it was really an incredible gift to be able to relaunch a new version of that relationship starting from scratch with two characters that didn’t know each other, with two different sets of problems.”