"Southland" character John Cooper is a cop's cop: a tough, sarcastic, loveable smartass. He also happens to be gay. The fact that the show's writers don't treat his homosexuality as a gimmick is just one of the reasons Michael Cudlitz hopes he gets to play Cooper once more.
The street-level police drama has been canceled again, this time by TNT, which revived it for four seasons after NBC abandoned it after one. The show's refusal to take dramatic shortcuts makes it hard to pin down. But that's also made its fans love it all the more.
"Everyone wants to pigeonhole you in a certain area, like, 'Characters on 'Glee' love singing and dancing, they’re gay!" Cudlitz said. "That’s totally different from me, because I don’t sing or dance… So that’s a completely shaped 'gay,' that person’s 'gay.' But John Cooper, that guy will f— you up."
He adds: "I think it lets people fall in love with the character and then you find out things you didn’t know about the character and it makes you ask these hard questions. And you may completely dismiss it; 'F— it, that guys a f–, I’m done watching this show.' But I’d argue — I’ve actually gotten letters from law enforcement officers saying, “I’m not gay, I’m not homophobic, but the show has certainly changed my opinion of officers who are gay."
Cudlitz just won a Critics Choice Television Award for Best Supporting Actor In a Drama Series. The latest cancellation of "Southland" may be an opportunity for Emmy voters to recognize his show, too. But he isn't holding his breath.
"I think there’s a slight chance that myself or Regina [King, who plays Detective Lydia Adams] might get nominated for acting, but in the arena that I think it really deserves it, no," Cudlitz said. "I think it should have been nominated a long time ago for cinematography, direction… for some of the scripts we’ve had, [but] I don’t think any of that stuff is on the radar for this year at all."
Cudlitz says "Southland" is "definitely done" at TNT, but hopes a possible third time is the charm. Cudlitz says the entire cast is on board for another potential "Southland" resuscitation, if another network or perhaps streaming service wants to revive it. (As Netflix did last month for "Arrested Development.")
When "Southland" was originally cancelled by NBC and picked up by TNT, Cudlitz never considered leaving the program. At the time, he thought cable offered the potential for "a more pure form" of the show.
But that optimism went away. Cudlitz speaks kindly of the atmosphere at TNT, but isn't sure the network was the best fit.
"You know, with shows like 'The Closer' — very heavily female driven sort of blue sky shows, I don’t know if [TNT] was the right place for us. We probably would have been better, had a lot of crossover with 'Sons of Anarchy' — FX would have been a better place."
"If 'Southland' were to move forward in some way, it wouldn’t tie me up," Cudlitz added. "I’m just eager and excited for what’s gonna happen tomorrow."