For years, TV fans knew Dylan McDermott as the conflicted star of the hit legal drama The Practice. Now, Dylan has traded law for order in the TNT series Dark Blue, produced by CSI's Jerry Bruckheimer.
Kari Forsee: What sets Dark Blue apart from other cop shows on TV?
Dylan opens up about his character Carter Shaw, a complex man who leads a team of undercover police officers in Los Angeles. Plus, how real police officers helped him prepare.
Dylan McDermott: I think that being on cable, you get more freedom certainly with cop shows. This concentrates on the darker aspects of police work and the darker aspects of these characters. I think on network television, you could never get away with the stuff that we are. But this is a Jerry Bruckheimer show with TNT, and I think that you're going to get entertainment value being a Jerry Bruckheimer show, but also, you're going to get great characters—that's not something you always get on network television is character.
I think that's why cable is thriving. You get to have these great characters you would never get on network, and I think that audiences are fascinated by characters. You get good stories, so you get a contained episode with a crime every week, you get great character and you get a great story.
KF: Carter Shaw, your character in Dark Blue, is complex. How did you prepare for this role? Did you shadow or work with any police officers?
DM: It's just one of those roles where you have to had lived life to play it. I've graduated into that role in many ways. I had to kind of live my entire life to play Carter, otherwise I would have been faking it. I also hung out with cops, and that was great for me because I got to go on drive-alongs. I got to hang with undercover cops. I got to talk to them, but more importantly, I got to observe their behavior. With undercover cops, it's what they don't tell you, because it's all about them hiding. They're spending their entire existence hiding from people. So I thought that was interesting...how they were hiding from me when I tried to talk to them.
KF: Did anything crazy happen on your drive-alongs?
DM: Well, we hung out with gang members, and this one cop took me along. We pulled over these gang members, and we talked to them for a half hour. At the end, the cop said to me, "You know that was a little strange for me because I killed his brother." Boy, I wish he told me that before we pulled them over!
We went to the projects, and we were talking to drug dealers and gangbangers. It was definitely very valuable for me.
KF:You spent years playing a lawyer on the hit TV show The Practice. Now that you've also played a cop, which do you prefer: the law or the order?
DM: I am really enjoying this show a lot. I like going to work every day. I like kind of getting inside this guy's skin. The Practice was a great run, but right now this is a lot of fun for me.
KF: If you had to choose, would you be a lawyer or a cop if you weren't an actor?
DM: Man, that's a tough one. I would take the cop. You know, the courtroom after awhile is a little rough if you're going to be a defense attorney.
KF:How many episodes of Dark Blue have you finished so far? What can we expect?
DM: We're going into number five. ... Every week, you're going to see contained episodes where one of us is going to be in enormous jeopardy, and the stakes are going to be so enormously high. I just think that's a really fun way to watch television. But the characters for me...each one of them are so intriguing, that's the fun part of the whole show.
KF: If you had to go undercover as anyone or anything, what would you go undercover as?
DM: I would probably sneak into the White House. I would have loved to be around Abraham Lincoln and maybe sneak into the White House during that time.
KF: What's it like working with Jerry Bruckheimer?
DM: Jerry's the most successful producer in the history of television and movies, so that's the first thing you want to be involved in. In the entertainment business, so many things fail, and this is a guy whose success rate is through the roof. ... When I got the call that he wanted to sit down with me, that's the call you always dream of. Everybody wants to be successful, because you have to work just as hard to fail as you do to succeed. You want to be involved with people like that, and Jerry's just tremendous. He's a real person. He does the work. I understand why he's so successful, you know. He's completely involved.
KF: Who or what inspired you to get into acting so many years ago?
DM: It was my mom, Eve Ensler, when I was 15. She suggested that I become an actor. She walked me over to acting school, and from then on, I was sort of bitten by it. I give her all the credit.
KF: Eve Ensler (a playwright best known for The Vagina Monologues) has been an Oprah Show guest and an O, The Oprah Magazine contributor. What are some other ways she's influenced you or some of the best advice she has given you over the years?
DM: Well, you know, she is in the Congo right now. Her ability and love of women is just amazing...how she protects women is just awesome. ... Oprah is also like that too. Their care of women and how they honor women is just enormous, and Eve is really in the trenches. She is out there. She's creating safe houses, and she's helping. She bought some land for these orphans in Africa. You know, it's just like, "Wow." This is who she is. She's that person. People can dream about being that person, but she's actually that person.
KF: I read that you have two daughters, ages 3 and 13. What's the one lesson you'd like to pass along to them?
DM: Ultimately, I suppose it's just love. I just love them no matter what, and you make them feel and let them know that they're loved. Once you do, you can do anything in this world. It's the people that don't know it that struggle, but the people who know they're loved are the ones who really find their way in this world.
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Printed from Oprah.com on Wednesday, March 12, 2014
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