Monday, December 21, 2015

#MajorCrimes Facebook Chat with James Duff

Tonight marked the fall finale of TNT's Major Crimes. James Duff was manning his weekly in-season Facebook chat, holiday edition. I've recapped his answers below, skipping the questions since he manages to encapsulate the questions in his answers.  

The show returns for five shows in February for a special extra show run. Tonight Duff shared more details about the February shows than he has shared in previous shows. Season 5 starts this summer. Congratulations to the cast and crew on the renewal. 

And now for the Q&A...

James Duff I'd like to start out the chat by saying tonight's episode stars more recurring cast than any we have ever done, including Ron Marasco as Judge Grove, Emmy winner Greg Rikaart as attorney Bobby Monroe and Kathe Mazur as DDA Hobbs.

James Duff And we say goodbye to Garret Coffey, who has played Slider with a scary amount of ease. Actually, Garret is one of the nicest people, you will ever meet, but on screen! Frightening!

James Duff Stefanie W wants to know if it would be possible for the cast to do a panel in Germany next year. We've actually talked about it! The cast would love to go. But they are a pricey bunch of travelers. Stefanie Wildermann also asks if we could put together a store where people could buy things and donate to the Sunshine Kids.

James Duff That's a great idea about the store! We will look into it!

James Duff For those of you who don't know, the Sunshine Kids is an organization dedicated to helping children with cancer do fun things, and live normal lives with their peers while on treatment. And G W Bailey, who plays Provenza, is their CEO (for the last twenty years and more).

James Duff Ingrid M asks what I think about how young people are completely obsessed with Sharon and Andy. She is fifteen.

James Duff I love it. And I also understand it. Mostly, television doesn't portray older people facing major life decisions. Provenza is impulsive. Of course, he married Patrice! I think he's happy, too, about the whole thing.

James Duff I think young people relate to this because the struggle to know if someone is right for you must go beyond simple feeling, and making the judgment is very hard. You want to have the passion, but you must also have the mind.

James Duff But Sharon and Andy are taking a more measured approach to their relationship, testing the waters carefully since they have both been in over their heads before.

James Duff Mira B is from Denmark everybody, and she is at a 3 am live watch party! I love that! Thank you Mira!

James Duff Mira asks if any interaction with a fan has ever had an effect on story. I can honestly say that the answer is yes! But it has always been an in-person conversation. One fan gave me an idea once for a murder, and I ended up running with it! Another fan gave me an idea for a solution to a crime. This guy is a professional national security officer, so he was incredibly detailed. Of course, I had to wait for the right story to appear. But after that, I used the concept of a child's shadow to solve the crime!

James Duff So glad you are watching the show and my love to Denmark

James Duff Cyndi S wants to know if Jonathan Del Arco, who so brilliantly portrays Dr. Morales, will have his own episode this year.

James Duff Yes. Next season. We already have the idea and Jonathan came up with it. So I often listen to the actors, too!

James Duff Carla W thanks us for making something that her husband will sit down and watch with her! I'm so glad we cross gender lines like that.

James Duff Though the show tries to have a lot of adult themes, we also like to think of ourselves as doing stuff that most young people have already heard about. And we have a lotta guys as series regulars. Provenza, Tao, Sanchez, Buzz, Flynn, Taylor, Rusty, Morales!

James Duff Oriana A. F asks if Agent Morris or Bill Croelick are coming back next season.

James Duff Both actors are flamboyantly brilliant. I've always wanted Jason back (who plays Bill). But he was more of Brenda's foil. Alan Ruck, who played Agent Morris with deadpan hilarity is one of my favorite performances by a guest star. We would love to have him back. A lot of this depends on availabilities.

James Duff I should say this episode was written by my long-time partner in the writer's room, Executive Producer Adam Belanoff and directed by my producing partner, Michael M. Robin. They team up together in fantastic ways.

James Duff Evelyn David very smartly points out that tonight's episode has a different feel. And yes, some of it has to do with the music, but we are breaking point-of-view in this episode, and you are going to spend a lot of it with the murderer.

James Duff And I am flying blind with you tonight, because I cannot see the show where I am this evening! Of course, I edited and mixed it; I've seen it about fifteen times. But usually I watch with so I can comment on the scenes. I'll have to tune in with the rest of the West Coast.

James Duff @Vickie Waddell R. whose name I cannot properly spell, says she loves the amount of time the cast and I spend interacting with viewers. We feel the same about all of you! It's a great gift to be living in this age, where you can communicate so openly with your audience.

James Duff And Merry Christmas to Todd Hare! My friend and a good guy!

James Duff Ilona Arcari talks about the story in last week's episode (which I will not spoil here if you are behind) and how much she loved the roller coaster of it all. And wants to know who comes up with the stories? Leo Geter runs the writer's room. Det. Mike Berchem makes a big contribution. I help some. But, honestly, it's a team effort. Having just started season five, I can tell you that we all pitch in, and we have more stories on our board than we could possibly tell, and by the time we finish with them, they reflect everybody.

James Duff Deborah Lacy asks what the most important step is in building a character. For me, it is finding the words in which the character speaks, and why he or she speaks them that way. I need to hear their voices internally. More often than not, I base my characters on people from my life. And the better I know them, the more quickly they begin to seem real.

James Duff Sophie V asks if we have ever considered coming as a group to Europe. I said earlier in the chat that the cast would love to do that. We know the show is doing well across the Atlantic (and the Pacific, too). This year, though, we have been shooting so many episodes, it's hard to get away. Maybe after we finish filming season five.

James Duff I should point out that though this is our autumn finale, we will be back with a five-part episode in February! Our first Major Crimes mini-series. Also that, in addition to our winter finale, tonight is the finale of our companion web series, Identity with Rusty Beck, where he completes his eight-part study of murderer, Slider, Rasenick.

James Duff Graham Patrick Martin has been one my great collaborators, and I have known him now for a good part of his very young life. Rusty is the window into Sharon's personal life, and he has a major breakthrough tonight.

James Duff Vicki N has really enjoyed Identity. It's been a great experience for us, too. I wrote and directed all of the second season of Identity myself, and it's been an interesting challenge to make it good enough for a college freshman without giving it all the production value I've learned over the years.

James Duff @Gracie asks if I had a favorite moment behind the scenes moment from this season. And Happy Holidays to you, too, Gracie. I always love sharing the show with you!

James Duff Duppy, by the way, is flat out hilarious in the room. I dare not pause, for fear he will fill in the blank! Usually with something incredibly rude.

James Duff Kelly A T says Amy and Julio need romances. Amy already has a romance. She's dating Malcom-Jamal Warner, who plays Lt. Cooper from SIS (the undercover section of SOB, in our version of the LAPD). We will see how that goes. Julio gets a romance in February that turns his life around. He meets someone with similar issues, the widow of a murdered D.A. Investigator who used to work homicides until her husband ended up as one.Waxing philosophic, but talking about Julio does that to me. Ray is also one of my best friends. Exceptional grief is a real thing, by the way. I have talked to several psychologists who have been working with it. Julio represents some of that; the endless feedback loop of loss and regret. How to end it? So hard.

James Duff @Cassandra G asks if I can give out any secrets about the February episodes. Yes, I can give you some info about February! James Duff A series of murders from the past - an off duty cop who was murdered by roses for his wife, the DDA who was prosecuting his killer, and her bodyguard, were all shot to death in what came to be known as the Reese murders (named after the first victim). The killer was never identified. The weapon was never found. It is the biggest open case in LAPD history and the only unsolved murder of a cop in the record of the city. When we open, there is a murder involving the same gang that killed Officer Reese, by strange circumstances.

James Duff Sharon will also have a big job offer in February. And, as we reach the end of our five episode miniseries, there will be a couple of scenes with Flynn that I think people have been waiting for.

James Duff I have struggled with how to deal with Rusty's intimacy issues for a very long time. As I have said before, molestation and rape - statutory or otherwise - is internalized as violence. Children learn to detach from the emotional pain and abstractly think through these things with their intellect in order to survive. It is not gotten over like a bad cold. But this has to happen. And since it has to happen, I am very glad we have Rene Rosado to play Gustavo Wallace. And a blunt force instrument is often what you need when dealing with a character like Rusty. Sharon will, once again, have her hands full next year.

James Duff Stephanie Phipps mentions the part of Julio's ongoing grief is how his brother was shot to death over the color of a baseball cap Julio gave him.That didn't help anything!

James Duff And on that note, I will leave you to finish up watching our finale in Peace and Good Will to All! Have a great holiday. And a very, very Happy New Year. Thanks for watching, and thanks for sharing this time with me each week. I appreciate it more than I can properly express.

Past Major Crimes Q&As can be found here. Come find Mystery Playground on Facebook or twitter @mysteryplygrnd.

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