Phillip P. Keene, who plays fan-favorite Buzz Watson on Major Crimes and The Closer, is with us today to answer questions about the show and the webisodes he stars in with Graham Patrick Martin. The webisode series is called Identity: The Long Shadow. The show features a story about the murders of Buzz's father and uncle that weaves in and out of this season's narrative of Major Crimes but also stands alone. It's a great piece of storytelling and provides more perspective on the character of Buzz Watson. You can see the episodes that have aired to date, below.
This season Buzz has really ramped up the search for the person who killed his father and uncle. What made him to decide to focus on this now? How have their deaths impacted his character? Is he fearful of what he might find?
This has been a long time coming.
Buzz made a promise to himself that he would one day find the men responsible for the deaths of his father and uncle. It is only after many years working for the Major Crimes Division of the LAPD that Buzz took the opportunity to become a reserve officer so that he could personally work on the 30 year old cold case of his father and uncle's murders.
Their deaths had a profound impact on Buzz. His family was torn apart and Buzz felt more than a little responsible for their murders because they stopped on their way home to get cash after having spent what they had on souvenirs for he and his sister. While Buzz has set goals for himself throughout his life his main focus has always been working toward attaining the skills necessary to achieve his main objective: bringing the murderers to justice.
From getting his film degree to securing a job at the LAPD's SID ( Scientific Investigation Division) and eventually working with Major Crimes, Buzz has had little time for a personal life. I don’t think Buzz is fearful of what he might find, rather, he is anxious about discovering the necessary evidence to find and convict the killers.
How is filming the Identity video log webisodes different than filming the episodes of Major Crimes?
Filming the Identity vlogs is not that different from shooting a normal scene from Major Crimes. We are lucky to have the same crews and use our sets. Occasionally we will go out to a location and shoot. Truth be told, I do feel a bit more pressure shooting these scenes only because the creator of both The Closer and Major Crimes is directing these shoots and he’s not a person you want to disappoint!
What is the most fun aspect about playing Buzz? What is the most challenging?
I would have to say that the best part of playing Buzz is getting to work with a great family of actors and a great and dedicated crew of talented professionals. I have learned so much from everyone I have worked with these last twelve years. The most challenging bit has been trying to stay true to Buzz’s Boy Scout personae. Also he is much younger than I am so that presents its own set of challenges.
If you could choose to play any other Major Crimes’ character than Buzz, who would you choose to play and why?
If there were a male version of Deputy District Attorney Hobbs I would love to play that. I love how that character comes in and takes no prisoners. Strong focused and unapologetic.
Are you working on anything else now that you’d like to tell us about?
Shooting the series takes up most of my time, so the opportunity to audition for other things is rare. However I am fortunate in that I do get to participate in some extracurricular activities through a few organizations. First there is The Pan Am Museum Foundation, a non profit 501(c)(3) dedicated to creating a museum in order to preserve Pan Am’s legacy.
The Sunshine Kids, Dee Dee knows how important this particular organization is to all of the Major Crimes family and more recently I have discovered another passion: Covenant House. Their mission is to reach out to homeless youth living on the streets and offer them hope and opportunities to turn their lives around.
What advice do you have for aspiring actors?
If there is anything I can say to aspiring actors it is this: Ask questions. Ask them in class, ask them on set, ask them on stage, ask them in life. Don’t be afraid to let on you don’t know something. You will never learn anything if you don’t ask. The only dumb question is the one you didn’t ask. Learn to listen.
Your character has a lot of special relationships on the show – he mentors Rusty, he is mentored by Provenza. You really sell those relationships on the screen. How do you approach those scenes?
This is an easy one. Buzz has a lot of special relationships on the show that is true. And so does Phillip. My coworkers have become part of my family. We celebrate each others successes and help each other through those moments when things are tough. We have a real affection for one another and I think that shows up on screen. I feel we all treat our workplace as a kind of home and we get to welcome our guests (guest stars) in and hopefully make them feel welcome so that they may do there best work and as a result make us look good.
A big thank you to Phillip Keene for taking the time during a busy shooting schedule to answer our questions.
Here are the epsiodes of Identity: The Long Shadow, that have aired so far:
You can check out our interviews with Tony Denison (Lt Andy Flynn), Kearran Giovanni (Detective Amy Sykes), CI Kendall (Ransford Doherty) and Major Crimes' costume designer, Greg LaVoi.
Photo credit: Riker Brother Photography