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Interview: Kathleen Robertson

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On June 9th, TNT will debut its latest drama Murder in the First. Created by Steven Bochco, the series follows Inspector Hildy Mulligan (Kathleen Robertson) and Inspector Terry English (Taye Diggs) as they try to solve a case that spans across an entire season.

Kathleen Robertson is no stranger to the big and small screen. She recently finished a successful run on the Kelsey Grammer series Boss and has as an upcoming arc on the A&E series Bates Motel. She also appeared on the long running hit series Beverly Hills, 90210. On the big screen, she has appeared in films such as Scary Movie 2, Control and Beautiful.

Kathleen was nice enough to sit down with us to talk about her new series, working with Taye Diggs and what fans can look forward to with the rest of the season.

Pop Culture Principle – What was it that attracted you to this project?

Kathleen Robertson – Steven Bochco was a huge reason for me wanting to do the show and I was really excited to be a part of the project.

Pop Culture Principle – Do you find it satisfying as an actor to play the main storyline out over the entire series?

Kathleen Robertson – Yes, definitely. As an actor it’s really rewarding and I also think as a viewer, I personally love those kinds of shows that are structured in that way. I love to read and I love a great book and I feel that it’s similar to reading a great book. You don’t want it to end and you just keep going and going and then when it ends, it’s a satisfying payoff. I think people are responding to it as well and I think it’s like watching a big movie.

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Pop Culture Principle - With this particular structure for the show, as an actor, does it give you time to really dig into and flesh out your character?

Kathleen Robertson – It does. You have to really get in there and figure stuff out. I like that about the show too; it isn’t just about the crime element of the show, but you get to see the two main characters private life and their dynamic. It’s more interesting to play that stuff as an actor as well.

Pop Culture Principle – When you worked on Boss, you prepared for that role by interviewing several aides who worked for Chicago mayors, what kind of preparation did you do for this role?

Kathleen Robertson – You know, I never went to University and I’ve been acting since I was really young. So, because I didn’t have a formal education, I think I overcompensate when it comes to my work. I like to do a lot of research and like to know as much about the world I’m going to be a part of. I met with a ton of homicide detectives both females and males. I did some ride alongs in Los Angeles and also learned how to shoot and did all the things necessary to learn about the physicality of the job. My brother in law is a Sargent in Ontario, Canada, so I did a lot of hanging out with him and asking questions. Lots of research is helpful.

Pop Culture Principle – You have great on screen chemistry with Taye Diggs. What is it like working with him on Murder in the First?

Kathleen Robertson – It’s great. He’s very funny and makes me laugh. I find him to be a very interested person, meaning he loves to ask questions and loves to go deep and talk which is rare, especially for an actor. Most male actors are all about themselves and all about their own thing and he’s not that way at all. From the first time we met and started hanging out, he’s really easy to talk to and really smart. He hasn’t let any of this success go to his head. He’s really level and kind and everybody loved him.

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Pop Culture Principle – Your characters have this very different energy that just works. Your character is more of the outgoing one and the one who asks 100 questions while Taye’s character is a bit more reserved and laid back. Would you agree?

Kathleen Robertson – Yep, which is basically the way we are in real life. I ask a million questions and he is much more chill, quiet and an observer. My energy is definitely more out there. I think it was obviously intentional when we both were cast in these roles. We are very different and have very different energies, so that helps

Pop Culture Principle – Your character is definitely strong, independent and can be physical when she needs to be. Is it important for those characteristics to come across in your performance?

Kathleen Robertson – I did a lot of training to get stronger and prepare to get ready for some of the physical things we had to do. I also think the research really helped with that as well in terms of the style of interrogation and the way you present yourself. Especially as a woman in that world there has to be no nonsense and no preconceived notions or ideas about what it is. It’s very clear about what your job is and what you need to and I think Hildy doesn’t have any illusion about that. She’s very straight and she says exactly what she thinks and feels and doesn’t edit anything and I really like that about her.

Pop Culture Principle – Was it important to you that the show really explores what it is to not only be a female cop but at the same time show you deal with that and raising a daughter?

Kathleen Robertson – I know for me as an audience member, I am not as interested in the minutia of story of the cases, but I am much more interested in the characters. I think ultimately that is what the people connect and that is the most important thing. As the show progresses, Taye’s character and my character’s relationship becomes more complicated. His wife dies in the pilot and I think that Hildy has always had feelings for him but has always shut them off because he was married and it wasn’t an option. Now with his wife dying, it sort of changes everything and turns everything on its head. It’s something she can’t show to the world and for me it was something that was always running underneath everything in the whole show. It was always that attraction that she can’t act upon.

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Pop Culture Principle – There’s the old saying that cops never take their work home. For your character, that’s especially true because she is raising a young daughter. What is her way of coping with her job when she’s not on the clock?

Kathleen Robertson – I was always pushing for more of that and if the shows gets picked up for a second season, which I hope it does, that’s something I want to see more of. My brother in law is a cop and all the stuff he tells me about, you have to have an outlet and a way to blow off steam. That’s why so many cops’ marriages don’t work and there is such a high rate of alcoholism and drug use because it’s a really bleak, hard and difficult job. The stuff you see you never forget it and it becomes part of your DNA. So, I think you have to have those outlets whether it be humor or whatever, it’s really important for sure.

Pop Culture Principle – Do you think with the success of HBO’s True Detective that networks will look more at doing these types of shows again where the story evolves over the course of a season?

Kathleen Robertson – I hope so. For actors it’s much more interesting than doing a close ended story every week where it’s wrapped up in a tiny little bow at the end. Also, from a writing perspective it’s much more engaging and much more interesting. We’ll see what happens.

Pop Culture Principle - What can fans look forward to with the rest of the season?

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Kathleen Robertson – Lots more surprises and all I can tell you is that none of us knew what the outcome was going to be because they wouldn’t tell us. So, every week we all had theories about who did it and what the outcome would be. We all thought we knew what was going on and we were all shocked at the end. Just when you think you have it figured out, you probably don’t. We have so many great actors on the show, so it definitely keeps you guessing.

Pop Culture Principle – You also had some great scenes with Tom Felton. What was it like working with him?

Kathleen Robertson – It was great! You know, I knew of the Harry Potter films and all the hysteria surrounding them, but I didn’t realize how loved he is by his fans. He’s the polar opposite of the characters that he plays. He’s the sweetest guy you could ever meet. You just can’t believe the evil characters that he plays because he’s such a sweetheart.

Pop Culture Principle – In the last 10 to 15 years, television has become the place to go for actors, especially cable. Would you agree with that and where do you think was the turning point?

Kathleen Robertson – I actually just read this amazing book called Difficult Men that talks about this question. It tracks it back to HBO with the Sopranos and you can even go back to Stephen Bochco’s early work with NYPD Blue and shows like that. I think that it started back in those days; the seed where planted with the idea of having a character that isn’t perfect and is messed up, but we are still rooting for him or her. The writing has become so fantastic and for me, it’s all cable television. These incredible writers being given the ability to create are amazing. The main thing about cable television is that you don’t have to have twenty million viewers. If you get five million or three million or even like a show like Mad Men, there aren’t a lot of people that watch that show in the big picture, but you don’t need to for cable. You don’t have to appeal to the masses; you can just appeal to your niche audience and by doing that you can afford to be really specific.

We would like to thank Kathleen for taking time out of her busy schedule to talk with us. If you would like to keep up with all her latest projects and news, you can follow her on Twitter @kathleenrobert7.

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