MCTV Exclusive: James Duff Previews Major Crimes Winter Premiere, the Race for Chief, and Why He Prepared Alternate Scripts For This Season

By M. Sharpe


514- duff raydorAfter a five-month hiatus, Major Crimes returns tonight with the first of eight all-new episodes of its winter season. MajorCrimesTV.net spoke to series creator and executive producer James Duff to find out just what fans can expect from these upcoming episodes, including how Chief Taylor’s death continues to impact the team and the LAPD at large, what we can expect from two major new additions to the cast, and how the long wait for a season six renewal affected how the writers approached the season finale. And stay tuned for after the episode for our special postmortem with Duff on a few of the jaw-dropping turns tonight’s episode delivers.

MajorCrimesTV: It’s great to have you and the team back. It’s been far too long, and with everything that has been going on in the world, it feels very comforting to have Major Crimes, and these familiar characters back in our lives.

James Duff: Thank you, it’s good to be back. I will say, in our present day lives, the world suddenly seems less stable than it used to. I do think having these familiar characters come back for eight episodes right now is something that offers people a little happy familiarity. And people who like the show, I think they’ll like it even more than usual, because they want a little stability somewhere, and the show does, in its own way, foster that stability in the world. It’s a continuance, and no matter what changes in the world, or how it changes, MC is still here, doing its thing. And we’re very glad to be back for that.

MCTV: You’ve mentioned before going into this season that the team was in for a big shakeup, but what struck me even more than that watching the winter premiere was the feeling that this was a bit of a rebirth for the show, and that things are headed somewhere different. Camryn Manheim as Winnie Davis comes onto the scene like a bull in a china shop, butting up against Raydor. It’s very reminiscent of how Sharon really came onto the scene in The Closer and butted up against Brenda. Are we going to see that parallel continue?

JD: Yes. That is a parallel, but there is a difference, in that Brenda handled Sharon’s presence much differently than Sharon is going to end up handling Winnie’s presence. You’re going to see in this episode, Sharon’s first reaction is, ‘may I please go back to work’. But later the later reactions are going to be much different. Sharon is struggling to find a way to deal with Winnie that’s professional, and Winnie knows that, so she goes for the personal. She tries to get some personal antagonism going between her and Sharon, and Sharon does not take the bait. She keeps everything as cool and professional as she can, although she does eventually lose her patience.

MCTV: We see in tonight’s episode that Wes Nolan, who was the undercover cop from the three part finale from summer, is now working with the team. Has he become a permanent addition?

JD: You know, that’s still a question. He’s going to be testifying for years against the white power organization in which he was an undercover agent for five years.  And while he’s testifying against Zyklon B he’s going to be attached to Major Crimes. And he may ultimately end up somewhere else, but he does seem to fit in, and I will tell you that the cast loved Daniel. They adore him and I think he’s a great addition to what we have. But a lot of it depends on our story-telling needs next season and how his career path goes.

MCTV:  Part of this episode focuses the team going through training exercises, and all that’s involved in that. How did that come about being part of this, as we’ve really not seen that before on the show?

JD: No we haven’t, and active shooter training is a big thing that started with the actual LAPD. There wasn’t any active shooter training like this for a very long time, and also the training has now changed. In the past, the police were told to wait for SWAT. But now, you can’t wait for SWAT, and you have to go right in. Your job as a first responder now is to get in there and try to stop it any way you can.

I felt like I didn’t want to do an actual active shooter story, because we did one already last season, but I did want to show how these episodes are disrupting our society, and I also wanted to show how we are training to deal with it. Additionally, it takes a lot of resources to continue this sort of training. A lot of time, a lot of effort and everybody must go through it. Since our show is largely about the lives of police officers, I felt like it was a great way to start our season, by showing them still training. Even the most successful of them still are training to do better.

MCTV: One thing that really hit me in this episode was that, as we’ve seen for the life of the show, the Major Crimes division has always been the darling of the LAPD. It’s the elite division, they’ve been supported by the brass, etc. But it seems that perhaps in this episode, and moving forward, I’m feeling like we might have just seen the first crack in that armor?

JD: Yes, and that is it exactly. Every time new management comes in, there are changes. They look to see where changes can be made, on all sides. It may surprise you to hear that detectives are not the most popular people inside the LAPD, or inside any police department, usually. Everybody feels they get special treatment, especially homicide detectives. The resources that are detailed to Homicide are always envied by other divisions. It’s natural, of course, because you want your money to go in support of people tracking the most violent offenders. But everybody considers their job important, too. And there’s always a question of balance. How much does any one division get, as opposed to another division, and could some of the crimes that are ultimately solved by our detectives have been prevented by resourcing some of these other departments? Those are legitimate questions. Allocation of resources, that’s always a big deal inside bureaucracies. And the LAPD is no different.

MCTV: We don’t see him until next week, but what can you tell us about the other person who’s going to be in the running for the Chief position?

JD: Commander Davis is also in charge of a division that the LAPD supports and that causes a lot of anxiety among other divisions, which is Criminal Intelligence Division, the LAPD’s own CIA. People’s big complaint about Criminal Intelligence is that they swoop in, they get information, and it goes away and it never comes back. And they never share anything they’ve learned with the rest of the department. I mean, these are the rumors and the complaints that you hear from other LAPD officers, that CI is the sinkhole of all relevant information. And that they would rather hold on to their sources and methods than assist in solving crimes. So Commander Davis will have his own issues in terms of the Chief position, and Winnie Davis is going to have issues with him as well.

MCTV: We were all thrilled and relieved by the recent renewal announcement for season 6, but it came pretty late in the game in terms of where you were in the production schedule of these episodes. Did the delay in renewal affect the storytelling and how you wrote this winter arc, not knowing if there would be another season after this?

JD: I was preparing to do the last eight episodes as if we were going to do no more, but we also planned it so the last episode could go a multitude of ways depending on what happened. The word came down [that the show was renewed] before we started shooting the last two episodes. So as things turned out, we were prepared for the renewal with an alternate script, and the renewal came, and so we had that script ready to shoot.


The winter premiere of Major Crimes airs tonight at 9PM/8C on TNT, and don’t forget to come back to MajorCrimesTV.net after the episode as James Duff breaks down two of the most shocking moments of the night.

Thursday morning, delve even deeper into the new episode with a brand new edition of Mary McDonnell’s “What Would Sharon Raydor Do?” Podcast, guest hosted by the editor of MajorCrimesTV.net. Find out just what Sharon Raydor was thinking during tonight’s episode, from the woman who knows her best, actress Mary McDonnell.

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