This season on Major Crimes has seen Buzz and Rusty team up to reopen the unsolved murder of Buzz’s father. Through both storylines in episodes, as well as Rusty’s web-excusive series Identity, the two have explored the circumstances surrounding the cold case, and seek to finally find some resolution for Buzz and his family. So it seemed only natural for us to sit down with both Graham Patrick Martin and Phillip Keene together, to discuss Buzz and Rusty’s new partnership in crime-solving, and what we can expect from both of their characters moving forward this season.
MCTV: This year has been a great year for both of you. Phillip, you’re having a great year with Buzz’s storyline, and Graham, Identity continues to be wonderful with Rusty as well as his storylines continuing. You’re about halfway through filming this season now – how has it been going for both of you?
Phillip Keene: We’re finishing up episode 9 and things have been going great. I mean, Graham has always been excellent at memorizing dialogue – and quite frankly I haven’t had that much dialogue to memorize in such a long time that it was a bit of a challenge for me. But the more that I do it with these episodes of Identity, the easier it becomes. And I just love the fact that you get to see more of my character’s background, so it gives me a lot to do, and I love working with Graham. He and I did a four-page scene a couple weeks ago and we were able to get it filmed in under an hour – it was great! The crew were happy, we loved it, it was just nice playing off of somebody who works as well as he does.
Graham Patrick Martin: Thank you Philip. I am a such a huge fan of the show, and I’ve always been a huge fan of the Buzz character, and so it’s been fun playing with that sort of brotherly relationship that Buzz and Rusty have always had. I’ve always been really anxious to dig deeper and to learn more about Buzz and what’s motivated him to be where he is. So that’s what this whole Identity Buzz and Rusty crossover has done for me. It’s really been an awesome platform to dive into the character of Buzz, who I feel like is one of the characters who we don’t know as much about as the others.
PK: And it’s really cool because in the beginning I was sort of Rusty’s mentor and in terms of bringing him into the fold, and now the roles are slightly reversed in that Rusty already has this Identity and journalism thing established and he’s bringing me out of my shell and exposing more of who I am.
MCTV: It’s been great to see that dynamic develop. In the beginning of Major Crimes, Buzz and Rusty’s relationship was very different from where it is at now – do you feel like both characters are more on equal footing now than where they started?
GPM: Yes, I don’t know if you remember the first episode, we had that interaction where he comes in and then I say, ‘Well what kind of name is Buzz anyway?’ -
PK: [laughs] ‘Oh you mean like Rusty?’
GPM:[laughs] So we definitely started off on this weird footing and I guess now, it is sort of more of an equal relationship, but Buzz is still really good at keeping Rusty in check. Rusty tends to just go off based on his emotions and overstep his boundaries and Buzz is always there to tell him to pump the brakes little bit. So Rusty still has a lot to learn and Buzz is always there to give him some guidance, so there is still a little bit of that mentor aspect still around but they’re definitely sort of like coworkers now.
MCTV: Last year we saw Buzz try and help Rusty develop a sense of empathy for the people around him, and this year it seems that this sense of empathy has come back to Buzz because now he is the one requiring Rusty to be a little bit more self-aware.
PK: In the first episode, Buzz broke down when Rusty was asking very pointed questions about his relationship with his father and uncle and how they came to be killed. He trusts Rusty a lot, so much so that he’s able to let his guard down and show some real emotion and depend on him to be a sort of sounding board for what is going on in his life, while at the same time trying to maintain this facade of professionalism and non-reaction to things because it’s really just about the job. He wants to conclude, to open this cold case and find an answer, but he still has to keep everything else in check. But I think that Rusty is a great outlet for him to be able to express those emotions.
MCTV: We were on set a few weeks ago during filming of one of the Identity features and what was striking was how much smaller the crew is, how much faster the filming goes. Is there anything else about the filming experience of Identity that differs from that of the rest of Major Crimes?
GPM: What I think is really great about the way that we shoot it is that we want it to be as realistic as possible. We want it to really feel like this is this 20-year old kid who has come up with this idea and is actually filming this thing to go on YouTube. I guess in my ideal world, I would like for someone to accidently come across it on YouTube and think it’s real, and watch the whole series thinking that it’s a real thing, and then come to realize that it’s from a TV show. You know we don’t have as much lighting, we don’t have as many effects, it’s really just the bare bones. We want it to feel like a real video blog and I think that they’ve been doing a pretty decent job of that.
PK: Yeah, I think it almost has the feelings of a behind-the-scenes aspect in that Rusty is doing this as a journalist and Buzz is doing this keeping his main job as the civilian tech guy for Major Crimes. That has to be his primary responsibility, but the skills that he’s gained from that, and then becoming a reserve officer, he’s now able to pursue this case which has been a lifelong goal for him.
MCTV: Last episode, we saw Rusty push away from his birth mother and the idea of a new baby, and at the same time we’re seeing Buzz trying to reconnect in a way with his father and the memories of him, which has created an interesting parallel for these two characters. Do you think that we’re going to see them find some common ground on which each of them can come to terms with their situations?
PK: I think that’s a good point that you bring up. Yes, I do think that there’s going to be some common ground and I think that they’re both – though I can only speak for my own character, but I am sure that the writers have devised this. The whole season this year is about balance and for Buzz it’s about finding a balance between his professional life and his personal life and in trying to bring justice to what he feels is a very unbalanced situation.
GPM: Yes, and I definitely think that they have a lot to learn from each other. I think that it’s a really sticky situation for Rusty with his mom and breaking up this family, their potential family, and then he looks at someone like Buzz who would probably give anything to have a family that was put together, so there are definitely some parallels there and I think that it is going to strongly affect the outcome.
PK: It’s a little like that saying, ‘the grass is always greener’ you know? Buzz is looking at Rusty and thinking how fortunate he is to have someone to have plucked him out of the situation that he was in. We’ll find out more about Buzz’s upbringing in the next few episodes of Identity, but it wasn’t all as rosy as many people may have thought it was. And for Buzz to have been taken out of that, or to choose who his family members would have been, would have been ideal. So he looks at Rusty in that way, and at the same time, maybe Rusty thinks, wow maybe it would have been better to have a family already that wasn’t as messed up as mine.
MCTV: Is working together on Identity at all straining on the relationship between Rusty and Buzz? Because it is so intensely personal for Buzz.
GPM: I think at times, yes. Rusty gets really anxious and into the idea of getting this story out there and often times I think that he oversteps the boundary and forgets that at the end of the day, Buzz can’t let this be a distraction from his actual job. And so, Buzz often has to step in and be like, ‘hey man, we need to relax for a second, don’t just jump to conclusions – you have to take this step by step and not rush into anything because it could get me into trouble and it could get you into trouble.’
PK: It’s about respect, and Rusty has a great deal of that for everybody that he works with, but again he is a little anxious and a little impetuous and he really wants to get this done, and I [Buzz] have to remind him that there are rules and regulations for very good reasons. And it’s not about trying to squash his dreams but it’s about trying to make this happen for the long term.
GPM: And I think that’s going to be good for the audience to see, because there are times where you think ‘why can’t we just go get the guy?’ And that’s how Rusty feels, the same way that the audience feels when watching Major Crimes, but Buzz has to step in and say no, and remind him that there is a process and if you were to just go get the guy, that could actually ruin everything.
MCTV: Phillip, we spoke a while ago about your amazing collection of Pan Am memorabilia – can you tell us about the new project you are involved with Pan Am?
PK: I’m on the board of the Pan Am Museum Foundation, and we’re looking for a space currently on Long Island at the Cradle of Aviation Museum. They’re partnered with the communities in their area with a program that reaches out to youth in underserved communities and bring them into the space and teach them about aerospace, science, aviation, physics, and things like that. What they found is that when the kids get involved with this program they have a 90% graduation rate. These are kids who before probably had a 30% or 40% graduation rate. So it’s a great opportunity for them, it’s an existing structure for us, so we’re looking at a small space within the existing venue to try this out. Now it’s going to be a gathering of thousands of members of the Pan Am family, all of whom are welcome to attend. I’ve got a fundraiser going on here in Raleigh Studios in November and then we have a big gala in New York on December 3rd. And this is going to be a museum dedicated to the memory of Pan Am and its people, honoring all the firsts in aviation and its development of different products and bringing the world a little closer together through travel, and exporting American ideals and therefore also importing ideals from other countries into the United States.
MCTV: We will make sure to keep Major Crimes fans up to date as these events are taking place so that they can support it and all your efforts. Lastly, anything you can tell us about the next all-new Major Crimes?
PK: We’re very excited about it! Buzz does some very un-Buzz-like things in this upcoming episode.
GPM: Yes, this next episode of Major Crimes is better than every single episode of Game of Thrones this season. It’s more exciting and has more cast members dying. (laughs)
PK: Yes, mayhem, murder on Mondays!
MCTV: Thank you Phillip and Graham for taking the time to talk to us!
Major Crimes is all-new tonight at 10pm/9c on TNT