By A. Cascone and M. Sharpe
Over the last four seasons, viewers have watched as Rusty Beck, played by Graham Patrick Martin, has gone from being an abandoned and mistrustful teen, to a young man with a stable support system of family and friends, and a burgeoning journalism career. We recently caught up with Graham on the set Major Crimes to talk about the evolution of his character’s growth, and what he calls “The Year of Rusty” this season.
MCTV: This year has been especially action-packed for Rusty. We’ve seen him take on challenges that he has never had to face before, and we’ve seen him really start to mature and move away from adolescence into adulthood. How has it been filming all of this and processing all the shifts in Rusty’s life?
Graham Patrick Martin: It’s been really fun for me! I feel like this is really The Year of Rusty in terms of how much he has come into his own. He’s been in the process of coming into his own this whole time but I really feel like this season is the first time where he seems to be acting like more of an adult in the sense that he’s taking responsibility for his actions and he’s not as self-centered. For the first time, he’s able to think about and focus on other people and I think that this process really started out with Alice, then Slider, and then just in general with his interactions with everyone in his life. At the same time though, he is still learning and growing, as we saw when he was being flaky with Gus, and avoiding acknowledging his feelings. I feel like that’s really interesting, because now it’s like Rusty has finally broken through that threshold of being a child and now he’s officially a young adult. He’s now figuring out who he is rather than just growing up into who he is.
MCTV: One particular initiative that we’ve seen Rusty take this year is with his journalistic ambitions and his commitment to his video blogs. How has that experience been for you? And will we see the vlog continue for Rusty next season?
GPM: It’s been a really different experience for me, and one that I have enjoyed. Initially James had this idea of Rusty getting into journalism and it’s something that we planted in season one. Prior to filming Major Crimes and around the time that I found out that we got the green light for the series, I went to James and pitched this idea to him. I thought that Rusty should have this notebook with him that he writes in very frequently because I feel like on the streets Rusty didn’t make any friends, and he had no one to talk to, so I felt like he needed an outlet, and therefore why not make it this notebook? James liked the idea and let me run with it, so if you notice, during the first season Rusty was always writing in this notebook, so that seed was kind of planted very early on. Then this year, James decided that we were going to take it a step further and go this whole route of Rusty the journalist.
Exploring this through his video blogs is a good way to further explore the whole storyline, and also to get the audience more involved. Plus it’s so much fun because at the end of the day, this show is a police procedural, not really a show about a teenage journalist, these two hardly ever go hand in hand. But, having the vlogs let’s us have the show as it is, as a police procedural, but also let’s us have this bonus material where fans can be engaged further and gain extra insight into the story and what Rusty is doing, all of which also then informs the A storyline with the rest of the cast. It’s just been a really fun thing to do this season, and I’m happy to say that we will be continuing them next season as well. (Editors note: Catch up with all of Rusty’s vlogs here)
MCTV: Speaking of Rusty coming into his own and maturing, it seems like there has been a shift in his relationship with Sharon this season both in how they relate to one another, and also with regards to her relationship with Andy Flynn, and having him in their lives. How has all of that been for Rusty?
GPM: I’m glad that you picked up on that shift. Firstly I want to note that Sharon and Rusty’s dialogue is a lot more equal now that it has been in past seasons and I think that is due to the fact that Rusty has grown a lot; he’s really maturing and he’s really trying to be an adult and I think that in turn warrants a lot of respect from Sharon. I mean, Sharon has always respected Rusty, but now that Rusty is growing and really taken control of his own life and not acting like such a victim of his circumstances, Sharon is now able to speak with him as more of an adult. Their relationship has really blossomed and now they’re also in a way, friends. He goes to her for advice like a friend would, so in a way, she’s both his mom and his friend, which I think is fantastic.
With Flynn coming along into their lives, it gets complicated. This is a guy that Rusty knows, and we’ve had some nice moments together and shared a lot. He’s been there for Rusty since the beginning even back in season one when he takes Rusty to the bus stop to see his mother. But, when it comes to this situation, the situation of grown men entering Rusty’s life as partners to the mother figure in his life, it has never been good. So when Flynn comes into Rusty’s life in this way, Rusty’s not incredibly supportive of it. It’s subtle though, it’s never straight up. He’s not against it, and he likes them both individually and he’s happy for them, but he’s got this risk radar that’s going off like crazy. In his mind, he’s thinking, okay, here’s another male coming into my life in this way. If you recall, going back to Jack Raydor, and then even as far back as Sharon Beck’s boyfriend, who dropped Rusty off at the zoo, this whole situation has just never been a good thing for Rusty.
Rusty trusts Flynn, and he likes Flynn, and Flynn has been an important person in his life, but in this specific circumstance, it’s hard for Rusty. At the end of the day though, I think he’s supportive of it and he sees that Flynn has good intentions and that Sharon’s happy. Had this happened a few years ago, I think that Rusty would be more inclined to freak out, but at this point, again, he’s older now and he’s grown, so he is able to look past his inhibitions.
MCTV: Two people who have really characterized Rusty’s adolescence have been his biological mother, Sharon Beck, and Philip Stroh. Will these two characters continue to shape Rusty’s life and his sense of security he goes forward? Or will he finally leave them behind?
I mean, the risk of Phillip Stroh is always there. The last season ended with him driving off in an Uber, and you don’t know where he’s going. But I think Rusty’s constant feeling is that he isn’t going to let fear rule his life. He’s going to go out there into the world, and he’s learned these counter-surveillance measures from Cooper and Sykes, so he’s going to use them to the best of his ability. He’s not going to live in fear, he’s just going to live with a sense of awareness.
With respect to his mother, he loves her and he wants what is best for her, unfortunately he has the instinct to always want to be there for her. And that is still there within him. She is where she is, and he is not going to inhibit his life and feel guilty about this new opportunity that he has been given and how he’s going to take it and make the most out of it. He’s also not going to live in guilt.
Major Crimes continues its winter season this Monday at 9pm/8c on TNT