‘Major Crimes’: Showrunner James Duff Talks Andy Flynn’s Fate, LAPD Power Vacuum & Candidates For Assistant Chief

WARNING – The following interview contains some major spoilers from Monday night’s episode of Major Crimes that some readers may wish to avoid until after viewing the episode.

While never short on drama, Major Crimes has not pulled any punches this year. Across the first thirteen episodes of the show’s fifth season, viewers have seen an ISIS-style execution, the murder of a British couple on vacation in Los Angeles and Buzz re-open the investigation of the murder of his father and uncle.

But it was a few weeks ago, with the beginning of the ‘White Lies’ arc, that the long-running crime-drama shocked fans by killing off Robert Gossett, who had played LAPD Assistant Chief Russell Taylor since the pilot of The Closer. This was only the beginning of a multi-episode arc involving a Nazi gang and while by the conclusion of said arc the Major Crimes Division would close the case, and bring resolution to Buzz’s case as well, there was still one hammer blow in the pipeline.

That came in the final moments of the mid-season finale, when Lieutenant Andy Flynn (Tony Denison) clutched his chest and collapsed in the squad room, suffering from an apparent heart attack. This is the second major health scare for the character in as many years and with U.S. network TNT having already ordered another eight episodes for this season, fans were left to wonder if this was the end of the road for the beloved Andy Flynn.

To get an answer to that question, TVWise recently caught up with Major Crimes creator and showrunner James Duff, who teased what little he could about Andy Flynn’s fate. We also talked about the power vacuum in the LAPD that was left by the exit of Robert Gossett, how that would play out in the back eight episodes and discussed the candidates who are vying to replace Taylor as Assistant Chief.

tony-denison-major-crimes-s5TVWise: With Andy Flynn apparently suffering a heart attack in the closing moments of the mid-season finale, just how many characters are you trying to kill of this year?

James Duff: [LAUGHS] This is not Game Of Thrones is my first response. I want people to know that Major Crimes is not Game Of Thrones nor am I trying to emulate Game Of Thrones. I would also say that heart attacks are not nearly as fatal as they used to be, although I don’t want to indicate one way or the other how it turns out just yet. I would also add that Tony Denison and I have been personal friends for 25 years and he loves, loves doing the show. He isn’t tired of doing it. So you can draw your own conclusions, but I’m not going to say anything.

Camryn ManheimTVWise: Going forward how does the LAPD “power vacuum” play out?

James Duff: Several people are going to be up for the job [of Assistant Chief], including Captain Sharon Raydor; Deputy Chief Fritz Howard; Deputy Chief Winnie Davis, played by Camryn Manheim; and Commander Leo Mason from the Criminal Intelligence Division. What happens when these big jobs change in a para-military organisation is often there is re-organisation and change. So there will be re-organisation and change, but the question is how far will it go? What’s going to happen to us?

TVWise: What can you tell us about these characters who want to succeed Russell Taylor as Assistant Chief?

James Duff: There’s lots of different people up for that job and hardly any of them want it really. Only Camryn Manheim’s character really wants it. Sharon is very happy where she is, Fritz isn’t sure he has the political sharpness for the role, and Leonard Roberts [who plays Commander Leo Mason] is a new series regular who is really interesting. You don’t know if you believe him or not; is he a good guy or a bad guy? And he tries to make a deal with Sharon: “if you win I stay [in Criminal Intelligence] or if I win you stay [in Major Crimes]”.

The Closer - Will PopeTVWise: With these different people vying for this senior post, how do you write this story-arc without J.K. Simmons as Will Pope?

James Duff: He is still Chief of Police. But it’s important to remember that the Chief only appeared in three episodes of The Closer and we did all of our work through the Assistant Chief, which is basically how it works [in real life]. The Chief of Police is a political job as well as an administrative job and the people who hold that post are political people for the most part.

[Editor’s Note: In a previous interview, James Duff told TVWise that while he would love to have J.K. Simmons bring the character of Will Pope to Major Crimes and would “write him in in an instant”, Simmons is committed to Starz’s supernatural drama Counterpart, which just started shooting in Los Angeles, making such a reprisal extremely unlikely].

Major Crimes will return to Universal Channel with the remaining eight episodes of its fifth season in 2017.

  • Naomi B.

    As expected, awesome job! Thanks Patrick. Definitely needed this today. We know that Andy is ok because Tony posted pictures on Twitter from their first day back shooting. Hopefully, James wasn’t jacking with us when he was talking about the potential for a Shandy engagement/wedding.

    As I have thought about it, I am really hoping Camryn Manheim joins the cast of MC. She did such an awesome job after Aisha Taylor left Ghost Whisperer. I think she would rock the role of Assistant Chief and bring some more estrogen to the cast. I think it would be interesting to see the dynamics between her character and Sharon Raydor too like we saw with SR/BLJ.

    On that note, still waiting for that S6 renewal or, minimally, when we get our beloved show back for the back 8. Sorry, know you said by the end of the year, but my impatience wouldn’t let me not add that! 😉 BTW…happy your dentist ordeal was painless.

  • Popeye13

    Good interview indeed. I LOVE these when you do them and hope we’ll see more in 2017

    MC is a show that has legs and the some so i look forward to it. Love to see JK make an appearance, he has to surely and when are we going to get an appearance from Brenda-Leigh. We need one!!!

  • quinquin

    Thanks for that interview, Patrick. You made my day. At least some news on my favourite show.

    The hints on the power vacuum sound promising. So we will get a new series regular? I am curious how this character will play out. The Deputy Chief played by Camry Manheim seems to be the more colourful personality, though. Sounds like she might be a source of some trouble, especially for Sharon. I am really looking forward to that dynamic!

    Frankly, I took Andy’s survival for granted. This show doesn’t really have a record for killing off long time cast members, quite the opposite. Moreover, there are quite a few Shandy shippers out there who would go nuts if something like that would happen (for the record, I am not one of them).

    The hardest thing now is to stay patient until these back 8 episodes will air. Would be nice to know anytime soon when that will happen. Also the renewal for the 6th season is overdue (just saying).

    • Insurgent

      I’m not so crazy about that Sharon/Andy relationship either. But apparently a part of the fandom are. So, as long as it helps to keep the show running, I’m good with it.

      • quinquin

        I agree. It’s not that bad. But: this show is not exactly short of romantic relationships. A little too much of a good thing, really. As for Sharon and Andy, I just like it better when partners in a relationship (fiction or real life, romantic or otherwise) are on equal footing. It’s just not very interesting watching Andy admiring her all the time and she being the only reasonable adult in that relationship.

        • Naomi B.

          Oooohhhh QuinQuin, you and I are usually agreeing!!! I love our Shandy! I love his adoration of her. I guess the equal footing thing makes me feel as though opportunities are to be lost.

          • quinquin

            Enjoy your Shandy, then! – There are so many things about this show that I love, I can easily live with that romance. I am very excited about the story lines concerning Taylor’s successor. Some struggling and rivalry should be interesting. Especially the description of Camryn Manheim’s character sounds promising. For a number of reasons I don’t think she will win the race, though. BUT I very much hope that these two ladies will take up a fight. If Camryn Manheim is able to hold up on camera with Mary McDonnell and the writing is as good as it often gets in “Major Crimes”, we can expect some really interesting things. Let’s keep our fingers crossed!

          • Naomi B.

            Right??? I was saying the same thing. Camryn would be a much better fit vs. bringing in another guy.

          • quinquin

            Right!!! – Unfortunately, dramatic reasons are not always the most decisive.

    • Mark Drennen`

      I was told the back 8 will air sometime in January.

      • quinquin

        Yes, I heard that too. But there is still no exact date and no confirmation from the network. So, I guess we’ll have to keep a close eye on it… just not to miss the premiere.

        • Mark Drennen`

          I was told this by the head writer.

      • Naomi B.

        January has 5 Mondays in it. There is a HUGE difference between 2 weeks and 7 weeks when you’re going through withdrawal! Lol

        • quinquin

          For consolation: The last episode aired in September, i.e. we are over the worst ;-).

          • Naomi B.

            Bahahaha….yeah, we don’t know yet! Should I say your fingers to Gawd Reilly’s ears?!?! lol

          • quinquin

            No, we don’t. But it was YOU who told me about the presumptive premiere date in January to begin with…. So, it’s obvious: You’ll be responsible if I don’t get my new epsiodes in January and end up as a critical case of Major-Crimes-Wthdrawal-Depression!

          • Naomi B.

            And I am blaming Mary cuz she talked about it in a WWSRD!

          • quinquin

            So, we are back where we started: Still waiting for an official return date, and, moreover, where the heck is the renewal for season 6? Both should be decided by now, don’t you think?!

          • Naomi B.

            In the last one, I asked Patrick about it. He said S6 is in the pipeline for renewal and that Reilly is committed to keeping the show. He got that directly from TNT. I really wonder if there is some hardball being played on the part of WB and Robin/Shepherd? MC is on a WHOLE lot better footing than they were last year. On that note, official renewal didn’t come down until 12/15 last year.

            Did you see that Good Behavior did the poll normally reserved for the end of the season…mid season…while the show is still being aired? I checked to see if they had done that for AK and they hadn’t, so that cannot be a good sign…AT ALL!

            I trust Patrick (and it hasn’t been cancelled), so it is the back 8 that is really irking me. I think they will just put it on the calendar. I plan to just keep checking my DVR because I sure don’t trust TNT to give us the news.

          • quinquin

            I guess there is indeed a good chance we will get a 6th season. If not … I think it’s mostly TNT that’s loosing out here.
            I wasn’t aware of the Good Behavior poll, or the one on Animal Kingdom, for that matter. I tried both shows and dropped them very soon. With Animal Kingdom I couldn’t even make it through the first episode. To me it’s like reality TV with a slightly higher production value. Neither of the shows struck me as being anything but routinely produced run-of-the-mill stuff. Just another version of something that has been presented a thousand times before in an endless stream of undistingushable TV shows.
            As for the lack of information (and promotion) concerning Major Crimes, I’m inclined to regard that as some kind of highly sophisticated social sciences or marketing experiment. Obviously, the tenacity and capacity for endurance of the average TV fan is at test here…. ;-).
            Seriously, I think the announcement and promotion for the back 8 will be largely left to cast, crew and fans once again. That has worked before, why should the network bother?

          • Insurgent

            I found a remedy! I recently discovered an Australian gem: The Doctor Blake Mysteries. Lovely series set in Australia during the late 50ies and early 60ies. Works perfectly as a substitute drug. Try it!

          • quinquin

            Thanks for the tip. I started with season 1 on iTunes and got hooked immediately. Couldn’t stop watching. Really, really great. Looking forward to some spare time during the holidays now… Can’t wait to see how things will develop.

          • Insurgent

            You’re welcome. Hope you’ll love it! – By the way, fans and cast of the show complain about low interest and little effort in promoting the series on the network’s part although it is apparently one of their most successful series…. – Does this at all sound familiar?

          • quinquin

            OMG! Seems to come with the territory.

        • Mark Drennen`

          I agree, I am counting down the time.

          Sent from my HTC

  • Insurgent

    Can’t wait for this power vacuum story line to unravel. Sounds really exciting. Two strong minded women in the mix, let’s see where that will lead us. Can hardly wait!!!

  • Mark Drennen`

    I would love to see J.K. Simmons return as Chief Will Pope, even as a cameo appearance.