Interview: Tony Denison Talks ‘Major Crimes’ Season 3, Working With G.W. Bailey & More

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TNT’s flagship drama Major Crimes returns for its 19 episode third season next Monday.

Since its inception, the series has been one of the top ratings performers for TNT. Part of the reason for its success has been the ensemble nature of the cast, which includes the likes of Mary McDonnell, Graham Patrick Martin, Robert Gossett, G.W. Bailey and, of course, Tony Denison.

Denison has been part of the Major Crimes universe since the first season of The Closer back in 2005, playing the role of Lieutenant Andy Flynn. The character began as a nemesis to Kyra Sedgwick’s Deputy Chief Brenda Leigh Johnson but quickly became a dedicated member of the team throughout the seven season run on The Closer and now for three seasons on Major Crimes.

The accomplished actor was kind enough to spare some time between takes to talk to TVWise about the upcoming third season of Major Crimes, what has driven the show’s success, the importance of the comedic moments on the show and much more.

TVWise: Major Crimes has been a huge success for TNT and is now heading into its third season, how does it feel to know that the fans are still embracing the show?

Tony Denison: It’s wonderful. I don’t want this to sound like an obvious answer, but it is. We had this great ensemble for seven and a half years on The Closer and then we had some personnel changes. Then all of a sudden, Mary McDonnell moves to the head of the squad. The transition was effortless, even for us as actors playing the same characters. It’s funny because Raymond Cruz and I thought Major Crimes was going to be a hit; not in an arrogant kind of way, but we thought it is almost the entire same cast and the same production team led by James Duff. If The Closer was a hit, why wouldn’t we be a hit? I know losing Kyra was a concern for a lot of people. She was great to work with those seven years, but I didn’t doubt we would be a success. I thought we would at least be as successful as The Closer, but never thought we would be more successful which is great.

TVWise: With so many police show on television, what do you think separates Major Crimes from the rest of the pack?

Tony Denison: It’s really a nuts and bolts cop show. I remember seeing an interview with Jimmy Breslin once and he said that at the end of the day, most crimes are solved by old fashion shoe leather. That is exactly what we are about, old fashioned shoe leather. We are out there walking a case, we walk it back. We are just doing what real cops do. They go door to door; they talk in the squad room and they bullpen ideas around. Then they just go out and work the case.

Andy Flynn (2)TVWise: One of the more interesting dynamics on the series is the relationship between Flynn and Provenza. What is it like working with G.W. Bailey?

Tony Denison: Working with G.W. is wonderful. I genuinely really love the guy. He does a lot of work with different charities which is wonderful as well. He’s great to work with and we play off each other really well. If one of us has an idea and tells the other person and if we can make it work without it being disruptive to the plot, we will try to improv some stuff.  It’s just a great relationship. I’ll also defer to GW sometimes during a scene because he is very knowledgeable as an actor and he is very honest with his feedback which helps me.

TVWise: There has definitely been a change in the relationship between Lt. Flynn and Sharon Raydor since the first season. What can fans expect going into season three?

Tony Denison: I think what’s going to happen is that the dialogue is going to shift. It happens in all working environments. How it’s going to shift and when is it going to shift specifically, I don’t know. I don’t know what it’s going to sound like or when that overt shift is going to happen, but right now there is this little hint of something. I guess somebody could say that is it moving slow, but why not? We may be on the air for another four or five seasons, so why not have it move whatever way it is supposed to move. I don’t think that anything should be rushed no matter what it is. Whether it is the relationship between Sharon and Andy or if any of the other character has a love interest or family issues or something. I like watching things develop slowly because that’s how it is in real life.

TVWise: Playing a cop on The Closer and now Major Crimes, when you aren’t working, are you more aware of your surroundings?

Tony Denison: Yes and no. I like to always think that I was always somewhat street smart and street savvy.  Now I find myself looking at things and noticing things that are peculiar with people. So, does the cop role rub off on me? Maybe. I don’t know. I’ve always had a good magnet for knuckleheads on the street and I would keep my guard up just in case.

Andy Flynn (1)TVWise: One of the understated aspects of the series is its comedy. How important is the comedy to the show and its characters?

Tony Denison: It’s very important. In fact, there was an episode a while ago where my character cracks a joke at a crime scene and everyone laughs. Mike Berchem, who is the lead detective for the city of Los Angeles and is now a writer and executive producer on the show told me that is the kind of stuff they do. If you think about all the crime scenes that they see and the horror that they come upon, they needed a way to release that tension or they would all go mad. There was one murder scene that we did one time where a little girl was killed by her step brother. Even though the scene was a recreation, it still got to me because it was so gruesome. I went to Mike Berchem afterwards and asked him how they hell do you do this? Cops have to find a way to maneuver around that stuff emotionally or again, they’d go mad.

TVWise: The show has some amazing writing. Do the actors have to stick strictly to the script or is there room for ad lib/improvisation?

Tony Denison: Well James Duff has been very generous with G.W. Bailey and I. He’s allowed us a little bit of latitude. If I throw in an ad lib, I do it either at the beginning of a scene or at the end of a scene. If I do it that way, it gives them the opportunity to cut it out if they don’t like it, but if they like it, they leave it in. We don’t do it every single scene, but every once in a while. Sometimes we’ll get an idea and we go to the writers before we start shooting and ask if we can try it. They let us try and sometimes they use what we come up with. That is generally how it works. I am one of those guys who really believe in a third eye. I may have instincts or my guy may tell me something, but you need that third eye around; that director, writer or producer who can be an arbiter. That’s the way I was trained in the theater.

TVWise: Will we get to learn more of Flynn’s history in the third season?

Tony Denison: I’m not trying to be coy, but I am under the impression that there is going to be some stuff from Flynn’s past that will be introduced in the storyline, but I don’t know what it will be. Many of the characters from the show have had things from their past or background used in storylines.  There’s tone, which is the overall theme or the atmosphere that James Duff is looking for and in that tone, there is texture; the elements that make us all human, frail and humble.

Major Crimes returns to TNT for its third season on Monday June 9th at 9/8c.