‘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 off 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.