Still scratching your head over NBC’s bizarre decision to renew Southland only to cancel it five months later before a single season 2 episode had aired? You’re not alone. Michael Cudlitz, who plays gay officer John Cooper on the acclaimed drama, is still reeling from the news. In this exclusive Q&A, the actor explains why he’s “pissed off,” weighs in on the show’s chances of finding a new home, and offers a message to shell-shocked fans.
When did you find out?
MICHAEL CUDLITZ: [Exec producers] Ann Biderman and Christopher Chulack came to the set yesterday and announced it to the cast and crew.
What was your reaction? Did you see it coming?
CUDLITZ: In retrospect, I saw it coming. We were two weeks away from airing and [the cancellation news] has created more press for the show than NBC has put into it on its own. They ran the first [Southland] ad — a 30-second spot — last Friday, and that’s the only one that they ran. That’s not a relaunch. When you have a network that nobody’s watching, it doesn’t benefit you to only advertise on your network.
What explanation were you given?
CUDLITZ: We were given the same statement that everyone got. [NBC] said they watched the first [four] episodes and determined that they were too dark. I don’t even know where to go with that. They were the scripts that [NBC] approved for a show that they picked up — a show they themselves advertised as an authentic, raw, and gritty look at the Los Angeles Police Department. So I don’t know what they thought they were getting… There’s something else going on I’m sure. We had a cast and crew screening on Tuesday for the season 2 premiere, and it was phenomenal. It was better than any of the episodes we have aired to date. It was fantastic.
Do you have a theory as to what else might be going on?
CUDLITZ: I really don’t. What audience are they afraid of pissing off? They don’t have an audience… There’s some speculation that they’re trying to cut costs because they’re trying to sell the network, but I don’t know. The thing that strikes me as very bizarre is that they have [six episodes] in the can, they don’t have anything on right now that is doing well, and our show is good. Why would you not put it on? So something else must be going on.
You’re shooting episode six now, right?
CUDLITZ: Yes. Today is our third day shooting episode 6. We will finish shooting this episode next week.
Exec producer John Wells said he’s trying to find a new home for the show. Do you hold out any hope for that?
CUDLITZ: I do because we have episodes that have never aired that are pretty fantastic. And if it moves somewhere else, it could become the show that it should have been initially — which is even darker and grittier.
What happens if no one picks up the show by next week? Will production shut down after you’re done with episode six?
CUDLITZ: If nothing happens in the next week we will shut down. I imagine if there’s any movement in the next week, then Warner Bros. could step up and foot the bill in the interim while they hammer out a deal.
Are you angry?
CUDLITZ: I’m pissed. I’ve said it on my Twitter account. I’m pissed off. We had all the pre-season stuff, all the dinners and parties. They told us they loved and believed in the show. They said the [delay] would be good for us. On paper it all made sense so I was willing to believe I was being told the truth… I don’t just walk in one day and go, “Eh, I’m not going to act today. I know I told you I was going to act, but I’m not going to do my thing.” But I guess because they own the ball and the ballpark they get to do that. It’s kind of cheap.
Anything fans can do?
CUDLITZ: They can express their annoyance. Networks are in this to make money, and it’s obviously proven by this decision. Because if they cared about the quality and the art then they would keep the show on the air just because of that. This was not a show that was costing them a ton of money. This is a show that would more than likely have made them money, even if not a lot. And it was critically-acclaimed, and they still chose to cancel it because of the bottom line. They’re obviously in it for the money. So if you let them know you’re not happy with what they did, that can’t do anything but help.