Regina King comes back swinging on ‘Southland’

african kings

After a long nine month hiatus, TNT’s drama Southland returned for a third season this week. This gritty, fast-moving drama takes us inside the unit of the Los Angeles police department, the criminals they deal with, their victims and their families.

The show’s followed a somewhat serpentine path for staying on air — starting out on NBC, and being canceled by the same before moving to TNT, but the show’s core fans have stuck with the show.

theGrio recently had the opportunity to speak with screen veteran and regular cast member Regina King about the show, and her thoughts about her character, Det. Lydia Adams.

theGrio: Getting a show on the air, and keeping a show on the air are two of the most difficult positions you face on TV. How shocked were you when TNT decided to pick up Southland?

Regina King: I felt like it was not the end. That the show still had legs. I always felt there is no way all of these people — the crew, the execs — could put this much work into something that turned out so great and that would be it. I think the universe wants good to prevail. I never thought that the show was done.

The storylines you cover in Southland are a bit heavy. How do you deal with that when prepping for the show?

Balance is the key. I don’t think the audience wants to deal with the hard stuff all the time.

Click here to view a slideshow of black breakthroughs in television history

How much time has elapsed from the end of season two to the start of season three?

Not much. I have the feeling maybe six to seven months have passed. My character Lydia Adams is so by-the-book, you’re going to see how both she and other cast members are a bit more flawed than in prior seasons.

Tell us about that — some of Det. Adams flaws.

Contrary to what she thinks, Lydia may not be the easiest partner to work with. She learns that through her new female partner (Det. Josie Ochoa).

What can you tell us about your new partner?

Lydia’s never partnered with a woman before. Her partner is older. So there’s that dynamic that it’s not said, but felt, where you have one person who’s really good at their job, and another who’s better. Lydia’s reached a certain level of success. And her partner’s like, “So? Been there, done that.”

It’s the perfect John Cooper and Ben Sherman analogy (Det. Adams teamed colleagues on the show). Sherman, the rookie, doesn’t agree with everything Cooper, the veteran, says or does. Lydia actually becomes more vocal.Does Lydia have any pivotal cases this season?

Yeah. It starts out with a murder case she’s assigned. Turns out that case goes way beyond anything she imagined.

How has playing a cop affected you — are you aware, more paranoid of the dangers in your personal life?

I won’t say paranoid, but all of us are more aware of our surroundings and the things going on when you’re not paying attention. Our training (on the show) has helped us — our characters determine who’s guilty, etc. Your gut feeling is really something to be relied on. For instance, when I’m in public situations, I’m more aware of — I can catch someone who is high. Couldn’t say that before we started this two year journey on Southland.

How much has this heightened awareness helped you?

I tend to be the nice girl when I shouldn’t be. It’s helped me pay attention to people’s ulterior motives.

What have you learned about playing a woman on the force? What, if any, challenges or stereotypes persist about women working in such a male dominated profession?

I believe barriers and challenges women on the force had to face have been overcome. Now there are more men on the force that believe it’s necessary to have both male and female officers. Again, it’s about balance. We don’t necessarily beat that drum on the show, but you have a stronger sensibility of law enforcement when both sexes are doing the job.

What do you enjoy most about your role on Southland?

The idea of getting to know her more. I’m anxious to see where she’s going to go. When we’re doing these heavier storylines, it opens a window more into who these characters are. It’ll be interesting to see Lydia eventually have more fun and how her journey opens her up.

Several months ago, you posted a letter on Huffington Post to state your disappointment about the 2010 Emmys and the lack of nominations for people of color. In this day and age of working in the industry, do you think parity is possible?

I don’t know if people are aware of this, but Univision is the number one network in the country. The day when TV and movies reflect the way real life is — more diverse, is probably a reality we’ll see sooner or later. I believe that people of color of aren’t the only ones that feel this way.

Given the loyal, and broad audience that follows Southland, I’m sure they’d agree. The series returns Tuesday, January 4, 2011 at 10/9 ET.