Michael M. Robin is a man who knows how to multi-task. Having cut his teeth on DOOGIE HOWSER, M.D. and L.A. LAW, winning an Emmy for his work on the latter, and another Emmy for NYPD BLUE, Robin went on to be executive producer of one hundred episodes of NIP/TUCK. This year alone, he’s worked as executive producer on LONGMIRE, the DALLAS reboot and MAJOR CRIMES, directing the pilot episode of this last after having served as one of the executive producers on that show’s predecessor, THE CLOSER.

Since we’re on the precinct squad room set for MAJOR CRIMES, which has its first season finale Monday at 9 PM on TNT – not to worry, it’s been renewed for Season 2 – that’s the series Robin talks about today.

ASSIGNMENT X: Can you talk about how Mary McDonnell’s MAJOR CRIMES lead Captain Sharon Raydor is different from Kyra Sedgwick’s Deputy Chief Brenda Leigh Johnson on THE CLOSER?

MICHAEL M. ROBIN: One of the things that’s a big part of MAJOR CRIMES is that Mary McDonnell’s character Captain Raydor loves the rules. Brenda didn’t like the rules. She would bend the rules, she would sometimes look the other way – that’s a major part of the storytelling for the last year of THE CLOSER – and one of the reasons why, as MAJOR CRIMES begins, the LAPD wants that to stop. That’s one of the reasons they put Mary McDonnell’s character, Captain Raydor, in charge. So the rules she finds very useful, and [knows] how to actually use them to her advantage. And so when we are working in the storytelling, we make sure that we’ve got the rules right. So we do the same thing that Raydor does – we work within the rules. We work within the actual laws, we don’t invent stuff on a story level just to solve our own storytelling problems. You can bend things and use them to your advantage. We’ll hear something from [former Los Angeles District Attorney] Gil Garcetti and go, you know, here’s a little move that you can do and it’ll be based in fact, and you can just feel that that’s an authentic move. When you’re watching it as a viewer, you don’t go, ‘Well, that’s baloney.’ You go, ‘That’s interesting.’ And if you’re on solid ground in your storytelling, that’s a good thing. We don’t think we’re hampered by the real world, we love the real world, because it helps us keep our stories authentic, which makes the behavior in our show credible

AX: Are any of the characters in mourning for Brenda’s departure from the squad?

ROBIN: Yes.

AX: The squad room set, at least right here and now, looks a lot like it did on THE CLOSER. Does MAJOR CRIMES look any different than THE CLOSER overall?

ROBIN: You know, we had a lot of discussion about whether or not we should revamp MAJOR CRIMES, and that’s not what we thought we were doing. On a story level, we always start from the concept of story out, that leads the change, and you learn a lot about how to photograph things and your content dictates the form. So we felt that the audience would probably reject this if this was a completely re-imagined thing. The characters have gone through a tumultuous time. We start one week later in the show [in the narrative] from the end of THE CLOSER. So everybody’s in a big transition from where they were with Brenda and some other changes that have happened. And so we didn’t want to have it be a brand-new world. I would say we evolve it, we do some more fun, aggressive cinematic things, but the gestalt is very much the same – the approach to light, the basic handheld approach to the show.

AX: Tony Denison, who plays Detective Flynn in both series, has said that he thinks MAJOR CRIMES is maybe a little more of a darker gray than THE CLOSER was.

ROBIN: I would say that that’s probably true. But I would say THE CLOSER probably started some of that way, too. It took us a little while to evolve into some of the humor. You have to earn that. You have to give everybody the solid underpinning of their characters and also get everybody used to how this group’s going to work with each other before you can start to laugh at them, or laugh with them. So that evolves.

AX: There are new people in charge of the department now …

ROBIN: That’s right. And if you start laughing at them immediately, I don’t think the audience [would accept it] – we haven’t earned the right with the audience to have them laugh at it with our characters. [In terms of character interactions overall], all that shorthand is in place, but I would say that we’ve done even more. We’ve poured a little kerosene on that, so you actually see those. Where there would be a little moment of those character interactions [on THE CLOSER], now we’re making story out of it.

AGREE? DISAGREE? LET YOUR VOICE BE HEARD – COMMENT BELOW

Related: Exclusive Interview with MAJOR CRIMES star on Kearran Giovanni

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Related: Exclusive Interview with MAJOR CRIMES and THE CLOSER creator James Duff

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Article: Interview with MAJOR CRIMES and THE CLOSER producer Michael M. Robin

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