Ahead of the May 11 series premiere of Common Law on USA Network, The Deadbolt was invited to the set in New Orleans back in December where stars Michael Ealy and Warren Cole took time away from the shoot to talk about their characters.
In Common Law, Ealy and Cole star as Travis Marks and Wes Mitchell, two feuding cops who are forced into couples therapy by their precinct Captain, played by acting vet Jack McGee. While in therapy, Marks and Mitchell are forced to confront their issues with Dr. Emma Ryan, played by former LOST actress Sonya Walger.
Executive produced by Jon Turteltaub (National Treasure, Jericho) and written by the screenwriting team of Marianne Wibberley and Cormac Wibberley (aka The Wibberley’s), Common Law gives viewers a buddy cop show in the tone of the Lethal Weapon movies but with a twist, two lead characters in couples therapy.
With Ealy fresh off of the theatrical success of Underworld: Awakening and Think Like a Man and Cole coming to the production from such shows as 24, NCIS: Los Angeles, and The Chicago Code, the Common Law set looked and felt like it had proven momentum behind it as a production.
So, how did Michael Ealy feel about two cops being thrown into therapy to work out their differences?
As Ealy told The Deadbolt and reporters in New Orleans when we were on set, it’s something that felt fresh.
“This whole process has felt completely unique because of the therapy component of the show. When you get into therapy and you start talking about how we make each other feel and stuff like that, I’ve just never seen that before. Yes, we are a buddy cop show. That’s a component, as you can tell, it’s a buddy cop show. That’s because we’re buddies and we’re cops. But the minute we get into therapy I think we’re going into unchartered waters in terms of the, the buddy cop dynamic.”
Although the two Common Law lead actors are thrown into therapy, which makes for more options both dramatically and for comedy, Warren Cole was quick to point out how the relationship between Travis and Wes evolved.
More importantly, Warren Cole touched on how people, whether personally or professionally, often take each other for granted when they’re so close to each other.
Despite the conflict between their Common Law characters, the therapy sessions will force the two cops to confront their issues on and off the job.
“It’s like sibling relationships in that way because you’ve been so together with someone for so long and they don’t appreciate what you do. And it’s their fault that they don’t appreciate what you’re doing for them. If you’d just respect me and recognize how much I do for you, then maybe I would swallow my pride and say the same thing back. But we never really get there, yet. Haven’t got there yet.”
But what about the others in the police precinct? How do they feel about their fellow cops being thrown into therapy? Interestingly, when Travis Marks and Wes Mitchell are on the job as detectives, they’re great at what they do. However, as we saw in an early preview of the pilot, their differences are starting to get in the way of detective work.
Like a married couple, Marks and Mitchell can’t control their bickering in the precinct, which doesn’t go unnoticed.
But, as Michael Ealy reminded us in New Orleans, the fact that the two cop characters don’t have an option only adds to the tension, which makes for a variety of lighthearted moments.
“I think the good thing is that everybody in the precinct knows that we didn’t sign up. We weren’t like, ‘Oh, let’s go to couples therapy.’ It wasn’t like I came to him and said, ‘Let’s do this!’ We were forced to go. And Warren has the privilege of saying that repeatedly to Jack, the captain, ‘You forced us to go! No, this wasn’t our choice.’”
Like the Lethal Weapon movies, the Common Law relationship between Travis Marks and Wes Mitchell is fairly light but serious when called for at the right moments. Although both are thrust into therapy by their superior, Common Law is not a dramatically preachy series when it comes to confronting issues.
After seeing the Common Law pilot, interviewing the cast and touring the New Orleans set, the new USA series has something for everyone: buddy cop comedy, dramatic tension, and high stakes action from a cop show standpoint.
As Warren Cole told us in New Orleans, Common Law doesn’t take itself too seriously when it comes to defining the series as one distinct genre.
“It seems the world on this is one that sort of perpetuates fast when it is a little lighter and there’s levity there to keep it moving and keep it interesting. We have our moments when we dip into something a little more serious, but it hasn’t really been the definition of the show so far.”
In contrast, Michael Ealy elaborated on how the two characters approach couples therapy and how Common Law tackles their issues within the show.
As both Ealy and Cole revealed, Travis and Wes do have demons from their past that they need to confront. And when confronting issues in therapy, you can’t shy away from the seriousness of someone’s problems.
For Cole’s Wes Mitchell, much of his issues stem from mistakes made through an obsession to be perfect and a single event in his life. For Ealy, the issues behind Travis Marks are ongoing and stem from a failed marriage.
So, how did Michael Ealy feel about their approach to couples therapy in Common Law?
“We’re still quite entertaining in the therapy. There are some moments that bring a little bit of gravitas to the show. We have to do that in order to be incredible as detectives, as human beings, as people with feelings.”
Common Law debuts May 11 at 10/9c on USA Network.