Michael Cudlitz Teases More Personal Stories For “Southland’s” Cooper

Michael Cudlitz is back for another season of stellar cop drama on Southland.

Southland’s Officer John Cooper was revealed to be gay way back in the show’s first season, but since then viewers have only gotten snippets of the character’s personal life.

With season 5, which kicks off tomorrow night, Michael Cudlitz tells us that we’re going to get much more personal with Cooper than ever before. In fact, in the season premiere (airing Wednesday at 10pm on TNT), the first scene with Cooper finds him waking up in bed with another man (Drew Rausch). And we’ll learn that this is more than just an anonymous one night stand.

We talked with Cudlitz last week to get specifics on just how much of Cooper’s life we’re going to see as the new new season unfolds.

AfterElton: From the first episode back, we see that John Cooper’s been getting some. That’s a good thing!
Michael Cudlitz:
Yeah. John has been getting some…it was very important to me this year that we really did not in any way appear to be avoiding John’s sexuality. You know the way we play it has always been very subtle, and I am very proud of the way we have portrayed the sexuality. I thought it was very important at this point…John is healthy, he’s a perfectly healthy alpha male. He should be f***ing or trying to f*** somebody or something and [the writers] all agreed, everyone was like, ‘yep, absolutely.’

So it plays a little bit more this season, his home life, what’s going on with him, the status of his relationship, which also ties into the bigger theme of John sort of looking at his life, the middle-aged gay man who’s single, and what does that mean? What does that do to Cooper’s psyche and not having anybody to come home to? Being alone. Really being married to the job and realizing that at some point the job is going to come to an end. He’s very much closer to the end of his career than he is to the beginning of his career.

John is sort of playing the field a little bit. There are some one night stands coming up. There’s some stuff he should not be getting himself into relationship-wise. Part of him enjoys it, and part of it just makes the loneliness louder.

Derek Ray (left) plays Cooper’s new partner…and, of course, things on the job don’t go smoothly.

AE: Do you think with these guys being cops that they can actually have a healthy relationship?
I don’t know. But a lot of cops marry cops. So I’d have to say from what I’ve seen, yes. But I’ve also heard stories of very volatile relationships. A lot of cops marry cops. It’s like an actor marrying an actor. It’s like really?

AE: In the start of the new season, John has a new partner (played by Derek Ray) so he’s in this position again with another young cop and they definitely butt heads. Can you talk about that a little bit and what we’ll see?
Well, what you witness in the first two episodes is John’s butting heads with this guy. But John shouldn’t be butting heads with this guy. John should be sort of breaking this guy down mentally, and by the end of the training building him back up so he’s ready to go back out on the streets and function on his own with knowledge and the information that he gained from being on the streets. And he doesn’t want to hear any of it. There’s something wrong. John knows there’s something wrong, and he wants to get to the bottom of it. And we see that John is right.

So what happens further on [in the season] is that basically John says ‘I came back healthy and I’m ready for all this and that. I’m going to train these guys,’ and now he’s like, ‘you know what? Screw that. I am going to just be a cop for a while. I’m going to sort my shit out and see where I think my life is headed, where my future is, what’s going on, but right now I’m done being a cop that’s going to train guys.’ I’m ready to be on the streets…and that’s when Anthony Ruivivar comes on, and he’s going to play out for the majority of the season as my partner.

AE: When he gets this new partner does the gay thing come up? Because John’s always kept that so close to the vest.
It will come up and it will be provoking conflict. That’s about all I can tell you on it, not because I’m being coy, but because I haven’t read the scripts yet. But I know that’s where it’s headed. [Ruivivar’s character is] trying to set me up with his wife’s girlfriend, but I’m kind of deflecting. I never play John as being closeted. I always play John as if you want to know, he’ll tell you. If it comes up he won’t avoid it but he’s not going around, ‘Hey guys. John Cooper, gay male.’ [Ironically, Ruivivar played a gay lawyer on the short lived ABC drama, The Whole Truth.]

And there’s some other sensitive themes coming up between Cooper and his dad that are very spoiler-ish, but there’s a lot of conflict with his dad where they discuss him and his homosexuality so it’s very exciting.

Can we get the Southland cast (Regina King, Ben McKenzie,
& Shawn Hatosy) some Emmys, please?

AE: Does Cooper have any interaction with Sherman (Ben McKenzie) at all this season? I still remember back when you guys were partnered earlier in the series…
We do. In episode five, the show that Regina [King, who plays Lydia] directed, we have our first scene. Somebody we both know, something happens to them and we wind up talking about that and there’s really nothing to talk about between us because it’s over. And he’s gone down his path and John knows a little bit about what’s going on from the exterior signs of the kind of cop he thinks he’s chosen to be.

John Cooper said two seasons ago ‘you have a lot of choices and you had a lot of opportunities. It really is up to you what you choose to do and how you choose to move forward from here.’ He’s hearing the stories and what’s going on and how Sherman presents himself. He says ‘Okay, that’s a choice he’s made’ and John Cooper’s not the guy to save him from any of those decisions.

[Ben McKenzie also talked to us about Sherman's history with Cooper on the show and said, "Cooper didn’t exactly come out to Ben when they worked together, but he almost did. He kind of did. He more or less in a very subtle way did when they went to this funeral of a colleague who came out as gay. Cooper talked about kind of running into him in a bar and that kind of thing…very subtly implied that he’s gay...but, in terms of Cooper, their relationship is so much more complicated than who he chooses to sleep with. You’ll see it in their interaction this year…Ben and Cooper are never going to be buddy-buddy depending on how difficult Cooper can be to deal with. At the same time Ben, I think, wants his approval. He knows he’s also not going to get it. And the fact that he knows he’s not going to get it means that he has to sort of cop this attitude of 'I don’t give a shit what you think.'"]

Southland airs Wednesdays at 10pm on TNT.

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