If you take ABC's short-lived "Big Shots" out of the equation (as ABC did after only 11 episodes), Dylan McDermott has concentrated his TV attentions on working with some of the medium's most powerful figures.
On "The Practice," he spent eight seasons working with David E. Kelley, earning an Emmy nomination and a Golden Globe win for his work as passionate attorney Bobby Donnell. On Wednesday (July 15) night, McDermott begins his run on TNT's "Dark Blue," a new undercover police drama from Jerry Bruckheimer.
"Much of the time, as an actor, you sit around waiting. Most of your life and career, you’re waiting for your agent or your manager to call you," McDermott told a small group of reporters over the weekend. "You’re waiting for good news, somewhere. The day I got the call that Jerry Bruckheimer wanted to sit down with me was a great day. Anytime you’re involved with him, you know it’s going to be a great project. Also, undercover work was something I was always fascinated with. 'Serpico' was the first book I ever read. So, I was initially just really excited because I thought that playing different characters, within a season, would be a tremendous thing to do, as an actor."
[Strangely, nobody got around to asking McDermott to clarify if "Serpico" somehow rested on his nightstand before "Good Night, Moon" or "The Hungry Caterpillar" or the "Hardy Boys" series.]
McDermott leads the "Dark Blue" ensemble -- Omari Hardwick, Logan Marshall-Green and Nicki Aycox co-star -- as Lt. Carter Shaw, a driven cop coordinating a special ops team that works way beneath the LAPD's radar trying to bring down the biggest criminals.
Of the appeal of working on a show about persona-swapping undercover cops, McDermott explained, "Sometimes, if you do serial television over time, you’re playing the same character and it wears you down. With this show, it’s interesting to play different characters. It keeps it alive and you don’t feel like it’s getting stale at all. That’s the main reason I did the show."
"Dark Blue" is executive produced by Bruckheimer and Jonathan Littman, whose names are on many of TV's biggest hits, a most of CBS' lineup. It's also co-created by Danny Cannon, who helped shape the visual style of the "CSI" franchise and directed the "Dark Blue" pilot.
"This is the show that he’s wanted to make, for a long time," McDermott said of Cannon. "This is something that’s been inside of him, a long time. To make something so gritty and so dark for television is something you don’t normally get to do, especially on network television. This show would never exist on a network. It would be homogenized and all the characters would be heroic, and we’re not heroic. The best thing about this show is that we’re real human beings. We’re anti-heroes, if anything. I think he captured that very well. He’s the co-creator of the show, so everything that was inside his head is now on the screen."
That included bringing the city of Los Angeles to the small screen in a way that McDermott says it's never been depicted before, at least not on TV.
"There’s an emptiness to the way this show is filmed," McDermott said. "There’s a hollowness and vastness to L.A. It’s not palm trees and Beverly Hills. It’s more the downtown landscape and the smog, and the filtration of that. There’s a little bit of Michael Mann’s Collateral in there as well. It’s that L.A. that we’re aiming for."
Asked to compare working on a Kelley production to working on a Bruckheimer show, McDermott only had praise.
"They’re vastly different. David E. Kelley is a writer/producer. I think that he wrote every episode of 'The Practice.' Jerry Bruckheimer really is an executive producer, who obviously is the most successful producer in the history of film and television. They’re both experts at what they do. This show is vastly different from 'The Practice,' which is the reason I wanted to do it," McDermott explained. "The good thing about television is that people get to know you, and the bad thing about television is that people get to know you. Especially now, with the way television is, you really need a Jerry Bruckheimer to be successful because, so much of the time, they just pull you off the air. I feel a great protection, working with him. I feel like he loves the show. I feel like he’s behind the show 100%. We need him to protect us, in this world, so it’s been great having him and he’s only helped us. He completely believes in this show, and that helps a lot. If Jerry Bruckheimer wasn’t producing this show, I don’t know if we would have gotten the attention that we’re getting now. With his name stapled on it, it goes a long way."
"Dark Blue" premieres on Wednesday, July 15 at 10 p.m. on TNT.