EXCLUSIVE: Two years ago, Southland was unveiled at NBC’s upfront presentation. Tomorrow the cop drama will once again be introduced at an upfront presentation, this time at TNT’s event after the show was recently renewed by the cable network. “We’re delighted that we’re still alive,” executive producer John Wells said. “So far, we’ve used up the fourth of our nine lives.” But along with the excitement of staying on at TNT came the reality of having to adjust the series, originally developed and produced for a broadcast network, to the economics of cable. The budget of Southland is being cut by more than a third going into Season 3. As a result, not all cast members will continue as regulars. And those who remain had been asked to reduce their fees and/or the number of episodes they appear in.
“I wish we had more money,” Well said. ”We are hoping to find a way to have a couple of more regulars if they prefer it that way or recurring if they want to have the opportunity to also appear on other series.”
And the producers themselves will take deeper cuts than the actors, said to be larger than 30%. But Wells is not complaining. “I don’t want to sound upset about it,” he said. “We got to keep doing the show, and we are delighted that TNT stepped up and have been very generous. The reality is in the big difference between how you set up to do a show off the bat on cable and how you transition a broadcast show to cable. It’s new ground.”
Staying on as regulars are Regina King and Michael Cudlitz, who have completed their deals, and Ben McKenzie and Shawn Hatosy who are in negotiations. McKenzie, King and Cudlitz are scheduled to appear at TNT’s upfront presentation tomorrow, while Hatosy had to pull out because of personal commitment. After Southland’s cancellation by NBC, series regular Kevin Alejandro landed a recurring gig on HBO’s True Blood where he was upped to a regular with the blessing of the Southland producers. He is still expected to do several episodes of the TNT drama next season. Wells also is looking to bring back in some capacity former regulars Arija Bareikis and Michael McGrady.
Tom Everett Scott started off as a regular on the show on NBC but was switched to a guest star status after the network didn’t like his character and wanted him killed. But the producers loved him and kept him alive. And now they have had preliminary conversations with Scott to return for next season, possibly as a regular.