TV #TBT: Dylan McDermott sheds light on TNT’s “Dark Blue”

Dylan McDermott Dark Blue Ryan Berenz

Dylan McDermott Dark BlueHey, it’s another edition of our TV #TBT Throwback Thursday, featuring old stuff that we did that we think is worth another look! This week: Dylan McDermott in TNT’s Dark Blue from 2009.

Dylan McDermott is back for another tour of duty with an elite LAPD unit in CBS’ new psychological crime thriller Stalker, premiering Oct. 1. The actor has made a nice career out of playing dark, brooding and slightly disturbed characters, and his new role as Detective Jack Larsen in Stalker reminded us of his role as Lt. Carter Shaw, head of an elite LAPD undercover unit, in TNT’s Dark Blue. The series ran for two seasons from 2009-2010, and we talked with McDermott about his role, the show and more before it premiered on TNT.

First appeared in the July 2009 edition of Channel Guide Magazine:

Tangled Up In Blue

Dylan McDermott Sheds Light On TNT’s Undercover Cop Drama “Dark Blue.”

Undercover cops are the most convincing actors in the world. They have to be. Their lives depend on it. But how long can you pretend to be something before you start to become it?

That’s the problem facing an elite team of LAPD undercover cops in the new Jerry Bruckheimer-produced drama series Dark Blue, premiering July 15 and airing Wednesdays on TNT. Dylan McDermott stars as Lt. Carter Shaw, head of the “deep cover” unit, whose activities are so covert that even other law-enforcement agencies, FBI included, don’t know who their operatives are or what they’re up to.

The cops of Dark Blue spend their workdays infiltrating gangs, buddying up with mob bosses and earning the trust of drug lords for weeks or even months on end. Spend too much time among the scum, and it starts to wear off on you. Some of the cops have shady pasts, some of them are still into shady stuff, and some can’t shake relationships they’ve formed undercover. Shaw himself, nicknamed the “Prince of Darkness” by a colleague, is haunted by his past and the loss of his wife.

But they’re all extraordinary, dedicated cops, and that’s what makes the characters in Dark Blue so fascinating. Their dark side makes them better good guys.

“These guys have a weariness to them with dealing with the element that they have to deal with over time. And they just get dark,” McDermott explains. “How do you keep your sanity? How do you not get corrupted by this system that you have to deal with on a daily basis and not bring it home? My character obviously brings it home. I think it’s really hard for him to distinguish his life from his work.”

In researching for the role, McDermott saw some of what real LAPD officers have to face on a daily basis, and he got a sense of how easy it could be for them to become dark, hard and cynical. “When I went out to the precinct, they were showing me a body that was burned on the street. Somebody set fire to this woman. And she was completely unrecognizable,” he remembers. “The only thing that you could possibly trace on her were her teeth. So when you have to deal with that …

“And then they took me on a run and met some gang members. We got out of the car and they were talking to us for about half an hour. When we got back into the car, the sergeant who was taking me around said, ‘You know, that was a little tough for me because I killed that guy’s brother in the line of duty.’”

The real undercover cops didn’t — or couldn’t — offer much to McDermott. “The undercover cops just really kind of keep to themselves,” McDermott says. “It’s really kind of hard to pry stuff out of them, I think because of just the nature of what they do. But watching them — watching their behavior — was worth millions to me because I could just watch their eyes and their movement. What they weren’t telling me was more important than what they were.”

What drives undercover cops to such a dangerous line of police work? “Man, I don’t know,” McDermott admits. “It must be the thrill. Everybody’s looking to feel alive, and people do it in all sorts of different ways, mostly destructive ways. But I can’t imagine what it must feel like to be in a situation where you’re really undercover, and you’re tricking everybody and you’re a cop. And it’s so dangerous. I mean, your adrenaline must be through the roof. And I would assume you couldn’t feel any more alive, because you’re so close to death.”

Just as undercover cops get caught up in pretense, McDermott’s had acting roles that have crossed too far into reality. “Wonderland, I remember. I was really engrossed in that role, and I remember it was a month later and I was still filling in the tattoos on my body with pen,” McDermott recalls. “This role, in particular, I had a hard time letting go of it, who this guy was, because he was sort of closely defined with me in certain ways. Carter Shaw has been someone I’ve been living with.”

It’s understandable how he connected to his character, considering the darkness in McDermott’s own past. As a boy, his birth mother was accidentally fatally shot. He struggled with alcohol as a young man. But his father’s third wife, playwright Eve Ensler (The Vagina Monologues), legally adopted him. She also put him on the acting path, which led to a host of TV and film roles, most notably the starring role in the legal drama The Practice. “She’s really my mentor, in many ways,” McDermott says of Ensler. “We discuss everything and we discuss every role. And I feel like she’s been that one person in my life that’s changed my life.”

Despite overcoming so much to achieve success on the screen, McDermott never felt like he “made it.” “I think it’s just a process, the whole thing,” he pensively says. “I don’t think you ever get there. The older I get, I realize that I understand that it’s not really about getting there. It’s just about the daily process of changing and growing and hopefully becoming better.”


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About Ryan Berenz 2107 Articles
Some things I like (in no particular order): Sports, Star Wars, LEGO, beer, 'The Simpsons' Seasons 1-13, my family and the few friends who are not embarrassed to be seen with me. Why yes, I am very interested in how much you like 'Alaskan Bush People.' #LynxForLife