TCA: FOX’s Lethal Weapon Reboot: Reintroducing Murtaugh and Riggs

Lethal Weapon Richard Foreman/FOX

This morning in Los Angeles, FOX started its day of presentations before the Television Critics Association with the buddy cop action series, Lethal Weapon. In the action packed drama, careful family man Roger Murtaugh (Damon Wayans) returns to the precinct after a life-saving surgery, but his new partner Martin Riggs (Clayne Crawford) is determined to die. When the network first presented the series, I was determined to hate it (The films are the buddy cop films), but the pilot (directed by McG) is fresh, funny and has a remarkable amount of both action and heart.

And Crawford’s interpretation of the character of Martin Riggs is a lot less wild-eyed and frenetic than Mel Gibson’s movie persona. “He was doing cocaine,” explains Crawford of the film character. “This is FOX and family hour … no cocaine.” Crawford says he playing up the sadness of the role and notes that if he experienced the death of any of his children, “I wouldn’t be able to get up out of bed and pay the bills.” the actor does note that the change in the character has to change with the times. “What Mel Gibson did was so incredible in 1987, but today, I think we want something a little more grounded.”

Series starts with Riggs’ painful origin story, with the death of his wife and unborn child. Series writer and executive producer Matt Miller explains, “We wanted to see the moment he broke,” and have viewers experience the “visceral moment of impact.” Miller continues, “It’s really about two guys who are broken for different reasons.” Says they need each other to become whole again.

“Murtaugh decidedly wants to live,” says McG. And with Riggs, “you have a guy who is so broken, he is quite comfortable with dying.”

Take a look at Lethal Weapon

Casting the characters. Miller reveals that he sat down with Richard Donner, who directed the original films, and the director stressed the importance of finding actors who have great chemistry. Damon Wayans came on early in the process in the Roger Murtaugh role originated by Danny Glover. But finding Martin Riggs, was a process, and the producers cast their nets far and wide. They found that everyone testing for the role unknowingly did a Mel Gibson impersonation. To move away from Gibson’s iconic take on Riggs, the producers set his backstory in Texas, to give the character a new facet. Miller reveals that heard about a Crawford after a performance in an independent film, and when they called the actor, he was on his farm in Alabama, with his wife, his children, his horses, “and happiness,” deadpans Crawford.

The roles originated by Renee Russo and Joe Pesci will eventually be introduced to the series, but “We’ve got so much story that we want to tell with [the Riggs and Murtaugh] characters,” says Miller. That they want to hold off on introducing new characters as long as possible.

The idea with the show is that there will be cases of the week and crimes to solve, but there will be a season long mythology/arc for the season. This thread will be strung throughout the season.

Lethal Weapon > FOX > Wednesdays at 8pm ET/PT beginning Sept. 21