Interview: Kearran Giovanni talks final season of Major Crimes and more


Photo Credit: Major Crimes/TNT image Acquired from Turner Press Room

Kearran Giovanni took some time to discuss being on Major Crimes, the final season of the show, living in LA and what’s next.

Kearran Giovanni got her start on Broadway and made her way into the television scene with a role on One Life To Live. We recently had the chance to chat with her about that, her time on Major Crimes , which is in its final season, and more.

Hidden Remote: To touch a little on your background, I know you got your start on Broadway. So how did you end up making the change from Broadway to television?

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Kearran Giovanni: You know, living in New York, especially I would say six to ten years ago, there wasn’t as much TV as there is now. Now we have a couple of productions there. But I did what I could, you know? So you do Broadway during the night and during the day I would do a soap opera. I was on One Life To Live for a couple of years. And you do your Law and Orders and whatever you could get your hands on and do for a day. I do think it’s a huge goal of most of us on Broadway to get that big TV gig. It’s pretty great to get it. So I think, yeah, just years of auditioning for TV and film. My agent kind of saw this come in and said, “I think this is it. I think this could be the one.” I wasn’t actively, I guess, kind of looking to move to LA, but this role came along and the rest is history.

Hidden Remote: Yeah, I’m actually down in Orange County so I’m very familiar with LA and all of the people who end up moving there for television and everything like that.

Giovanni: Yeah, I mean, I would have never moved to LA. I would have lived in NY forever. I kind of was settled there. I have family and my kids and stuff. So this was definitely not something I saw happening. But now I can’t image it not [happening].

Hidden Remote: You went from having a recurring role on One Life to Live to a series regular role on Major Crimes. What was the transition like from having a recurring to being a series regular?

Giovanni: I think when I started One Life To Live I was doing Guys and Dolls on Broadway. And they knew that so I would go in during the day and spat out a bazillion pages of soap opera dialogue, which is always like… it’s like a master class in memorization because you have to memorize like pages and pages of dialogue every day. And then I would go do my show at night, so I had a full-time job, it just wasn’t all one job. But yeah, being on a show every single day with the same people every day and seeing them for six years. You know, you’re with them for sixteen hours a day. It’s a family. It’s a group effort and takes a village. We worked really hard and really well together for six years. It was amazing.

Hidden Remote: You already mentioned having to move to LA for Major Crimes. What else did you have to do to prepare yourself for playing the role of Detective Amy Sykes on the show?

Giovanni: You know what, when I got here, they definitely wanted to know if I had weapons training or anything like that. And I grew up in Texas, so I was no stranger to hunting and things like that. But I hadn’t done it since I was a kid. So they took me out with Mark Semos, who is an amazing, amazing trainer and also a producer and was a special ops sniper. I mean, he’s like the man. He took me out and trained me with all of the weapons. And also he’s ex-military like Amy, so he taught me how she would walk into a situation and being military, you would do things a little bit differently than a police officer. Your brain just works a little bit different. So he was a great teacher for that. And then as far as everything else, you just kind of do it until you have it right. I just kind of followed along. I didn’t know the lingo of being on a series. I didn’t know what a DOOD was. I got this email the first like week when I moved here and it said, “Here’s your DOOD and your one-line.” And I’m like “What is a DOOD?” I didn’t know what to do. I called Sutton Foster, actually, who had started on a series at the same time and I was like “What does this mean?” She sat me down and told me “It’s a Day-out-of-Days. It means how many days of the week you’ll be working.” I mean, it seems so simple now, but it was like Swahili to me when I first got it. So yeah, I figured it out and then the rest is history, I guess. Literally. [Laughs]

Hidden Remote: Major Crimes is closing in on 100 episodes here, which I believe you will be hitting before this final season ends. I wanted to talk about the difference between the previous seasons and this one because you have a longer storyline going on now. We’re in the midst of the “Sanctuary City” story and that’s lasting five episodes. So what’s it like sort of going from having a lot more one-off episodes where you’re solving the crime in a single episode and then doing something like this for the final season where you’re extending the storyline and really getting to know a lot of the victims and characters more in-depth?

Giovanni: Right. You know, I love the one-off episodes. You kind of get in and get out in a sense. You learn your characters, our guest stars, we have some of the best guest stars in the business. They really hold down the show in a way. And so it’s great to have such a revolving door of them. But it’s also difficult to kind of really get a sense of momentum with them when you’re really just sitting down for one or two scenes in an episode and then they’re gone. The arcs have been really nice because you’ve really gotten the chance to get to know them. We get to know the character, we get to know how to interact with them, and we don’t ever know what is gonna happen. James [Duff] never tells us beforehand. We have to kind of figure it out. So we play detective in a way, you know, all of us. We sit around and go “Who do you think?” I don’t know if you remember the arc that we did last year with Julie Ann Emery who ends up being the killer. In the end, with the reverend and none of us knew. None of us. I mean, we were like “What?!” Like mind-blown. We had no idea. It’s been fun for us to kind of play the scenes, but also not know, not really know what’s going to happen. Whereas when you have a one off obviously we know the end. We read the whole episode. That was really exciting and we had some really fun guest stars. We all became friends and it’s nice to go into work and see the same people every day. It was very nice. I enjoyed them.

LAGUNA BEACH, CA – AUGUST 29: (L-R) Actors Michael Paul Chan, Kearran Giovanni, Phillip P. Keene, and Raymond Cruz attend the 2015 Festival Of Arts Celebrity Benefit Concert And Pageant on August 29, 2015 in Laguna Beach, California. (Photo by Michael Kovac/Getty Images for Festival of Arts / Pageant of the Masters)

Hidden Remote: Speaking of the cast, when you’re watching, it really feels like the show has done a great job of making it feel like you’re walking into an LAPD office or precinct. And you see the diversity of LA within your cast. Do you think that’s something that’s really important to making the show feel as authentic as it is?

Giovanni: Absolutely. I mean, listen, would everyone like to watch TV and see supermodels in every role? I mean, that get a little boring don’t you think? And I just feel like, if you look and us and it’s like that’s not really reality. If you look at our squad and then you go to any LAPD event, you will feel like you see us. You know? We’ve worked so closely with the LAPD for years that any time we go into an event with them, you literally can’t tell who’s who. It’s real. When you look at Julio and you look at the LAPD, it’s 100% authentic. I love that. You know we always joke that we’re the united colors of the LAPD because it’s true.  I was very very proud when I got the script and I read that Amy was so trained and so smart. And so, just on point as far as an officer and that she wasn’t a stereotype. She was just a woman and she had all of these amazing qualities and then “oh, and she’s black.” And James [Duff] always wanted that. There was no “well, she’s sexy” or “well she’s urban” or “well, she’s this.” It was just a woman who was black, who was all this other stuff. You don’t get to play that very often. It just doesn’t happen. There’s always some sort of, for the most part, a hidden stereotype in most ethnic casting I will say. And it’s nice to see all of us. You look around and there’s no stereotype there. It’s just on the surface. So I appreciated that.

Hidden Remote: Yeah. What they do with the stories for the episodes, too, it feels like they’re giving you the whole of what LA is. Your characters will solve crimes in the poorer parts of town and then you’ll go to the big, ritzy neighborhoods and solve crimes there, too. So do you think this show has really done a great job with giving you the full aspect of what LA is?

Giovanni: Absolutely. And I feel like we’re so lucky we got to film here for this long. Nobody really gets to do that. We show the real LA. You can’t do it unless you’re here. You can’t fake LA. It’s really hard because it is so different from one corner to the next. I mean, you’ll be in a mega mansion, turn a corner, and there’s a Bodega and a house falling down. It’s kind of crazy that it’s like that, but it is. So yeah, absolutely, I think we showed it from the top of a high rise to the beach to, you know, we got to film in Venice. We were in the Palisades. We were in Boyle Heights. That’s LA. It’s a beautiful city.

Hidden Remote: Exactly. And with this being the final season of the show, at least as far as its run on TNT goes, what do you think the biggest lesson you’ve learned as an actress has been from being on this show?

Giovanni: Gosh, there’s so many. I learned to listen to my scene partners. You can’t get through a five page interrogation scene thinking about what’s for dinner. You really have to listen and react. And that was G.W. [Bailey] who could just sit there and always get the best. And that was a huge thing I took away. And also just grace. Working with Mary McDonnell, who’s been around forever. You know, she’s the star. Watching her every day I’m on set, she’s number one on the call sheet. And just being so graceful to everyone and treating everyone with such respect. And making sure that she was an example by just doing and leading. I always looked at her and thought, “Okay, if I’m ever number one on a call sheet, I’m gonna do that.”

You have to make a conscious choice because this business can turn you into a monster if you let it. As we’ve seen. And I think you have to always remember that everyone is around, just doing their job. Just doing the best that they can in whatever they do. I don’t know, there’s so many. Six years is a long time to take little nuggets of life experience away. [Laughs]

Hidden Remote: Yeah, I can imagine. You mentioned earlier moving from New York to LA. Has LA started to grow on you more as you dove deeper on your role as Detective Amy Sykes and gotten to see the city from so many different aspects even though you were filming and not necessarily, you know, getting to enjoy the sites for some of it?

Giovanni: We made the most of it, I will say. Any time we were out on location, between myself, Raymond [Cruz], Michael Paul Chan and Phillip [P. Keene], we ran around together every day. Between all of them, we would eat lunch with everybody sometimes. But for the most part, Raymond would take us to these little holes in the wall. He’s from there, Michael’s from there, and they would take us to this little taco stand that nobody’s ever heard of and his friend would serve us tacos in the back. It was stuff like that. That’s how we learned this city. That’s how I learned this city. Just driving, I’d get up at 4 in the morning and I’d have to be in Santa Clarita or wherever and we would get taken during lunch by one of the guys to some special spot in LA. And that’s how I feel like I discovered LA. And I love LA. I moved here kind of like not quite sure. Also, I wasn’t sure how long we were gonna stay here. I wasn’t sure how long the show was going to go. But now I love LA. I’m not gonna lie, it’s pretty great. I mean, it’s gonna be Thanksgiving and it’s gonna be 92. I’m gonna be at the beach next week. I mean, c’mon, it doesn’t get any better than that. Our kids are super happy. I could go on and on. My daughter is actually with me right now. She says great schools. I mean, yeah it’s grown on me. I don’t think we’re going anywhere. I think we’re here to stay.

Hidden Remote: For you, you mentioned having to be up and be somewhere at four in the morning so I get the feeling that you miss some of the traffic doing that.

Giovanni: Oh, yeah. Honestly, I didn’t really hit traffic. Yeah, if we were on location, I was usually first up. And because of hair and makeup, I was always there before everybody else. There are many, oh god, I remember having to be in at 4:16, which was my call time. I still remember this. And so instead of just doing that, I just spent the night out. I don’t remember if you guys remember this episode. We were at a horse training facility kind of place and this veterinarian guy had kidnapped an officer. I just remember being there at the crack of dawn and I was so tired. And I was stressed out that day. It was my first like “Amy Sykes Killed someone” kind of thing. I remember doing that scene and just crying afterwards. Mike Robin, [who] directed the episode and is our executive producer, is like, “Are you okay? Is it just emotionally, are you just so stressed out?” And I was like “No, I’m just so tired and I just started my period.” And he literally just walks away and he’s like, “Okay, I’m gonna just go walk away on that one.” But yeah, I mean, I’ve experienced my life for the last six years, every day with all of these people. I know a lot about them and they know a lot about me.

Hidden Remote: Having those early call times, it gives you the chance to see Los Angeles in a different light, too, because I’m going to go out on a limb and say most people aren’t awake at those hours. So it’s probably a totally different look at the city, too, for you.

Giovanni: Absolutely. Hitting like, if you go past the Valley kind of up that way off of the 14. Like towards Lancaster and stuff, I mean, it’s gorgeous. The sun coming up there, it’s just beautiful. Even being downtown, shooting downtown in the early morning or even at night. Downtown is not the prettiest of downtowns, but it has such a heartbeat and a rich history. Watching it come alive with the people that live down there is really interesting. It’s a little scary, not gonna lie, but it’s interesting downtown. I feel like I’ve seen a lot of LA, for sure.

Next: Is Designated Survivor new tonight on ABC?

Hidden Remote: Absolutely. Well I know we have to wrap it up here so I will end this with one final question. Recently we’ve seen you appear as a Senator in a couple episodes of Designated Survivor. Is that something you’re going to continue or can you give us a little sneak peak at what you have going on next now that it’s the final season of Major Crimes?

Giovanni: Oh, sure. Yeah, I had a blast being on Designated Survivor, working with Kiefer [Sutherland]. I mean, it was a great experience and I got to go to Toronto. It was great to play something else. It’s a blast to play Amy, but any character that you play for that long, it’s nice to have a little break from. I was hoping to actually go back for Season 2, but the episodes that I was supposed to arc in, I just couldn’t get away from Major Crimes because they film on location so much and their days are spread out. So I unfortunately didn’t get to go and do those. So I am not sure. I’m one of those actors, I just kind of do what they tell me and go where they tell me. I have not been back, but I would happily be back.

I am recurring on Dynasty right now, which I just started on. Funny enough, I went in for this kind of last minute. I didn’t really know the character. I just kind of read my scenes and said, “Okay, great!” And then I got there and she is the Chief of Police. So I thought it was hilarious that I had to switch shows to get a promotion. That was hilarious. So I play Chief Bobbie Johnson and that’s all I know. It’s kind of the same. I think when I went on the show, they hadn’t gotten their backend yet. So I think they’re king of figuring out what storylines they’re gonna focus on for the last couple of episode. But again, I had a great time. I love finding new characters. I love acting. It was great and hopefully I’ll be back doing that. Other than that, I’m just going to enjoy some time home, some time with my family. I’ve got two girls and my husband. I’m just gonna be mom for a little bit as well.

Be sure to catch new episodes of Major Crimes Tuesdays at 9/8c on TNT!