The TNT police drama “Major Crimes” may be set in Los Angeles, but its ties to Louisiana are many and start with its creator.
New Orleans native James Duff is the man behind this spin-off of TNT’s “The Closer,” which ran from 2005 to 2012 and was also created by Duff.
On “Major Crimes,” now in its second season, the detectives in the Los Angeles Police Department’s Major Crimes division are still trying to adjust to the departure of Brenda Leigh Johnson (Kyra Sedgwick’s character in “The Closer”) and their new leader, Capt. Sharon Raydor, played by Mary McDonnell.
Duff’s other credits include the series “The D.A.,” “Wolf Lake,” “Star Trek: Enterprise,” “The Agency,” “Felicity” and “Popular,” as well as several TV movies.
But the Louisiana roots in “Major Crimes” go deeper than Duff. Lafayette native Kearran Giovanni and Graham Patrick Martin, who hails from Thibodaux, also have found a home in the crime drama.
“Last year, she was definitely the rookie,” says Giovanni of her role as detective Amy Sykes. “She has a military background, and she’s coming into a really established squad of experienced officers, so she kind of treads lightly. But she also kind of sticks her foot in her mouth a lot.
“As this year’s going along, she definitely has grown into herself, and she knows how the ranks work. She’s really fitting in well. She does do a lot of the running and action stuff — if there’s a bad guy it’s usually her (chasing him) — so it’s nice to have that be a woman on the show. She’s finding her own this year for sure.”
Martin, 21, was born in Thibodaux and lived there until he was 8, before moving to old Metairie, and then on to New York at age 12. He’s been living and acting in Los Angeles since he was 15.
“My character, Rusty Beck, was introduced in the finale of ‘The Closer,’” Martin says of his role. “I was a witness in the last murder case Kyra Sedgwick was working on, that her character Brenda Lee Johnson was working on. Basically, I struck a deal with her saying that I’ll give you my testimony if you find my mother.
“What ends up happening at the end of last season, my mother didn’t show up. They still need my testimony so Mary McDonnell’s character, Capt. Raydor, took me in and is now my legal guardian while I am awaiting the trial.”
Martin calls Rusty a very driven kid who strives for a normal life.
“It is really all he wants,” the young actor says. “So everything he does is in this quest to be normal, and he faces challenges because it’s hard for him to achieve this sense of normalcy because of the life he’s lived.”
The television drama is just the latest in the diverse careers of both actors.
Giovanni acted on Broadway for 10 years and spent three years on ABC daytime drama “One Life to Live.”
For her role as detective Amy Sykes, she trained with former Green Beret-turned-actor Mark Semos, who played a sniper in “Major Crimes’” first season. It wasn’t, however, her first time holding a weapon.
“Well, I did grow up in Louisiana and (Katy) Texas so I’m not going to lie, we had a hunting camp, and, yes, I probably shot a gun at one point toward a small animal. We lived on a farm, and we ate everything we killed,” she says. “I had my hunting license before I was 10.”
Giovanni says most of her family still lives in Lafayette or nearby. She, her husband and two daughters try to make it back home for special family occasions.
As for Martin, fans of the CBS comedy “Two and a Half Men” may remember him in the recurring role of Eldridge, a friend of Angus T. Jones’ character, Jake Harper.
“It was great to be able to learn from the other actors, like Jon Cryer, who’s absolutely brilliant, and Charlie Sheen, Ashton Kutcher and Angus T. Jones,” says Martin.
He also appeared in the recent Lifetime movie, “Anna Nicole,” where he portrayed Anna Nicole Smith’s son, Danny.
“I just saw it as a tragic story, as her son, who had to grow up in those circumstances. It was kind of interesting to be able to explore it from a completely subjective standpoint,” says Martin, whose next role will be in James Franco’s independent film “Bukowski,” due out in 2014.
“It’s about the young life of the writer Charles Bukowski. I played (Baldy) his best friend growing up,” he says. “It was a very good experience to work with someone of his caliber.”
The Martin family still has a home in Thibodaux, where the actor’s father lives.
His mom will move back there soon, having lived with her son in Los Angeles so he could work there during his teen years. The young Martin says he gets home when he can.
“I try to make it down there on weekends when there’s an LSU home game and a Saints home game so I can make both of them,” he says.