Morris Chestnut & Todd Harthan – Rosewood
Q) When you get into season two, I hear a lot that’s when the real work starts. How’s season one different from season two in terms of your experience and working on season two and what can the audience expect?
Todd: Yes, season two’s always a bigger challenge because you’ve already told, for us, 22 episodes. That’s 22 stories and a lot of silk threads and a love interests, and the will they or won’t they. We did a lot in season one. I think the evolution in season two was we’re digging a little bit deeper into the personal relationships in Rosewood and Villa’s lives and all the character’s lives and we’re trying to surprise the audience with—we definitely had some drama last year, but we’re trying to tell some stories that probably are a little bit more visceral and balancing that tone and still trying to have a good time and making sure that we keep them laughing too with the comedy. It’s been pushing deeper into the characters this season for sure, but also not forgetting that we’re a fun Miami show has been the challenge of the season. I don’t know, hopefully we’re doing pretty well. I think we are.
Q) Morris, how’s your experience developing the character further? Because you’ve already done this, and now you get in the same character a year later. How’s that experience now for you?
Morris: It’s always interesting. I love cracking open a script and not really having any kind of idea where the character is going. What I love about what Todd is doing with the character, the show, each episode we’re peeling off a layer of getting deeper and deeper where our characters are coming from and possibly where we could possibly be going. That really excites me. I never know when I pick up a script what’s going to happen, what’s going to be revealed about my character that I didn’t know before. It makes it interesting and fun for me and hopefully it’ll make it interesting and fun for our audience.
Q) Now you’re the leading man on all these several projects right now. How do you balance all that work, and any preference between TV and film? What’s your first love, so to say?
Morris: Well, they both have their positives and their negatives. What I love about television, I love the pace. I do love coming to work and actually working. When you shoot a film, you have a lot of time, you sit in your trailer quite a bit. By the same token, that kind of works in reverse, the one thing about film you do get time, as an actor, to really process everything that’s going on and just embed it deeper and deeper into your psyche, your body, everything. With this we’re working so fast here with so much material in such a short period of time, it’s harder to really let things sink in. They both have their benefits, but they both have their drawbacks, as well.
Q) I really appreciate the fact that you created a TV show with a black leading man which is not a black show. It’s been happening more and more on TV with Empire and Power and all those shows which is wonderful and I really you commend you for that. Can you share, in terms of casting was it a conscious decision, you wrote this character like that or how did you arrive at that and what’s your thought on that? And, Morris, you as a leading industry man of color, what’s your thoughts in terms of diversity and inclusion that’s going on right now, how’s Hollywood and TV doing in this.
Todd: Look, if you watch the Emmy’s, I think they’re doing extremely well. I think the town has discovered that there’s incredible talent across the boards in all different ethnicities, and now they’re tapping into it. It obviously took too long, but now it’s happening. You know, was it a conscious decision? The Rosewood character was always scripted as African-American so yes, it was a conscious decision. As far as the cast around him, to me it’s just more interesting. If I’m going to do a hundred episodes of the show, hopefully or more, to me it’s just different people from different backgrounds, different ethnicities. I personally feel like that sparks more interesting stories long-term to make the characters as different as humanly possible. It’s as simple as that for me. To be honest, all my pilots that I’ve written in the past, most of which didn’t get made, they all had a big diverse cast. For me personally, I just think it’s more interesting and more fun and challenging. That was my point of view on that.
Q) Morris, to your extent, what do you think as leading man now? You’ve worked over 20 years now in the industry. What do you think, has it evolved? Is it a place you can be happy and what’s your take on this?
Morris: So, I think a couple of things, one it is great to have an opportunity, and I’m glad Todd gave me the opportunity to play this character because quite frankly five years ago I don’t believe there were any African-American male leads on television, on network television. I’m not really certain there was one on cable, unless it was on BET. Now if you look up, you have Black-ish, you have Rosewood, you have Empire, you have several shows that have black male leads, and so I definitely think the climate has changed. I think it’s shifted. In particular about our show, Rosewood, that’s one of the things I love about our show. Todd may have had a “black” doctor or African-American doctor in mind, but the stories aren’t specific to a black family. These are very universal stories told in a very creative way. If you look at our cast, the one thing I also love what Todd’s done with our cast is everyone is well represented. I’d be hard-pressed for anyone to turn on our show and not see themselves represented in some way, shape, or form, whether it’s racially, financially, in a number of ways. I think we just have a show that truly is made for everybody and we’re not hitting people over the head that this is a black doctor. I think he’s a doctor that happens to be black, and the stories are very universal.
Q) Morris, audiences love police procedurals primarily because they play on and, in some cases, relive our fears. Has the series or will the series coming up play on any particular fears you have?
Morris: Wow. Yes, it does. First of all, my character’s dealing with a particular fear that I think most people have, the fear of death, not knowing when you’re going to die. It’s not something that’s at the forefront of my mind in particular, but you have to think when there are a lot of things happening in this world and people die suddenly, so you never really know when you’re going to die. That’s one of the things with the Rosewood character. He has this heart ailment where he could, all of a sudden just die and not be on this earth anymore. That’s primarily one of my fears.
Q) What makes Rosewood season two unique compared to similar shows that explore similar things? I guess another way of asking it is what’s going to surprise viewers this season in terms of narrative and Rosie’s evolution?
Todd: The thing that we’re trying to do this year to separate ourselves, one from other shows and also just to distance ourselves from, we don’t want our stories to be repetitive from season one is the audience will see both Rosewood and Villa, in a couple instances this season, their lives will get turned upside down, and Rosewood’s sense of optimism and his prism will be changed and shattered and then have to be rebuilt at some point. That’s a pretty big surprise that the audience will see. For Villa as well, there are things that are going to happen to her life that are going to turn her world upside down. I think what I hope separates us from the pack is the way these two characters look out for each other. It’s not necessarily about will they or won’t they this season. It’s about an unconditional friendship. I think that’s something that hopefully—I’m sure there are some great friendships on TV. I think this bond between these two people is special and unique and unlike others on TV and hopefully that’s what draws our audience to it. We’re really pushing the envelope with the trials and tribulations that these two people go through this year and why each other has to be the rock for the other to get them through some of the toughest times of their lives. It’s just going to be great drama, I think, and hopefully people find it interesting and refreshing and different than what we did last year.
Q) Todd, another question I have for you is one of the elements that makes Rosewood the series so sexy is the city of Miami. So, I’m wondering if you would mind, and you know, as viewers know and writers know, location often serves as a narrative device, most especially in this series. So can you briefly explain how the city will influence the tone of the show this upcoming season?
Todd: Yes. We barely scratched the surface last year with making Miami a character. This year we made it a point to go back to Miami and bring Morris and Jaina and shoot this city, the landscape, the different elements that we just don’t have here in Los Angeles where our stages are, where we film the show. I think more than that, for example, there’s an episode this year where we’re going to, I mean we’re not physically going there, we’re going to do a little bit of TV magic, but where we’re going to spend an episode in Cuba because it’s such an important part of Miami and its proximity and the culture. We didn’t really do much with that last season, and so when you go to Miami, it’s just like the Cuban culture is what makes it so unique and special. We’re digging into that both in our guest stars, and some of the stories will be very specific to Miami as well. Yes, I think it’s just going to be a lot more present this year.
Q) Morris, if you wouldn’t mind sharing with our readers, looking back on your amazing career, would you mind telling us what roles, in particular, if any, stand out for you?
Morris: Oh, wow. Yes, well, this is the thing, I’ve learned from all of my roles. It’s such an experience being able to work in the industry and just going from project to project. Each project you meet new people. You learn different things about yourself. You learn different things about other people, and not only as an actor, which I’ve grown tremendously from my very first job, but just even as a person, when you’re talking to people and learning new things. I often feel like my projects and my roles are like kids because I’ve learned so much from each of them. I love them all equally; however, when it comes to roles that stand out in my mind for whatever particular reason, aside from—because people remind me of it every day would be Ricky in Boyz n the Hood. I know Lance gets talked about a lot, but I have to say my favorite character to play right now is Rosewood because the one thing I love about this character is and the way Todd does the show is we shift in tone, we shift the tone of the show so much we can go, Rosewood can be funny and happy and witty one day and the next day he’s going through some type of drama that just takes him down and he has to go to dark places where he doesn’t really want to go. It’s fun to be able to do that every single day, and like I said earlier, when I pick up the script, I’m always learning because this is the longest I’ve ever been on a television show, and I’m always learning different things about the character. We don’t always know where Todd is going with the script. So I just wait until I read it to know. I’m really enjoying Rosewood right now.
Q) Did you consult with any real-life private pathologists as research or did you just jump into this character?
Morris: I did not. I literally on this project, I literally finished one project and I think in 24 hours I was on this project. I talked to Todd, and we have technical advisors on set. Todd consults with other doctors all the time when he’s writing the script. I can let him say that, but when he’s writing the script, so I have a tremendous amount of resources available to me.
Q) Have there been any challenges playing this character?
Morris: Yes. First and foremost, it would be the dialog and the medical jargon. We’re going at such a fast pace, one that I’ve really never been used to for such a sustained period of time. It’s such a fast pace to where I do like to understand, not just be able to pronounce what I’m saying, but I also like to understand what I’m saying and why I’m saying it. I would say that’s the primary challenge in playing a pathologist for me.
Q) Well, between you and your character on Rosewood, do you think that you share any traits?
Morris: It’s one of those things where just as an actor, I do share traits with Rosewood, but it’s one of those things where I feel there’s a little bit of me in Rosewood. Well, there’s a lot of me in all of my characters. Some things are more suppressed, and some things are at the surface level. I think with Rosewood, he’s much different than I am. He’s more of a showy, flashy guy, kind of revels in attention a little bit, to where I’m the complete opposite. I think our compassion, in regards to people, is something that we definitely share.
Q) What was it like working with Taye Diggs in Best Man Holiday and then Rosewood? Was having him on the show intentional?
Morris: Listen, Taye is a tremendous talent. Working with Taye in The Best Man and Rosewood is great. Taye and I, we’ve always had great chemistry working with each other, and we respect each other as not only actors, but as people. So, it’s great. Whether it was intentional, when you say intentional for him to be on the show, I’m not really sure what you mean. I do think that he is a tremendous asset to a show, so whenever we have an opportunity to add someone like that to our show, yes, we would definitely make it very intentional to try to get that person on the show. I’m just not really sure exactly what you mean by intentional.
Q) I mean because you all had previously worked together, I didn’t know if maybe you had formed a bond and maybe that’s why he auditioned for the show or was it just random?
Morris: You’d have to talk to Todd. I’m not certain if he auditioned or not. I think he’s at a level where we probably made him an offer.
Todd: We did, yes. We looked at the list of people that were going to come in and play Rosewood’s best friend, and we knew they already had chemistry and knew they were friendly off-screen. For us it took the guesswork out of it. It was just an obvious choice because we knew he’d be great, and we knew that they liked each other and that they already had chemistry. We knew we wouldn’t miss with that piece of casting, so we offered it to him and he came. He was lovely and, you know, you never know, he could be back.
Q) It has been said that LeToya Luckett will be joining the cast as a reoccurring character named Tawnya, and I just wanted to know, how was the dynamic working with her on the show?
Morris: I really enjoy LeToya. I think she’s a really good person, and she’s a really good actress. I’m really excited for everyone to see because I know everyone knows her from Destiny’s Child and they know that she can really sing. She is actually a very talented artist, and I can’t wait for people to see her act. She has such a refreshing presence when you look at her onscreen. I’m really excited about her addition.
Q) It’s been said that she’s going to play your love interest. How would that play out knowing that Annalise is one of your love interests and is it humanly possible for you and Annalise to have such a strong connection and tension between each other and for you to go astray and talk to Tawnya’s character?
Morris: Well, I’ll let Todd get into how it’s going to play out because he knows things that I don’t know. He’s steering this ship. So, Todd would you like to address that question?
Todd: I think what the audience will find at the beginning of this season is that these two characters, Rose and Villa, have to build back their friendship before there’s any idea of a romantic relationship. It’s more about them getting back to a place where they have a healthy friendship, and for both of these characters, they’re going to go their separate ways in their personal lives and keep it professional for a good chunk of this season. While they’re in that phase of this partnership, they’ll both have different love interests, and they will each be supportive and respectful of those love interests without jealousy or childishness. They’re very mature about it in this season as they both do some work on themselves and on their partnership. It’s just a little bit more complicated and a little messier this season. During that period, there are going to be characters like Tawnya who enter Rosewood’s life and stay for a good chunk of time.
Q) Realizing, Morris Chestnut as an actor spans a couple of decades, though he’s still a very young man, what percentage of the story do you feel should be equal parts for every generation so that everybody has a vested interest in the story?
Todd: I think the way in which we approach our cases and stories and also the guest stars that enter our show, we try to keep it as wide of a net as possible. I think Morris made the point in an earlier question that when you watch Rosewood, I think what we really try to focus on and achieve is that there’s something for everyone at all ages of this show, and it’s a very family friendly show. Be it late teens all the way up into people that are in their sixties or seventies, I think there’s something to enjoy about either the family dynamic of the Rosewoods or the heart and soul and emotion of the victims that he and Villa and the police department are trying to solve every week. Some of those victims are very young and have lost their lives at a very young age, and some of them are older. We just try to have a very—our show isn’t just diverse in our cast, it’s diverse in the stories we tell, and hopefully there’s something for people of all ages and ethnicities to find and appreciate in the show.
Q) Morris, earlier you stated that this is the longest run you’ve had on a TV show, and given the fact that you’re a celebrity and your brand is one of high value, what do you feel a director comes to you for? What is your most deliverable aspect of your talent cache?
Morris: That’s an interesting question. That’s a tough question for me. What would I say that I think people may feel is, I think, I really don’t know. I wish I had the answer to that question. I think that I’ve been around such a long time in the industry, I would like to think that I’ve built up a resume of being dependable, coming to work on time, if not before work, having my lines down, and just being very dependable and efficient on set to where I’m not really causing any type of distractions. I’m not causing any delays that would prove costly to the budget. I like to think that’s one of the things that I definitely feel that probably contribute to my longevity. I think that I take pride in the work that I do, and I do the best that I can. Because I’ve been in the industry for a certain amount of time, I have somewhat of an audience that contributes to the process as well.
Q) Your response is interesting because it does reveal that business aspect of you. You do have the business of show in your DNA, it seems.
Morris: I think that was, to be honest with you, it was one of the primary things that I was—I was not drawn to this industry to be famous. I was not drawn to this industry to be seen. I had an opportunity early on when I was trying to figure out what I wanted to do, and I felt that it would provide me with the lifestyle that I felt that I wanted. It was not a lifestyle just of fame, it was more a lifestyle of just being comfortable and being able to have flexibility and “not go into an office every day.” So, yes, I was more drawn to the industry in terms from a business perspective, at the very beginning, rather than a being famous perspective.
Q) You are somewhat bashful when you get attention based on your looks, but with that, what do you do to stay physically fit? What’s your regime? What are your secrets?
Morris: I work out quite a bit. I try to get a lot of rest. I try to get a lot of sleep. I’ve been fortunate that my lifestyle has helped because there’s things that I like to do. I do like to go to bed early. I don’t stay up late. I don’t drink, and I work out. So that’s proven to be very beneficial to me in this industry in terms of my physique and looks or whatever.