Southland's Regina King on the Show's Uncertain Future and Stepping Behind the Camera

SOUTHLANDWill Southland live to protect and serve the Los Angeles streets for another season?

While the critically beloved, but ratings-challenged series has always had a question mark attached to it come renewal time, it seems especially on the bubble this year in light of co-stars Ben McKenzie and Shawn Hatosy booking pilots (albeit in second position).

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“Of course we want it to come back,” says leading lady Regina King, who directs this Wednesday’s episode (TNT, 10/9c). “But there are just certain things that [make us think], ‘Are we?’ No one’s told us that we weren’t, but there are enough things that haven’t happened” – like promotional support — “to question, ‘Are we?'”

With its uncertain fate, does Season 5’s last episode play like a season or a series finale? “It could go either way,” admits King.

Below, the actress talks about the difficulties of helming the fast-paced production, peeling back Lydia’s layers and her growing partnership with Ruben (played by Dorian Missick).

TVLINE | Lydia is pretty separate from most of the other characters. How was it finally coming together and working with Michael Cudlitz, Ben McKenzie, Shawn Hatosy and the rest of the cast as their director?
It was great. They totally embraced me putting on the director’s hat. They were very supportive. Shawn and Michael, they both actually stayed a few hours after they wrapped their scenes to watch me shoot other scenes with other cast members.

TVLINE | What was the most challenging aspect of directing the show?
Being in front of the camera. You just have to trust yourself and trust the crew that you are executing the plan. We move so fast on our show, there’s no time to stop — [It’s] not even [that] we don’t have the time. We don’t have the money to stop after I do my take to watch the playback. That just doesn’t work for our schedule. Like I said, you have to be trusting.

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TVLINE | The shooter story in this episode reminded me so much of the incident that happened on Sunset in 2011. Was it inspired by that?
It is a pull-off of that. Definitely. But Zack [Whedon, who penned the episode] had written that in there.

TVLINE | Lydia has a pretty emotional, introspective storyline in this episode, in which she visits a death row inmate, who’s been exchanging letters with her for years. Can you preview what she’s dealing with?
It’s an interesting thing there because you’re left with this question of, has this woman gone on so long without trusting people that the only person that she can trust is a person that she knows is about to die? That says a lot – or a little – about someone. It depends on who the viewer is. I thought it was really, really interesting and fascinating for Zack to write that, as an actor and as a director.

TVLINE | Does the encounter with the death row inmate change her going forward?
I don’t know if it changes her or that it forces her to recognize something about herself.

TVLINE | She’s had no shortage of challenges when it comes to being a single mother. How is that going to test her in the upcoming episodes?
We’re going to see her grow from it. As crazy as it may seem, that’s the honest thing about life. Huge, life-changing events happen in our lives and usually most of us grow from them. We’re going to be able to witness that this season.

TVLINE | Will she reach out for help and let her ex back into her life?
Maybe, maybe. We’ll see. [Laughs] I can’t give too much away.

TVLINE | Ruben’s really been there for her – but he’s also not one to keep his mouth shut.  What conflicts are they going to face within their relationship?
A little more of that. Not a lot more of that. You’re going to get the opportunity to see the respect that she does have for him and how partnerships truly do form. Because they’re a lot like marriages. You are with these people 24/7 almost. You’re with them more than you’re with your actual partner, your wife or husband. You really have to trust each other and part of gaining that trust is being honest about your not-so-good qualities and your good qualities. We get the opportunity to actually see that in Ruben and Lydia. I don’t think we’ve seen that since Sammy and Nate.