This Monday on Major Crimes (TNT, 9/8c), the always composed Sharon Raydor feels a big chill when her MIA husband suddenly resurfaces — both in their home, and then at her work, where he’s serving as a public defender. Film vet and Emmy winner Tom Berenger spoke with TVLine about his imminent arc as Jackson Raydor, including the familiar faces on the cast who made him feel most at home.
TVLINE | So tell me, under what circumstances do we first meet Jackson?
He suddenly appears in the kitchen in the house of his estranged wife, in the middle of the night. He still has a key. She thinks it’s a burglar, intruder or something in there, so she gets her police weapon and heads down the hallway, only to find me in there putting away groceries.
TVLINE | How would you describe their marriage? It would seem like “complicated” doesn’t begin to cover it.
Yeah, it was complicated. They were very much in love and very much attracted to each other when they met. And he was probably a pretty good attorney too, so she was impressed by his professionalism and all that. He did have a drinking problem, which he overcame, but he still gambles. And as this begins he has just returned from Vegas, where he was living – and which is not a good place for gambling.
TVLINE | They just decided to put some distance between each other?
I think they had little bickering sessions, but they’re not too heated. They’re sort of always charmed and amused by each other. And then they, you know, just separated. Their [two] kids are grown up, living on their own…. They don’t get divorced, because I guess they’re both extremely Catholic. And they just never got around to it, I suppose.
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TVLINE | What’s his take on the Rusty situation?
Well, it’s funny because he immediately takes to him and starts teaching him card games and tricks and stuff. [Sharon] notices that he is sort of spending more time with Rusty than he did with his own children, who are now grown up and on their own, so she makes him call his son [and] you see one scene at the end of the episode where he’s just a nervous wreck about it.
TVLINE | It sounds like you have some good verbal volleying with Miss Mary McDonnell.
Oh yeah, absolutely. And I think the good thing is it comes off sort of as comic relief. And certainly a break from the homicide.
TVLINE | Is there still a spark between the two of them?
I think we were kind of playing it that way, but only the writers know where this can go. I did a three-episode arc, and beyond that it’s up to them.
TVLINE | You’re quite a history buff in real life. As such, how did it feel to win your first Emmy for something like Hatfields & McCoys?
Well first of all, it felt great. But I have to say that I just loved the finished product. I mean I loved doing it, but with the finished product, I was just so impressed by everybody’s work. I came out of the intermission [at a five-hour screening] and said, “This is like The Godfather,” and it even had that kind of brownish-sepia tint to it. You had so many great characters and subplots, and things happening simultaneously. After the intermission, everybody ran back to their seats, that’s how thrilled they were by it.
TVLINE | Between that and projects like Top of the Lake, it feels like we’re in the middle of a rebirth of the TV miniseries.
I hope so. I always liked them and I don’t know really why they disappeared. I mean it just sort of one day it seemed like there weren’t any anymore. I did a couple that were two-nighters, but I’m thinking about, you know, Rich Man, Poor Man, Shogun, Thorn Birds…. The list goes on, and they all did well.
TVLINE | I know it’s impossible to “choose favorite children,” but which of your past projects do you hold dear to you? Is Platoon high up there?
It’s high up there, sure. Eddie and the Cruisers always holds up for me; it’s kind of sweet, nostalgic, with a bit of mystery. I like Rough Riders because it was just fun and Teddy Roosevelt was a hell of a character to play. He wore me out, as he probably wore everybody out, with his maniac energy. With Gettysburg, I was just glad to be part of that whole Civil War thing, which is a really hard story to tell. And you have The Big Chill, Platoon…
TVLINE | The Big Chill has a big anniversary in September. Does it feel like 30 years for you?
No, it really doesn’t. I mean, you don’t remember everything in life, but you know some things where you’re still like, “Well yeah, I remember that, I remember this, I remember that, yeah…. Yup, yup, yup.” It’s still pretty vivid.
TVLINE | As you consider TV roles like Major Crimes, how do you cull through your options? I know you were briefly attached to Fox’s Gang Related pilot….
All I know is that I enjoyed doing this three-show arc. I like the cast, the crew, the producers, the writers… the whole outfit, and that’s important. I asked Mary, “How do you go through your week? How do you pace yourself? How do you do this, how do you do that?” She has a whole technique, and when she told me what her week was like, I went “Whoa.” And she goes, “Yeah.” I knew Mary because we did a three-character play together back East. And G.W. Bailey (Provenza), I knew him because he was my sidekick in Rustlers’ Rhapsody. And Raymond Cruz was part of my crew in Miami where we did The Substitute. So I knew three of the people, which was kind of fun. It was a good experience, similar to when I did a four-show arc on Third Watch in New York, where I had a blast.
TVLINE | So if Charlie Sheen, with whom you’ve done more than a couple movies (including Platoon and Major League), called you to guest-star on his FX sitcom, would you consider it?
Yeah, sure I’d do it! [Laughs] Absolutely.