ABC’s The Rookie this week put yet another character in the (at least proverbial) line of fire, not long after Captain Andersen lost her life in the line of duty.
As the squad this week was tasked to check in on several convicts who got sprung early due to a dirty cop being busted, Bishop was prompted to visit Dylan, the brother no one knew she had and whom she parted ways with when a better foster home came calling. Dylan to this day feels his sister abandoned him.
Worried that Dylan was still running with a rough crowd — namely Terry, the ex-con she had just checked in on — Talia tailed her brother one night, verifying that he was again up to no good. Going solo, her bid to get the drop on the two and bring them in was a bust, when a third tough sneaked up on her. Talia was tied up and hauled away in a van, to a remote location where she was to be executed. Except Dylan put a bullet in Terry before his sister could be shot. Talia, however, would not let her brother simply flee but instead arrested him, believing it was a better fate for him than the streets.
After the harrowing event, Bishop came clean to Sergeant Grey about the fact that Dylan is her brother — one purposely omitted from her Personal History Questionnaire, due to his criminal record. The disclosure, coming on a very bad day for Grey, could very well cost Bishop her badge. But will it?
TVLine spoke to Afton Williamson about the potentially life-changing series of events, plus her reaction to the freshman drama’s first, tragic casualty.
TVLINE | Did you know when you first started the series that this storyline was coming?
I knew nothing. I didn’t know until my makeup artist told me the week before, because they were in meetings for the episode. She looked stone white when I came in for touchups. I’m like, “What’s going on?” and she’s like, “Um, did you read 118? It’s a lot.” And when I read it, I was blown away by how smart Talia’s arc has been.
The No. 1 question I have been getting in interviews is: What’s Talia’s deal? Like, America likes her. They don’t know why, because she’s stern and they’re usually off-put by that type of demeanor, but for some reason, she wins them over every week because she sees the thing in Nolan that he has to keep proving to everybody else. She’s gunning for the underdog, and I think that that’s why she’s lovable in that way. I mean, it’s funny to call her “lovable” because she’s definitely not a bunny. She’s more like a porcupine. But at the same time, we hadn’t learned why she has her spikes up.
When the foster kid situation happened a few episodes back and we never revisited that, I was just like, “Oh crap. When it hits, it’s going to hit hard.” I knew [showrunner] Alexi [Hawley] has something up his sleeve. This was written by Bill Rinier, who is our script coordinator, and Natalie Callaghan, who is Alexi’s assistant and one of our really good writers on the show, and you could tell that they have watched, that they were piecing together this thread. Episodics are like a quilt, so you just hope that the person who got that next piece cares as much about this one as you did and carries it forward. And I can tell you right now, we have a whole quilt from Episode 1 to 20. Nobody drops the ball.
TVLINE | You, Eric [Winter] and Alyssa [Diaz] are all playing different characters, but if there’s a common theme, it’s a professional detachment that the TOs try to maintain with their “boots.” Did you speak to any real-life TOs about that whole, “I’m not your friend, I’m not your partner” dynamic?
The coolest interaction that I got to see with the TO-rookie relationship was when we were training for the pilot. The three of us were given the opportunity to ride along with LAPD, we all picked a night, and the thing is it was… pretty uneventful. Like, they thought there was a hit-and-run or something and it was, like, a bat mitzvah or something with fireworks. So though it wasn’t a busy night, the sergeant talked so much about what this really is like. And we got to see the roll call, where we sat in the back and the rookies were right in the front, all four of them, sitting straight with their pads out, with their faces forward.
The TOs meanwhile hang out like upperclassmen, drinking coffee, joking, and their relationships are ones for the rest of their lives. I mean there are people that say, “Yeah, I’m still friends with my TO.” There was this woman who was just steel, I mean, she would actually spit on the ground while she was talking. A hardcore chick. Her boot was running around in a circle, because she forgot something. She pointed to her and goes, “This is how they learn, because if I help her, when we get out in the line of duty, she’ll be looking for me to help her.” That’s that Jackson/Lopez situation.
TVLINE | Getting back to the big developments of this episode, were you surprised at all by Talia’s decision? I mean, she could have let Dylan escape.
Absolutely not. I was not at all surprised about Talia’s decision. I was happy.
TVLINE | He just saved her life.
But the thing is I’m saving his, and that is the thing I couldn’t do [before]. When I left him at that foster home, I just left, and that’s the thing that has eaten her up her whole life. Not that he was a bad kid or he got in trouble. No, it was that she never looked back. That’s why she has saved every pound puppy, that’s why she will never give up on Nolan and won’t let him give up on his self. She’s getting the opportunity she never got before.
TVLINE | And she’d just seen anew that left to his own devices, Dylan is going to keep going down a bad path.
Of course. But also, in that one moment when the gunshot goes off [saving Talia’s life], they look at each other and they’re brother and sister. She said, “You saved me,” and then in the same sentence [as she cuffs Dylan], he says, “What are you doing?” “I’m saving you.” That was a blood pact I’ve never seen before. When I saw that clip, I went yes, they’re brother and sister.
TVLINE | It was great how you two established that rapport, in so few scenes and from scratch.
Caleb Castille, who played my brother, was absolutely amazing. I thanked Alexi after the first day when he checked in. He knew this was a big episode, and he knew I could handle it, but usually I’m with Nolan or usually we’re paired up and this was a lot of me with guest cast, tied up in a van. But it was perfect because I did feel twice-removed from the show, from my castmates and in a whole other storyline.
TVLINE | Talia has confessed that she lied on her PHQ — and at the worst possible time, with the precinct under a microscope now. Is there a possibility that Grey might back-pocket the whole thing to save them some trouble?
What do you think, at this point? At this point, who do you know Sergeant Grey to be? Could you even see him back-pocketing something and letting something sweep? I mean, he gave her Nolan as a learning tool. He has always pushed her.
TVLINE | But for the sake of the greater precinct, he could sit on this information for a bit.
And what’s beautiful is that it is a perfect conundrum. It is a moral decision. Nobody wins. You know he’s trying to look out for her in her career. He knows that this is where she’s supposed to be, and she loves it to a fault. She loves it so much that you see she is still human, and that is the most redeeming quality about Talia. She’s human. And she lied. She lied.
TVLINE | Written or played differently, she could’ve been a total pill, to a point where we’re like, “Ugh, why is Nolan partnered with such a….”
Again, now, she’s always on his ass. But now we get to see these maneuvers that make us go, “Oh crap,” you know what I mean? She’ll go, “Fine, I’ll ram a big rig into the wall, even if I think it’s a bad idea.” At the end of the day, she’s ride or die.
TVLINE | When we lost Captain Andersen, played by Mercedes Mason…. This fan base has been a bit on the quiet side, I thought, but boy, did they react. Were you shocked by that development?
Yes, absolutely shocked. I get chills [watching the funeral scene] because it was not supposed to rain, and we had a ginormous storm. It was eerie because we are standing in rain, watching the processional, thinking about how Mercedes, a part of our cast, isn’t with us. That dynamic of her not being on set every week is weird.
TVLINE | I know you didn’t have a ton of scenes with her, but still….
But yeah, we’re a family, man, so it was hard. She let us know several weeks before, when she knew. But even though I knew it was coming up in a few episodes, when it hit, and we all had to read it, it was hard.
TVLINE | And I’m sure the words on the page didn’t come close to communicating the actual scene of her taking a bullet to the neck, and seeing the life drain out of her.
A lot of that stuff we were not privy to, because it was her and Nathan [Fillion shooting the scene]. But watching it, I was texting her, “Oh my god!” and she’s like, “It was intense.” And I’m like, “No, you don’t understand, the neck…” Can we just pour one out for the homies for the shot to the neck and the eyes rolling up in her head and the slipping into the water? That was the most beautiful thing I had ever seen. I was like, “You killed it.” She said, “If I’m going to do it, take me out hardcore,” so the fact that she went out likes she wants to made me so happy. Mercedes, if you know her, is just one of the coolest human beings I have ever been honored to meet, and if you’ve met her, then you’ve been honored. So, you’re welcome.