The early success of the CBS drama East New York has been no less than “an embarrassment of riches” for series lead Amanda Warren.
In the freshman drama, Warren stars as Regina Haywood, the newly promoted Deputy Inspector of the 74th Precinct — a working-class neighborhood on the edge of Brooklyn in the midst of social upheaval and the early seeds of gentrification. Having family ties to the area, Haywood is out to deploy creative methods to protect her community, though her valiant effort thus far has met all manner of (not-insurmountable) roadblocks.
The series’ cast also includes Emmy winner Jimmy Smits as two-star Chief John Suarez; Richard Kind as Haywood’s right hand, Capt. Stan Yenko; Kevin Rankin and Elizabeth Rodriguez as Detectives Tommy Killian and Crystal Morales; Tony winner Ruben Santiago-Hudson and Lavel Schley as T.O. Marvin Sandeford and his trainee Andre Bentley; and Olivia Luccardi as Brandy Quinlan, a patrol officer who in the pilot volunteered to live in a local housing project as part of Haywood’s plan to “bridge the gap between police and community.”
TVLine caught Warren between shoot days to reflect on East New York‘s positive reception, and to preview this Sunday’s fall finale.
TVLINE | You were the No. 1 new show out of the gate (tying NBC’s Quantum Leap), and season to date you’re only trailing CBS’ own Fire Country. What’s been your reaction to the audience’s reaction to the show?
Oh, it’s been shocking, kind of relieving, encouraging…. You are in the midst of this organized, beautiful chaos in the making of a television program over the course of seven-and-a-half days, and you’re just hoping that people like it. And especially for me, as a native New Yorker, you hope that New Yorkers are really enjoying it. So it’s all been an embarrassment of riches, and we couldn’t be more grateful. I’m just tickled pink about the entire thing.
TVLINE | I’m the “cop show guy” here on staff. Why do you think this was the right spin on the police drama at this time?
What is happening with our show, with [co-creators] Billy [Finkelstein] and Mike Flynn and Michael Robin, is that you have this very strong foundation that a first season always needs in whatever endeavors they’re in pursuit of. And right now we are building on the foundation of telling the truth of the human condition. So we’re just trying to build on what we have, and develop and concentrate and sit with our characters a little bit more. And then you also have the characters who are in the community, and that’s a little different. You have this bridging of the gap that we are exploring and hoping will evolve into something very solid and very real for our viewers to take in every Sunday.
TVLINE | Such as when when Quinlan goes home to the project at night, or when Killian learns that his wife hired an ex-con to be their restaurant’s chef….
Exactly. There are all sorts of bits and pieces. I’ve been telling people that it’s very much a slow burn, so you might get a Killian-heavy episode, and then we’ll go to Morales, or we will go to Yenko or to Suarez, or to Reuben’s lovely character and everything that’s building for him. We keep your crimes that you’re used to seeing in the procedural scope, but we’re also dipping in and out of and weaving through each character’s life or journey when they go home. It’s very beautiful exploring all of that, especially for someone like myself. I’m really enjoying it.
TVLINE | You mentioned Yenko a second ago. Can we take a minute to appreciate Richard Kind in this role? Because when I first fired up the pilot, I’m like, “Richard Kind in a cop drama?” But he’s so good.
Yes, yes, he is always looking for things that are nuanced that we haven’t really seen before his wonderful, very singular character. It’s so creative what Billy Finkelstein has made from Yenko, and it’s really nice to see Richard in a different light, because he’s got such range. He really does. Coming from the theater, as a lot of our actors do — I come from the theater — it’s so very nice to see someone appreciate and be able to tap into other areas of Richard’s range
TVLINE | What do you all have on tap for the fall Finale airing this Sunday?
Oh, I know you wish you’d want to know, but you’ll just have to tune in, and then we’ll see you guys later on in the winter, and that will be fabulous, too. [Following its fall finale, East New York returns Jan. 8, 2023.] But it’ll all be great. That’s all I can tell you.
TVLINE | The case at hand is something about the sudden death of a retired cop who was planning to go public with claims of corruption? And it’s initially ruled a suicide…?
Yes, yes. So yes, we’re going to see some other sides of the precinct, maybe some “ghosts from 74’s past.” And we see how Regina navigates that, as well as Suarez, and what kind of ensues. But we’ve got a really special last moment for you. So, you know, just tune in and it’ll be great.
TVLINE | Are you going to leave us with a juicy cliffhanger heading into the break?
Just everyone hold on. Just hold on and really enjoy it and know that we’re going to come back and deliver answers. It’s a slow burn, everything will be revealed — or, we may hang on. But there’s lot of different stuff coming from our characters, and I think that’s something refreshing for our audience to see — more more of these people’s personal lives, a little bit more character arc and story arc.
TVLINE | Let’s talk about Regina. We still don’t know the thing in her past that made her a a bit of a surprise choice for the Deputy Inspector post, right? The thing alluded to in the pilot?
We don’t, we don’t. And like everyone else in the cast, I’m only privy to the script that’s in front of us. Or the script that’s about that we’re about to pounce on. So no, I don’t necessarily know that yet. But I’m eager to find out. I’m very excited, like our viewers are.
TVLINE | And at the end of the latest episode, DEA Agent Dryden seemed to be picking up what Regina was laying down….
Yeah, just a little! [Laughs] Again, that is a bit of a slow burn. She’s always on guard, so that’s going to be interesting to see, how her personal life coincides with her professional life, seeing as he is in law enforcement himself. It’s just like Regina to make things complicated.
TVLINE | That was a fun piece of acting from you, with her reaction. She is, after all, “Deputy Inspector Haywood,” but this good-looking guy is expressing a clear interest.
That’s right. So, we’ll see. We’ll see. But oh man, that Regina — as much as she tries to keep the peace, it never quite agrees with her. There’s always a little trouble that follows. And that’s always what makes everything entertaining for the people that come to watch.
TVLINE | I watch CBS’ Blue Bloods pretty regularly… We have not met East New York‘s police commissioner or its mayor….
Not on our show. No, we haven’t.
TVLINE | Because in my mind, until you guys show me that your police commissioner isn’t Tom Selleck, and that your mayor isn’t Dylan Walsh, theoretically they could be in the same universe.
As much as we do love the Blue Bloods world and all of that, I think we are definitely in pursuit of something that is a little different and a little special. In a land of reboots and crossovers, we are interested in doing something solid and our own. We’re in our first season, so we want people to get to know who we are first. If [a crossover] does happen, I think that would be very nice. But me personally, I would love to see a world where we just stand alone.