Parenthood was a tough act to follow, for Erika Christensen. No doubt. But ABC’s Will Trent has been delighting the actress with its own unique mix, one of humor and “darkness.”
Reflecting on her six-season run as Julia Braverman on Jason Katims’ Parenthood — which ended eight years ago January — Christensen tells TVLine, “I’m kind of an optimist to a fault, but I knew that it was a unique experience from every angle from which you could view it.
“It was unique as an audience member — certainly at that time, even more so — and it was really unique to work on,” she explains, “because the creative environment was so free and amazing. And the style in which we shot the show was really unique, giving the actors and the camera operators so much freedom.” Coming out of that one-of-a-kind role, “I definitely didn’t expect to have that same experience again,” she admits, “but I was excited to try new things and see what the following chapters of my life held in store for me.”
That next chapter included two one-and-done ABC projects: Wicked City (in which she and Gossip Girl‘s Ed Westwick played romantically entwined serial killers), followed by the series that she most wishes had run longer.
“It would’ve been really interesting to see what the next 10 days in the valley would’ve been like,” she says, referring to the fall 2017 mystery drama on which she played sis to Kyra Sedgwick. “I loved the format of that, and there were so many interesting twists and turns…. I think there was a lot more to that character, too, that we could’ve gotten into, had there been a second season.”
WHERE THERE’S A WILL….
Christensen now is holding out hope that ABC sees more days ahead for Will Trent. In the freshman drama. she plays Angie Polaski, an Atlanta homicide detective who is in a relationship with the titular Georgia Bureau of Investigation agent (Ramón Rodríguez) — and with whom she shares a difficult past.
Thinking back to when she first got a sense of Angie in the pilot script, Christensen says, “She has had such a painful life and such an incredibly traumatic upbringing,” as a child in the Atlanta foster care system. Hardened but surely broken by the often-abusive experience, adult Angie “doesn’t take s–t from anyone — and couldn’t if she tried, and I love that about her,” effuses her portrayer.
Christensen also finds the Angie/Will dynamic “so interesting”; ditto her embattled character’s “more recent history at the bottom of a bottle, or at the bottom of a bottle of pills, knowing that that’s sort of letting the bad guys win, by harming myself further.” Hoping to vanquish those demons, Angie has been trying “to reorient herself,” envisioning both her and Will as “Robin Hood characters who want to prevent any more trauma from being committed against the more defenseless in this world.
“It’s such a good thing for their own mental health to try to help others, and they care a lot about their jobs also, which you want,” she adds. “All of these things just make for really interesting law enforcement storylines.”
THE BEST-LAID PLANS….
In recent episodes, Angie been tormented by the reappearance of Lenny (played by French Stewart), a former foster father who sexually abused her as a teen on. Thus far, Angie has done all that she legally can to get in Lenny’s face as well as tip off the young girl currently in his orbit — all while keeping Will pretty much in the dark. In this Tuesday’s episode (10/9c on ABC), Angie will pursue a new attack plan that Christensen must admit is, well, “ill-advised.”
“For Will’s own protection, Angie is going to try to make some plans which exclude him, and it takes her a while to figure out what she wants to do,” Christensen says, noting that several weeks will have passed since her bus stop face-off with lecherous Lenny.
What Angie will try next to derail Lenny’s new life “sounded like a good idea, but the best-laid plans….” Christen’s voice trails off, into a chuckle. “As she looks closer at the Lenny situation and what few options she feels that she has, and how ill-advised they may be — as if someone’s advising her! — she also has to figure out how to deal with that whilst protecting Will. Because if she has to do something drastic, she doesn’t want him to be a part of it. And that drives them further apart.”
Speaking of Will, this week he is busy going undercover as “Bill Black,” a criminal with a troubled past, to take down a drug organization and find a missing DEA agent. That storyline steers the show into “completely new territory, a new style,” Christensen raves. “It’s like our ‘musical episode.’ It’s just way out there, a really fun one.”
THE SEASON 2 OUTLOOK?
Christensen is cautiously optimistic that Will Trent will be renewed for a second season; in fact, she suspects “it’s just a matter of how many” episodes. When TVLine apprises her of the series’ ratings performance — No. 4 amongst new shows, and enjoying the freshman crop’s best audience growth with DVR playback — it buoys her outlook further.
“I’m so glad, first of all, that you’re telling me this! Because I didn’t know the analytics,” she says. Then speaking to the series’ steady numbers and how those who like the show tend to love it, she suggests that the secret to its (measured) success is that “a lot of the humor actually comes out of the cases, and a lot of the drama comes out of the personal lives. So even though the cases are really heavy, there’s a workplace humor that people who see it every day have, which I think is fascinating.
“The humor itself is also really dark, but it’s funny,” she notes, “and that makes [Will Trent] seem really relatable and accessible.”
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