‘The Rookie’: Nathan Fillion on the Finale’s ‘WHAT?!’ Moment and Nolan’s New Lady

The Rookie + Nathan Fillion
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ABC/Erica Parise

With all due respect to the Miranda Rights, we do not have the right to remain silent when it comes to The Rookie.

In fact, more folks should be talking about ABC’s consistently entertaining police procedural, which just earned a fourth-season renewal ahead of May 16’s Season 3 finale. Because it is a delight. Part throwback to the cop shows of the ’70s, part exploration of the flaws of modern law enforcement, the show knows what it is and gives us what we want: exciting cases, root-worthy characters, and a steady stream of optimism, courtesy of Nathan Fillion‘s John Nolan, a not-so-newbie LAPD officer with a moral compass as reliable as Fillion’s arresting charms.

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We spoke with the star and executive producer the day before the show’s renewal about the arrival of Nolan’s potential new love, how the show addresses issues we see every day in the news, and a major twist that is heading for the squad. In the finale, Officer Lucy Chen (Melissa O’Neil) heads back undercover with a drug lord, and pregnant colleague Angela Lopez (Alyssa Diaz) prepares to tie the knot with attorney Wes Evers (Shawn Ashmore).

And even though he plays a by-the-book sorta guy, the always engaging Fillion had to bend the rules a bit and started things off with his own question.

Hey there, sir!

Nathan Fillion: I have a question that I need to start with.

Oh, OK. Yes?

Damian, you are on TV Insider. Does that give you any stress to get inside TV? I mean, I’m on TV and I don’t think I’m meant to be.

Well, it’s very difficult, because TVs have gotten so thin.

Right.

So getting inside a TV, or the phone people use to watch TV on, it’s been a real struggle.

[Laughs] One of the child actors on Eight Is Enough, when he was offered his role, I remember he said, “How am I going to fit in the box?”

Please tell me it was Adam Rich. Was it Adam Rich?

It could be! [Laughs] It was the youngest Eight Is Enough kid.

The Rookie + Nathan Fillion

(ABC/Erica Parise)

OK, so now that we have that out of the way, this is a cruel way to end the season.

Is there a nice way to end the season?

You know, everyone could go to Lopez’s wedding and be happy and dance.

Those [writers] don’t turn in and go, “Oh, that was a great show. It seems to wrapped up quite nicely.” No, you’re going to leave them on “WHAT?!” And then credits. [Laughs]

And you as star and executive producer, how much of a hand did you have in saying, “OK, we’ve got to do that ‘WHAT?!’ moment?”

Oh, I’m so glad you asked this question. Absolutely none. So, I am — what’s the opposite of a micromanager? I’m the hands-off [manager].

Like the silent partner?

That’s it! My strength lies in ensuring that the right people are in the right places to make those decisions. Listen, I love houses. I would never build a house. I would find a guy who knows how to build a house. I may have an opinion on houses, but I couldn’t figure out what’s going on in the walls or the rafters. I am gonna leave that to someone smarter than me.

So you’re saying, when the fans scream at the final scene, it’s not your fault?

Not my fault! I mean, if they’re happy, I’ll take credit, yes. If they’re enjoying themselves and having a good time. Yes. If they’re really, really upset, I always say, “Hey… I don’t write these things. I’m just the guy.”

So instead of talking about the end of it, let’s talk about the beginning of this episode because they introduced Jenna Dewan‘s character Bailey immediately, and what an introduction! This character really clicks with Nolan perfectly.

Right! And much like Jenna, she really pops. She’s got a great energy. She’s just very warm and she draws you in and that’s a great quality. I love that we’ve introduced her at the tail end of Season 3… kind of smoothing out that transition a little better and giving us something to want for and hope for in the coming season. And she’s clearly confident, even in her — what’s the word I’m looking for? — vulnerable introduction. [Laughs] She has a very vulnerable introduction, but even in that, she was still on top of it. And I think again, that’s one of those attractive kinds of drawing-in qualities.

The Rookie + Jenna Dewan

Jenna Dewan as Bailey (ABC/Erica Parise)

It’s interesting how your on-the-job storyline starts with Nolan injuring himself while chasing a perp but becomes a look at how some arrests lead to District Attorneys over-charging suspects. The show has done such a good job all season long of exploring systemic failures within the police departments, without it being damning.

You know, we’re not the first cop show on TV. So our take is “How do we approach this in a fresh way? What’s the fresh angle?” And for us, that is we’re going to try to lean on accuracy. We’re going to try to accurately represent the LAPD. We’re going to try to accurately represent the job. It’s not, “I’m a lone-wolf cop who bends the rules to get the bad guy.” We’re seeing now that’s actually a trope that’s kind of dangerous disinformation at this point. It’s feeding an idea that’s wrong to the public in general.

So by virtue of our accuracy, I think we can simply become more a part of the conversation than a part of the problem. All we have to do is say, “This is something that’s real and this is something that’s actually happening. This is the long and short of it.” We don’t have to solve the problem. We’re not going to, not on our TV show. We just have to say it out loud.

We spoke at the beginning of the season and you mentioned how much fun you all have filming the show. But because of COVID protocols this season, there weren’t a lot of times you all got to work together. I can imagine next season when things are a little easier, you can’t wait to get the whole squad together.

Yeah. There have been a lot of — I use the word “tedious” — protocols, yeah. But we all do them. And we all suffer together with a smile on our face because we know we’re keeping each other safe and we know we’re keeping each other employed. We know it could be really touch-and-go, and we’re a heartbeat away from getting shut down every other day. So to be working, to put out 14 episodes during this pandemic, has been a real boon. A lot of our crew rely on the work to be seasonal and cyclical and timely, so we’ve been trying our best to make sure we take care of the people that make our show.

It’s been challenging, yes. It’s been incredibly challenging, but it’s something that we have all done and suffered through together. And I think it’s actually brought us closer.

The Rookie + Nathan Fillion BTS

(ABC/Erica Parise)

Nice. And what can you tell me about your work in The Suicide Squad? Very exciting!

They gave me a list of things I could say! [Laughs] OK, they said I could tell you that it’s the largest production they’ve done thus far. And just from the small amount that I’ve seen, I’ll have to agree. It’s huge. It’s huge. And when you’re talking about the scope that they’re dealing with and the amount of detail that they fill it with, the amount of work that goes into it, I can’t even tell you! The costumes alone…

I’m not allowed to tell you what “TDK,” my character’s name stands for, but I’m going to anyway. I’m pretty sure it’s “The Dark Knight.”

 

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Oh sure. Because that role hasn’t been filled.

I’ve heard that tossed around a couple of times. But it just occurred to me the other day, I was like, “Oh my God. That’s what it is… it’s The Dark Knight.” [Laughs]

The Rookie, Season 3 Finale, Sunday, 10/9c, ABC