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TELEVISION Out 'Major Crimes' actor talks LGBTs in Hollywood
Special to the online edition of Windy City Times
by Nina Matti
2017-08-09

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With five successful seasons under its belt and a sixth on the way, TNT's hit drama Major Crimes is making waves.

Windy City Times chatted with the series' Phillip Keene, who plays LAPD civilian investigator Buzz Watson, to get his take on the show.

Windy City Times: How's your summer going? You must be busy with shooting season six!

Phillip Keene: That's right; we're currently in the middle of shooting episode seven. These episodes are going to air in the winter but it's been a little warm and muggy here the past few days, so some of these wardrobe choices... I've sort of insisted with our costumer that I [will only] wear a jacket when we do the night shoots, although last night was really muggy. But it'll look good when it plays in December, rather than having everyone in short sleeves.

WCT: I never thought about that. It must be miserable, especially in California in the middle of the summer.

PK: It can be challenging. But if you're trying to play winter someplace, you know, you can't walk around in shorts and flip-flops—unless, of course, you're in the Caribbean. Maybe then that works.

I think it's just a testament to our show and how authentic we try to keep it, especially with all of the departments. Everybody gets a chance to help tell their part of the story, whether that's with lighting, makeup, hair, costumes and, of course, the writers have a small part. [Laughs] All of the departments really work well together.

WCT: And you all have been working together for so long now, you must have a great dynamic.

PK: It's very much a family dynamic. This Sunday, we are going to a Screen Actor's Guild panel to celebrate our 100th episode of Major Crimes.

WCT: Congratulations!

PK: Thank you, thank you. Combined with The Closer and Major Crimes, now, this is the 13th year of the shows together, and it's just been amazing. I was so lucky to get this when it first came about. I had a really good feeling from the beginning that the pilot was a real winner. And, of course, we ended up doing seven and a half years of The Closer and now we're on season six of Major Crimes. It's been a dream come true—seriously. This is something I've always wanted to do since I was a kid. It wasn't until after I graduated from UCLA that this really started to happen for me. I'm a very lucky guy.... And it doesn't really seem like work. I know that's an old thing that people say, but I think it's true. When you find something that you love, that people feel that you do well, and that you enjoy doing, it's not really work.

WCT: I wanted to ask you about some of the LGBT storylines that have been woven into Major Crimes over the years. Why do you think that representation is important in Hollywood and how do you think the shows have handled inclusivity?

PK: Since the beginning—even before Major Crimes, so I'm going to include The Closer because it's a very important thing to do—it was purposely written to reflect what the city of Los Angeles looks like. ... We were diverse before it became a catchphrase or a buzzword simply because we were trying to reflect the place in which we live.

In the beginning there was a lesbian detective who made a couple of appearances in The Closer, and with the addition of the actor Graham Patrick Martin and his character Rusty Beck, the whole plight of homeless youth and the issues the LGBT community faces we've given a chance to shine on screen. It wasn't like he came in as a stereotype or any kind of cliche. He was a homeless youth who had been abandoned by his mother. Within 72 hours, most young men who find themselves homeless on the streets end up selling themselves for sex. That can't be an easy transition for anyone.

I think bringing this story to the viewers has caused some controversy. I've seen it on the message boards. People feel that we're promoting a certain agenda. The only agenda I can see that we're promoting is that murder is bad and that criminals need to be brought to justice.

The squad acts as a family and that includes everybody. We are not discriminating against anybody. When Rusty came out to the squad, it wasn't a big deal. We had just been waiting for him to have the courage to be able to say that and the environment that was fostered there made it much easier for him.

WCT: How do you think that your own identity has affected your interpretation of Rusty's storyline and how it's represented in the show?

PK: I'm an out actor. I've been married to my husband for [three years]—it'll be four years come October—but we've been together for 24 years. I am playing a straight character on television, and I don't see why that's an issue. As artists we interpret the material, and that's our job. Our job isn't to "act"—it's to illuminate the story and to help tell it in any way we've been given the chance to do. I feel that being on set and being one of the only out gay people on it has probably changed some people's ideas and attitudes about what gay people are.

I've tried to be a positive influence and a role model wherever I can be. Just by living my life, that sends a positive message.

The sixth season of Major Crimes will start in the fall. See TNTDrama.com .


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