Terrence Howard has had a long career in stage and film, but now comes to television for his first series starring role in the latest Law & Order brand extension, Law & Order: Los Angeles. In this series, Howard portrays senior Deputy District Attorney, Jonah "Joe" Dekker, a position his character shares with Alfred Molina's character, Ricardo Morales. The plan is to have Howard and Molina alternate their appearances on the show. Each character stars in the second half of the episode, which focuses on the trial of the defendant arrested in the first part.
In January 2011, the series was placed on hiatus by NBC following a cast shakeup that included the departures of cast members Skeet Ulrich, Regina Hall, and Megan Boone. Howard's character remains with the show. When the series returns on April 11, it will begin with the revamped episodes and then circle back to broadcast any unaired pre-reboot installments. The timeslot will also change from its previous Wednesday berth following Law & Order: SVU to Monday nights at 10:00pm following The Event. The first season finale is scheduled to air on June 27.
The following conversation with star Terrence Howard and Executive Producer, René Balcer took place before the announcements of the cast shakeup, which in addition to the three aforementioned departures, also includes the addition of a veteran Law & Order actress, Alana de la Garza, reprising her role as role as Connie Rubirosa, who will be moving to Los Angeles to serve as a Junior DDA.
USTOWNHALL SPEAKS TO TERRENCE HOWARD & RENÉ BALCER OF LAW & ORDER: LOS ANGELES:
USTH: My first question is actually for René. A lot of fans were unhappy that the original Law & Order was canceled – the mothership, as you call it internally. Is there any chance that some of the characters from that series could be revived for a guest appearance on Law & Order: Los Angeles or even move to the LA version permanently?
RENÉ BALCER: You know, never say never, so, I don’t know. Realistic chance? Maybe not. There’s always a possibility of a character doing a cameo or something but beyond that, I don’t know. I mean, we have no rule against it, but there is nothing on the books now. We [have] more talent than we can handle, so I don’t really see the need at this point.
USTH: Terrence, as far as I understand it, this is your first weekly series. Even though you won't appear in every episode, how are you acclimating yourself to the grind of a TV schedule?
TERRENCE HOWARD: Well, there's no grind associated with it. You have to remember, I started with the stage. The stage is grind, and then I went to – what do you call it? Soap operas.
I did that for about two years, so those are grinds because [with] the stage, you get to dig in and dig in, and you keep rereading the script, and you keep rereading and learning the character, and you keep trying to find, and maybe there's another choice. Maybe there's something works better – that's a grind.
With these because these are people's lives, you know? I know that, as was explained to me, the first half of the show is a crime mystery. The second half [my half] is a moral mystery. I don't think anybody approaches a moral mystery with the idea of it being a grind. They see it as they've got to find the answer to something, and you search [for] more of a heart.
It's very little work on the body. It's more of a great deal of work on the heart. The words, because they're so honest, they're so easy to memorize. It's a common flow of a conversation so this is probably the easiest work I've ever done because I get to see my character grow. I don't have to relearn a new person every day.
[In movies, you] have three months to get somebody out and put it in a movie. [Here,] I've got 20 years. If the good continues on like what happened with [the original] Law & Order, I've got 20 years to discover this side of me, this moral side of me, so I don't look at it as a grind.
USTH: Thanks to Terrence Howard and René Balcer for speaking with us. Law & Order: Los Angeles returns April 11, 2011 on NBC.