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    Saturday, April 20, 2024

    Ramon Rodriguez of ‘Will Trent’ talks Season 2 of the ABC show

    Solving a crime in broadcast TV land isn’t difficult. Finding a hit show that can last several seasons in broadcast TV land is only getting harder.

    ABC believes it may have its own “Blue Bloods” or “Chicago PD” with “Will Trent,” a police drama that is airing its second season at 8 p.m. Tuesdays.

    The procedural, based on a series of best-selling books by Atlanta author Karin Slaughter, is not only shot in Atlanta but also set in the city. The first 13 episodes drew an average of about 10 million viewers after 35 days of viewing via ABC and Hulu platforms and received a quick second season renewal before the first season finale last spring.

    Ramon Rodriguez, who plays Trent, said he is happy to be back to work after a months-long delay courtesy of the writers and actors strikes last year.

    “Everyone is really charged and excited,” said Rodriguez in a Zoom call with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution on a recent Saturday. “It was great to see everyone again. It felt like seeing your old classmates. We’re in our sophomore year!”

    His character, raised in a foster home and now a super effective agent for the Georgia Bureau of Investigations, apprehended a serial killer at the end of season one. Played by Greg Germann (“Ally McBeal”), the criminal had almost killed his closest childhood friend and gritty Atlanta Police Department homicide detective Angie Polaski, portrayed by Erika Christensen (”Parenthood”).

    He also learned the fate of his mother, who died when he was born, and was told his boss Amanda Wagner (Sonja Sohn) saved him from death as a baby. Unfortunately, as a single woman in the 1980s, Amanda was unable to adopt Will but she quietly made up for it by nurturing him as a detective when he became an adult.

    “There’s some fun unlayering that we’re going to get to do and explore,” Rodriguez said. “Will has some hints of where he came from. He knows he has a crazy uncle. He has some connecting points. We gravitate toward this point of identity. He doesn’t know much about himself. He’s picking up these breadcrumbs about his life and trying to put together the puzzle: ‘Who am I? Where did I come from?’”

    Rodriguez takes none of this success for granted given his own struggles in Hollywood after nabbing major roles in TV shows like ABC’s “Day Break” (2007) and Fox’s “Gang Related” (2014) that didn’t last.

    “They don’t give away second seasons for nothing,” Rodriguez said. “We are trying our best to create something compelling and captivating at a time when people have a lot of options, maybe too many options. We give you emotional journeys and an interesting crime that may tie into a character’s own story. We add a layer of humor and we have a chihuahua.”

    Trent’s sweet emotional support animal is Betty the chihuahua who he adopted season one. The dog, who actually answers to Bluebell, does not have a real life stunt double. “During rehearsals, we’ll use a stuffed animal that sits on the mark until she’s ready to do her thing,” he said. “She is wonderful. I missed her too!”

    The complicated Angie/Will dynamic doesn’t get any easier season two. “These two have been through so much together that only they know,” he said. “They know each other’s darkest secrets. They sometimes mix it up romantically and that might not be the best thing but they can always count on each other.”

    Slaughter, who is working on her 12th Will Trent book, said in a separate interview that she has already seen the first three episodes of season two and is happy with how they are maintaining the spirit of what she writes.

    “They’re able to capture that balance of humor and bad things happening,” she said. “At the end of the day, it’s about the good guys figuring out how to stop the bad guys.”

    The specifics between the show and the books, she noted, are not always the same.

    Rodriguez’s Trent, for example, is Hispanic and on the short side, evoking a bit of Tony Shalhoub’s character in “Monk.” The book version of Trent is tall and blonde.

    “It’s really a gift to me that he doesn’t look like my Will because I don’t cross them in my head,” Slaughter said. ”My Will in the book also doesn’t talk much. He has three pages of thoughts, then says, ‘Yes.’ You can’t do that on TV. Nobody would watch that!”

    In the book she’s currently writing, she has a chef cooking a Puerto Rican meal. “I asked Ramon about it and he helped me out,” she said. “In the show and in person, he’s such a sweet guy. They’re both very attentive and watch and listen a lot.”

    She also enjoys how much the show highlights Atlanta.

    “I get weird texts from friends who say, ‘Oh, I was at Oglethorpe [University] and your show is filming there’,” she said. “Another one texted, ‘Oh my God! Erika Christensen is in the restaurant.’ I just tell them not be weird when they come up to her.”

    She hasn’t had a chance to visit the show this year yet but enjoyed strolling through Eagle Rock Studios in Norcross last year where the set pieces are located.

    “I try to stay out of their hair but it’s really fascinating to see,” Slaughter said. “The first time I walked through the GBI set, I saw WIll’s office, Amanda’s office. It looked really close to GBI headquarters on Panthersville Road [in Decatur], an aesthetically styled 1970s office. It’s nice compared to the Atlanta police precinct’s grungy, rundown look.”

    ______

    If you watch

    “Will Trent”

    8 p.m. Tuesdays on ABC, available the next day on Hulu

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