New romance, old adversaries and, as always, great music is in store on the new season of CBS's procedural hit "Cold Case." To hear star Kathryn Morris tell it, the show has a renewed spark as characters are being fleshed out more and, of course, the cold cases that Morris's Lilly Rush and crew uncover and solve are as compelling as ever. Morris took some time off from dusting off cold cases to tell Jim Halterman about how Lilly is going to handle the return of flame Eddie Saccardo (played by Bobby Cannavale), how Daniel Baldwin has the devil in him and her hopes that the "Cold Case" ride isn't going to end anytime soon.
Jim Halterman: When you first signed on to headline the show seven years ago, did you have a feeling "Cold Case" would click with viewers?
Kathryn Morris: When I did the pilot, I had a very strong instinct that it would. It wasn't just the elements on paper but it seemed like it would be a good idea and it was a very unique hook in the show with the flashbacks and music. Then, there were also no female cops. There were no female-driven shows at the time in this arena and so that was a new thing. However, that, to me, was the weight of the world. I thought, "Wow, if this thing tanks I might have something to do with it!" [Laughs.] It was exciting. Good butterflies.
JH: The show is now starting its seventh season. Procedural dramas on television seem to have such a nice, long life. Any thoughts on why?
KM: I just think that it's just a very comfortable formula. People know that there's going to be a good mystery, things are going to be wrapped up at the end of the hour, you're going to get a good dose of television and something will be made right in the world, with 'Cold Case' in particular.
JH: You have 134 episodes under your belt as of the end of last season. At this point, are you still learning things about Lilly or do you know her as well as you can?
KM: We have a new set of executive producers last season and this one and they really bring fresh, new life into the series which is why I think we got picked up for a seventh season. They took the classic blueprint of "Cold Case" and just kind of turned everything on its head so the characters are evolving even more than we realized. Because of the fallout of the strike, it really gave us access to some good writers out there. Many writers, after the whole trauma of the strike, these writers thought, "I really want to work on a show that I really want to work on," and this is such a playground for writing for a different period and having you make it pointed and universal in the present day. With the new writers that we have and the new dynamics of what we have coming for each of our characters this year... I learn all kinds of new things about Lilly all the time. I know who she is completely but I love to see, "Oh, how's she going to handle this?," or how she's dealing with something else at the same time. She's got a full plate that's different than the plate she had two seasons ago and now she's overcome certain aspects of her job or her personal life and she's at a new plateau.
JH: This past spring, you did a non-"Cold Case" case about something that was only happening in the present.
KM: That must have been "Officer Down." I really loved that one. I think it could have gone cold but it was really an out-of-the-box thing to do and we've earned the right to do that since we've been on for so long. I think our audience appreciates that and we got such great feedback on that episode and I think a shoot up in the ratings that week. I love Thom Barry, who plays Will Jefferies, and when you're invested in characters for so many years the audience really gets a taste of, "Oh no, I really love him. He reminds me of my Uncle. He's my favorite voice on television." It was a very experimental episode so I really loved it.
JH: Since the show can get really intense depending on the storylines and what your character is doing, do you like it when you get to play lighter scenes or stories?
KM: I like it when we have some suspects that are quite the characters. We did an episode recently where I kept this woman waiting for several hours in the interrogation room because we knew she was going to get antsy and eventually she's going to get annoyed because she's been waiting for so long. So when I come in she's all snappy with me and says, "This is bullshit! I asked for a soda many hours ago!," but I knew that was exactly where I wanted her to be. For me, when the lightness comes out of the truth of these whackadoos that are out there it allows the truth to come out by their own stupidity.
JH: Bobby Cannavale is coming back this season and the chemistry is really strong between the two characters. Lilly has always been so guarded so how is this time different?
KM: We've had a few different love dynamics before but at this stage in the game, I think Saccardo represents a cop who's on equal footing with Lilly and they both have had to blur the lines to get the job done so I think there's a deeper understanding. It's not like we're going to go for candlelit dinners but it's more like, "Hey, I'm a narcotics cop and I've had to get down and dirty and take care of some serious stuff. I respect you." They make each other better cops and they've walked in each other's shoes so there's not as much to talk about. Maybe earlier in the series, Lilly was going through different things and she wasn't going to return a guy's calls and now she's evolved and Saccardo is a real man. He's a cop and a man, he's rough around the edges and so is she. He gets her to lighten up a little bit and she gets him to not take himself so seriously. In the end, people want Lilly to solve the case and for us to wrap things up in the montage and not have a wedding episode and all that.
JH: You had some fiery scenes with Daniel Baldwin last year. What can we expect this season when he shows up again?
KM: I love him. When you've lived in Daniel Baldwin's shoes there's something else that you bring to the party. It was really great to go toe-to-toe with him and so much so that he worked his way into the cat and mouse game we're going to have this season. Saccardo will be helping me navigate that situation and, in a way, I have to take justice into my own hands and question my own integrity and character and how to protect myself and also stand up for myself. To answer your question more directly, I love the Pandora's box that's opened about the cat and mouse game. We're just going to try to mess with each other and the ante is going to be raised every step of the way. He's just got a devil inside of him and it really works. There's nothing more exciting to me than when Lilly is getting a little rattled and she's having to deal with some vulnerability and sensibility and she just sticks to the landing and goes toe-to-toe with a badass.
JH: Last season, there was the more personal story with Lilly's father (played by Raymond J. Barry). Is that personal kind of story a different muscle for you to utilize as an actor?
KM: Reflecting on the seven years, Lilly, in the beginning, had no personal life. "Don't ask me about my diary! Don't ever look at my cat with the one eye! Just leave me alone!" As time has gone on, her mother drank herself to death and now with her father she's having blow ups at him and he's still stuck around and they kind of like each other. There's a respect and there's caring and love there so now I think she's going to let somebody in and the way it's going to play out there's going to be some other drama that goes on with her dad and his other children and what's my role in that. It stirs some old feelings but also opens some possibilities to not be so brooding and by myself. Maybe that family dinner wouldn't really kill me but I might learn something about myself. Maybe I'll actually put a case down for a minute and might gain something. Maybe I'll be a better cop if I took a night off for the crazy family dinner.
JH: Music is such a big deal on the show as evident in the way it is incorporated in episodes. Ray Charles is featured in this weekend's premiere. Who else is coming up?
KM: We have an all-Philly soul music episode coming up. Right now, we can pretty much get anyone we want and that's a compliment being the little show that could. Now I'm always saying, "Do you think we can get Led Zeppelin now?"
JH: Any thoughts on the future assuming the show keeps going a few more years?
KM: We have such a great family here and the cast and crew couldn't be closer. We're so blessed in this environment and I would love for it to continue with all things prosperous and beautiful and on an upswing and that's where I feel that we are.
"Cold Case" kicks off season seven this Sunday at its new time, 10:00/9:00c, on CBS.