Larenz Tate: The TV Squad Interview
by Kona Gallagher, posted Apr 2nd 2009 11:26AM
After several high-profile movie roles in films such as Menace II Society, Dead Presidents, and Crash, Larenz Tate headed to New York City for a regular gig on the FX drama, Rescue Me. Tate plays "Black Sean," the newest probie forced to contend with Tommy Gavin and the rest of the motley crew at the firehouse.
Tate joined in season four, which had its season finale in the summer of 2007. That November, the writers' strike began, which pushed production of season five back, oh, about twenty years or so. Okay, maybe not that long, but I've moved at least twice since I watched Rescue Me last. The series (finally) returns to FX on Tuesday, April 7.
I got to speak to Tate recently about what's in store for his character in season five, including some good dish on Sean's love life and how FX is planning on making it up to the fans who have been waiting so long for Rescue Me to return.
The fifth season is getting ready to debut; you joined Rescue Me last season, during the fourth season, when it was already an established show. How did you get involved?
I was actually called; they invited me on the show. They were looking to bring in a few new characters, a few new Chiefs, and they wanted to bring in a new firefighter. Most of the firehouses in New York City are heavily Italian and Irish, and not a whole lot of, you know, Latinos or blacks, so they wanted to bring that dynamic in, which I thought was really cool. They called me up and said that they wanted me to join the show, and I said, "yeah!" It's a sweet situation and it has that locker room humor. It's a "guys' guys" kind of a show.
Your character came in with a real chip on his shoulder, and didn't exactly win many friends in the firehouse, especially with Tommy (Denis Leary). How is that playing out in the new season?
It's even funnier, because now on this season, I'm dating [Tommy's] daughter. I work with him-- I'm obviously his co-worker, but with Sean, the challenge is, he doesn't just want to date. He's had a lot of relationships, and he feels that the next person he dates and/or sleeps with is gonna be the one that he marries.
Yeah, and Colleen, Tommy's daughter, loves the idea; that he is really serious and he doesn't want to sleep with just anyone. If he is going to sleep with this woman, it will be the woman that he marries. Tommy gets wind of this, and it's just crazy. He does not want Sean in his family... we have some interesting stuff.
I'll bet; and the whole Colleen thing: We've seen how "well" he's dealt with Colleen's boyfriends in previous seasons. She dated that guitar player or whatever last season, and we already saw how that ended up. Plus you already have this history with Tommy...
Immediately it's a problem (laughs). So the first, early part of the season, we're trying to keep it under wraps. She and I are trying to keep it quiet, but in a firehouse; you can't let anyone know anything in a firehouse. Once you let one person know something, the whole entire firehouse is gonna know.
And so, you know, Sean is doing his very best not to tell anyone, and he tells one person. He starts asking a question, and the rest of the guys immediately know what's going on, and it just catches like wildfire. And eventually, we get to see what Tommy does when he finds out, and that's the funny part.
So that's going to be a big part of your character arc this year; dealing with the wrath of Tommy Gavin?
Yeah, we wanted to up the ante. We did what we needed to do in the fourth season, but now, he's my co-worker, and we don't really get along, but we are brothers-in-arms, and once we're out there fighting fire, it doesn't really matter; you're just watching your brother's back. That's what's so strong about the show: the drama is just so real, and it's mind-blowing. It just breaks your heart.
Yeah, I want to talk a little bit about the firefighting aspect of the show, because obviously it's a big part. You came in last season with a chip on your shoulder, and people didn't seem to trust you. I mean, you don't have to like the people you work with or want to hang out with them, but that trust has to be there. Toward the end of the season, it seemed like you were gaining their trust and respect a little bit; does that continue to go well for you this season?
Absolutely, absolutely. Even more so. The thing about Black Sean is that he's a really good firefighter. Despite the headbutt between he and Tommy, Black Sean's a really great firefighter, and they respect that and they know that.
We have so much new firefighting that we do-- it's amazing. We're not just going into a burning building; we have some crazy explosions and some crazy different things that we haven't seen before on Rescue Me. We still have scenes with monologues and a lot of dialogue, but a lot of days, it's just a lot of action. It's funny, because we have a full season, you know. We're shooting 22 episodes.
I know, which is huge! Your seasons are usually about thirteen, right?
Thirteen, right. Now we're able to do far more, and you're going to be far more invested in each and all of the characters' story-lines. Usually it's kind of hard to get into everybody's story-lines and find new things to talk about in such a short period, whereas this season, we have a full order and we're able to really get invested with each and everybody and get back to being an ensemble.
My relationship with Colleen is one thing, but my relationship with Tommy and the rest of the guys is another. Now, when we peel off the layers, Tommy and Black Sean are a lot more alike than is realized in the beginning. There are similarities between Colleen and Black Sean's relationship in regards to Tommy and his wife's relationship. There's a parallel, so there's going to be a common ground that Tommy and Sean are on.
The thing about Rescue Me, which is kind of fun about the show, is that the death rate on it is probably higher than any show on television...
(Laughs) Oh my god.
So when you were talking about how you have 22 episodes, the first thing I thought was, how is everyone going to survive 22 episodes?
(Laughs) If I told you, then you wouldn't watch! The cool thing about it is that even as the season is coming to an end in terms of filming, we've been able to keep a lot of things fresh and interesting, and the story-lines have been an emotional roller coaster. You go up, you go down, you go sideways... and as actors, we're still invested in it. I just think that the producers and the writers are more refreshed; they're more focused and they've been able to really give us some great stuff for such a long season, so I think people will be really impressed and really pleased with what we're bringing them this season. It's just great.
Rescue Me has been off the air for quite a long time, due to the Writers' strike. I have moved twice since I watched the last season finale. Is there a concern about people coming back to it? How are you guys dealing with that?
I think, the core audience, we won't lose. They've been doing reruns, and these things called "minisodes," to give people a teaser and to let them know that we're coming back and to not move along too far. But because we have such a long season, I believe people will be able to find the show. It's not going to be two weeks of press and the premiere, then that's it. Because we're on for so long, people are gonna find the show.
It's going to be on for 22 consecutive weeks, right?
Correct. The 22 will not be broken up. The 5th season is an extended season.
Even though the 5th season hasn't even premiered yet, you guys have already been picked up for a 6th season, haven't you?
It looks like everyone wants the sixth season to happen, so yes.
It's funny, because you have the job security of knowing the show is going to be around and it's not going to be canceled, but at the same time, you are also on a show with Tommy Gavin, the most dangerous man in New York City.
(Laughs) Again, we'll see. Without giving anything away about the characters or story-lines, so far so good. We'll see what else is going to happen, but so far so good.