PASADENA — Steven Bochco takes some odd twists with his new TNT series, "Murder in the First," in an attempt to make it different than the traditional TV cop drama.
The show's premise is rather basic: homicide detectives Terry English (Taye Diggs) and Hildy Mulligan (Kathleen Robertson) investigate two murders that seem unrelated — but eventually a common denominator emerges.
But Bochco bucks the genre in two ways. First, this is a 10-part series dealing with a single case, rather than the traditional one-case-per-episode style.
Plus, Bochco's main characters are doing a role reversal. The standard police drama has the male cop deal with the likes of a bad marriage, trouble at work and trying to shore up an emotionally struggling partner.
In "Murder in the First," it's the female cop played by Robertson who has all those problems.
"It's the male point of view of that job and of that world," Robertson says.
She adds, "In the research that I've been doing, the most interesting part about the job isn't what these people have to deal with professionally. It's personal. I don't know if I personally could ever witness the things that these people see on a daily basis and then have to go home and be a parent and be a mother. It's really intense."
Robertson says she is excited that the first season will include time to show her character's background, especially her motivation for becoming a cop.
Robertson adds Mulligan to a repertoire of roles, from the sorceress Azkadellia in "Tin Man" (the "Wizard of Oz" inspired mini-series) to a civil servant in "Boss." She says she always wanted to play a cop, but hadn't found the right character until "Murder in the First."
She jumps into "First" from a two-year run on "Boss" with Kelsey Grammer, a series that pushed deep into the lives and minds of those in the political world. Robertson says the contrasting roles appeal to her.
"I go from playing someone so educated and elevated to someone who's blue-collar and doesn't edit what she feels."
Bochco prepared his stars for their roles with a trip to San Francisco to meet with police.
"They took me into this room filled with computers and in the corner was sitting a blonde, cute girl. She was a homicide detective. The more I talked with her, the more I realized that she was the character," Robertson says." She was a single mom struggling with the darkness of what she did for a living.
"It was the polar opposite of her private life that was being a mother, trying to date and figure it all out."
"In the research that I've been doing, the most interesting part about the job isn't what these people have to deal with professionally. It's personal. I don't know if I personally could ever witness the things that these people see on a daily basis." — Kathleen Robertson, co-star of TNT's "Murder in the First"
'Murder in the First': Premiers at 10 p.m. Monday on TNT