The US police force has been under extreme scrutiny since the murder of George Floyd in May this year. George was choked while handcuffed after being arrested for using a counterfeit bank note. While the video of his murder went viral and has sparked outrage and condemnation around the world, as has the police’s behaviour during protests across the US, not every police man and woman is like the one who murdered George. But it’s still up to them to clean house. That’s kind of the theme of the new cop drama Tommy.
Tommy – aka Abigail Thomas (played by Edie Falco known as the mob wife Carmela Soprano in The Sopranos) – is the first female chief of police for the LAPD and it’s a baptism of fire for her. The show aired from February to May this year in the US, before George’s death. But even then, the issues surrounding the police were highlighted.
“We find out that it's not as easy as it looks to do the right thing. There are all kinds of other variables, other people you have to deal with. There are good cops and there are cops that are maybe not so good in the world and certainly in our country. I think we get ourselves into trouble if we try to paint them all as one way or another. I think she's there to make sure that doesn’t happen,” says Edie.
The first problem that Tommy has to overcome is being seen as “just a woman”. It’s not enough that she’s a third-generation cop. It’s not enough that she’s worked in New York, and climbed the ranks in one of the country’s most demanding police departments. It’s clear that her new colleagues and staff are used to being dismissive of women off the bat. And that, Edie says, makes her more determined to slay her detractors… not that she’s going to have to go out of her way to show them up.
“I don't think she plays a lot into that, you know, ‘I'm a woman in a man's world’ thing. That may be more an outsider's viewpoint of what's happening here. She steps into a job she knows that she's capable of, that she knows she can do a good job at. And other people's perceptions of that, it's about them. You know what I mean? She's like, ‘This is odd. This is my job. I was hired to do this job. If you have a problem with it, you're probably going to have to spend some time dealing with it,’” says Edie.
While Tommy is out of shape – her words, not ours – she quickly makes it clear that she’s more than up for the job, pushing her colleagues to get into physical peak… by jogging up the Hollywood hills. Her exercise regime isn’t just for her new team to see, it’s for her psychological health too, adds Edie. “She needs to find out what she can handle on her own, what she needs to kind of job out to someone else, who she can trust to handle stuff, and who she should stay away from. It's the kind of stuff you get to know when you've been working in a particular environment for a period of time. But she's brand new – brand new to the city and brand new to the job. So yeah, she's going to do a little bit of faltering.”
One of the most important aspects of the show for Edie is that they’re not trying to be political. They’re not taking a stand and saying, “We’re the law, we’ll do as we please”. Instead, Tommy is showing viewers that while there are most certainly rotten apples in the LAPD (and every other police service), they do not represent everyone.
“I am very glad that we are not presenting things from a political standpoint. I think we really are coming at them from a right and wrong place. Beyond those, we're not putting any labels on them. The thing I like about the character that I'm playing is, she really has a very strong, solid moral compass. She really is about doing the right thing, and she doesn't feel to me like she's even encouraged or tempted to move in a direction that isn't, according to her, her right and wrong meter,” says Edie, adding that “Tommy has dimensions. She has a private life. There were things about her that I feel give her more than you often see in some of these cop shows or in any shows. And also she’s funny. We have some quippy comments that all the characters said that I actually laughed out loud at.”
As Tommy grows into her role, Edie wants viewers to realise one thing about her character (and by default, so many other police men and women in the service): “She’s a cop to the bone, comes from a cop family. She’s very good at her job, takes it seriously; she’s passionate about it. She has a messy personal life, like many people I know. And she is ultimately a good person.”
Watch Tommy S1 on Thursdays on M-Net City (DStv 115) at 20:50
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