Exclusive: Eric Ladin Talks 'Major Changes' Happening on 'The Killing'
Exclusive: Eric Ladin Talks 'Major Changes' Happening on 'The Killing'
Who killed Rosie Larsen?

It was a question that was posed on practically every billboard and in every trailer used to promote the first season of AMC's crime drama The Killing. It was a question that hung over each and every episode. And 13 episodes later, it is a question that - much to the consternation of fans and critics - remains unanswered.

Eric Ladin sees this as a good thing. The actor - who plays Jamie Wright, the loyal, shrewd henchman to Seattle Mayoral candidate (and Rosie Larsen murder suspect) Darren Richmond - believes that the outrage that was seen in the aftermath of The Killing's season 1 finale was a sign that fans and critics were deeply invested in the show. The alternative, according to Ladin, is indifference. And passion, even if it manifests itself in the form of anger, certainly trumps indifference.

If Ladin is right, and the majority of The Killing's considerable fan base returns to check out the two-hour season 2 premiere (which airs this Sunday at 9pm), he insists that they will be in for a treat. The up-and-coming Ladin has appeared on a number of shows with ardent fan bases over the past few years - shows like Mad Men, Justified and Big Love, just to name a few.

BuddyTV caught up with Ladin to talk about the backlash to season 1's conclusion, the direction of the show in season 2, and what he learned from the heralded David Simon - with whom he worked on the acclaimed HBO miniseries Generation Kill.

BuddyTV: Let's talk about the season 1 finale. Surely, you've seen some of the critical reaction, and you've had a chance to speak with some of the fans about it. Some of the criticism got pretty vitriolic. Did you think the reaction was fair, or over-the-top?

Eric Ladin: Well, I thought it was fair to a point. My take on the finale was that I never saw where it was promised to the viewers that we were going to find out who committed this murder. And maybe that's because I don't read all the marketing stuff, and I wasn't in those meetings, but I never saw anything that necessarily promised that we were going to find a murderer at the end of season one. So, for me, [the reaction] was a little shocking.

I think right now, TV is at a place where you try to do something that no one else has done before. People generally like their stories tied up in a neat little bow. People expect there to be some kind of resolution over the course of 13 hours. Ultimately, we took a chance and obviously, a lot of people didn't love it. But, really, a lot of people that I talked to did like it, and truly enjoyed it, and thought that it was really cool.

I think the bottom line is this: The fact that people were as upset as they were, and emotional as they were, obviously meant that we were doing something right. We have a lot of very passionate fans. So I kind of looked at it as a positive.

BTV: Are you at liberty to say whether or not we will find out Rosie's killer in season 2?

EL: I am at liberty to say. It was revealed, I believe during the TCA panel earlier this year. Yes. You will find out who killed Rosie this season.

BTV: Let's talk about what your character is in store for this season. Do you like the direction that your character is going? Are we going to see the same take-no-prisoners Jamie Wright in season 2?

EL: You'll see a little bit of that. But right from the beginning of season 2, there's a major change in [Jamie's] demeanor and his character based on the changes that [Jamie and Darren] are going through. This season is actually kind of fun in the sense that I got to explore different areas of Jamie and his life and his past. You start to learn a little bit more about him, and where he came from, and what made him, you know, not just a typical yes-man. A guy who'd do just about anything he can to get to the top. So that's been kind of a fun journey to go on.

BTV: Earlier, you mentioned that TV has gotten experimental of late. Perhaps it's not a coincidence that you seem to pop up in a bunch of these ambitious types of shows - whether it's Mad Men, Justified, or Big Love. What makes you such a good fit for these roles?

Eric Ladin: The scripts appeal to me, for one. They're the types of shows that I like to watch. So I understand it. I get it. And I've been fortunate enough to get the opportunity to work on those shows. So now I'm lucky enough to be in a position where I can sort of be picky and say no to things that don't interest me.

BTV: Your first major role on television came in the HBO miniseries Generation Kill, which was created by David Simon - best known as the creator of The Wire. What did you learn on that set?

EL: [Generation Kill] was definitely the show that got me on the path to doing these other cable, critically-acclaimed shows. Obviously, there's no better way to start than with David Simon and [executive producer] Ed Burns. The Wire is probably one of the greatest television series ever. And they're methodical. They're meticulous. But at the same time, they allow you to really explore. With them, once you get a hold of your character, they're completely open to that collaborative process. They allow you to come to them and say, "How about this?" or "What about that?" They really put a lot of faith and a lot of trust in their actors.

BTV: Giving that kind of freedom to a relative novice, as you were at the time, would seem to be unusual.

EL: It is. And that's why people want to work with him. A lot of the characters on The Wire, they weren't actors. They were just people they found. And they turned out to be great actors. And he was able to get those great performances because the environment on set was so liberating. If you can work in that sort of environment, it's an ideal situation.

BTV: Let's talk about season two. You talked a bit about what's in store for your character, but how about the show-at-large? What can we expect to see starting Sunday night?

EL: I think you can expect to see a lot of twists and turns. It's funny; right now we're shooting the back half of the season. And for the cast and everyone, when we get the scripts, we're really excited to read them - because it's not all red herrings at this point. You're now really starting to hammer away, and getting to find out who [Rosie's killer] is.

BTV: The news that you're cutting down on the red herrings is sure to make a lot of the fans happy.

EL: Yeah. I think the great thing that [showrunner] Veena [Sud] and a lot of the writers have done is, you'll be sitting there watching episodes this season, and you'll see a lot of callbacks to episodes in the first season. And you'll start to realize why certain things were done or said. Or why the characters behaved a certain way. But they've really done an incredible job of mapping out the entire arc. So I think fans will be really excited.

BTV: Finally, in your twitter bio, you describe yourself as "USC enthusiast, cheeseburger connoisseur, and professional pretender." (Since our interview, "Laker apologist" has been added.) It seems a shame that we've spent all this time talking about that last thing, without addressing the first two. Do you have a quick thought on USC's prospects for next season?

EL: (Laughs) [Quarterback] Matt Barkley's coming back. We've got the best wide receiving corps in the country. And I think [head coach] Lane Kiffin has done a great job recruiting. So I think we're in great shape for next season.

BTV: And your favorite cheeseburger is...?

EL: (Laughs) I'll give you the best cheeseburger in L.A., 'cause that's where I live. Umami Burger. It's, arguably, the best cheeseburger in the world.

Catch The Killing season 2 premiere this Sunday at 9pm on AMC. Visit the official site for more info.

Joe DePaolo
Contributing Writer

(Image courtesy of AMC)