Seattle-born actor Erika Christensen couldn’t put the pilot script for “Will Trent” down when she first read it.
“It was just so well written,” Christensen says of the police procedural crime drama, which debuted on ABC at the start of January. “It just reminded me of the likes of ‘NYPD Blue’ and other classic police procedural dramas. It kind of felt like a throwback.”
Based on Karin Slaughter’s “Will Trent” novel series, the show revolves around the titular detective, who after being abandoned by his parents as a child grows up in the brutal conditions of Atlanta foster care system. That doesn’t stop him from becoming a special agent in the Georgia Bureau of Investigation, and he uses his own history to make sure that no one is abandoned like him.
“I was just completely drawn in by the scripts and characters,” continues Christensen. “It was just something that I really wanted to see on screen. I also wanted to explore it as an actor, too.”
As she was reading the script, though, Christensen didn’t actually know which character in “Will Trent” she was being asked to portray. “There are two female leads. I wasn’t sure if it was Angie or Amanda. When I found out that it was Angie, it made perfect sense. It just clicked in my mind.”
In the TV version of “Will Trent,” Angie is a detective with the Atlanta Police Department. She’s also a recovering drug addict and previously had a romantic relationship with Will, as the pair were raised in the same group home together.
“She’s tough and harsh. But she’s also very layered. She’s self-aware. She’s just a beautiful, interesting and well-rounded person that you want to unwrap the layers of. There’s just something about playing someone who can hold their own against drug dealers, her lieutenants or anyone really. I really relate to her being so comfortable in her own skin.”
Christensen admits that she wasn’t actually aware of Slaughter’s “Will Trent” novels before reading the script.
But rather than diving deep into them as part of her preparation, Christensen was made aware that the two entities are “very distinct.” In fact, only “three books have a direct storyline on show.”
For Christensen, an exciting aspect of working on the show was the opportunity for her to collaborate with Ramon Rodriguez, who portrays Will Trent. Christensen and Rodriguez have actually been friends for 15 years, although she admits that they drifted apart for a period because of their acting commitments.
“We have so many mutual friends and we used to hang out in New York and in L.A. All of a sudden, I got this script and he was attached. So I texted him saying congratulations,” Christensen says.
Soon, the pair would be on set filming scenes as Angie and Will, a process that the 40-year-old actor has unsurprisingly found incredibly rewarding.
“It’s so fun and fulfilling. Every take he does is different to the last,” Christensen says. “It’s just nice that we can share this together after knowing each other all this time. We’re getting to see each other play characters that are so unique and different to what we’ve done before. It has really been delightful.”
Christensen insists “Will Trent” is different from other police procedural shows, too. Not just because of Angie and Will’s back stories, and how growing up in the foster care system affected them, but also when it comes to Will’s depiction of neurodiverse characters.
“There’s an incredible resilience to Will’s battle with neurodiversity. He handles it with ingenuity and intelligence. It’s distinct from the way that it expresses itself and the challenges you have to overcome,” Christensen says. “It’s fascinating to see the way these characters were raised contrasted with where they both are in law enforcement. They’re working through their neuroses and trying to apply their passion to help others in need, and those who have been in similar situations to the ones they have experienced.”
That’s why, ultimately, Christensen believes that “Will Trent” is as hopeful as it is entertaining.
“Society’s relationship with law enforcement has been very interesting over the past several years,” she explains. “It’s helpful to view people as human beings and individuals, not as part of a larger group. Any person in law enforcement, or any politician, I’ve met, they’ve always started with optimism. The show is hopeful like that.”
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