Groggy yet excited, my fiancée and I scrambled to stuff the rest of our toiletries and shoes into our suitcase before rushing out the door. Though the trip to and from Los Angeles was loooong (we even had the pleasure of screaming children kicking the backs of our seats), it was more than worth it to leave behind New York City and our cat children.
Impossibly tall palm trees, picture-perfect houses, and sunny skies welcomed us to the city of angels. We arrived at the swanky Beverly Wilshire hotel (you know, the one in Pretty Woman), walked past glass cases filled with to-die-for heels and precious jewels, and took the elevator up to our room. Besides the comfiest king-sized bed ever, there was a marble bathroom –which was probably the size of half of the apartment –with a tub, shower, and beauty station.
After taking a couple of hours to explore Rodeo Drive and the surrounding area, we hit TNT’s reception, where we were warned that not every guest could be trusted. A party girl –or a “loving” wife– could be a cold-hearted murderer. In true TNT crime drama style, as two detectives from Major Crimes debriefed us on a re-opened cold case, hard-nosed detective Mike chased down a hit man, who he gunned down right in front of us on the hotel rooftop!
Detective Mike shared the evidence he found on the hit man that gave clues to who he was supposed to hit on at the party, and we don’t mean for a date. A coded message, a (pre-paid) cell phone text, and some radio deejay names were all the detective had to go on. Oh and did I mention that we were all detained as witnesses and enlisted to help crack the case? I had no idea where to even start with all of this drama. I just knew I was expected to be a little more than an armchair detective for the weekend. And let me tell you, it’s a lot more challenging than trying to solve a murder by the end of the hour on the living room couch.
We returned to our room to find that it had been broken into by TNT staffers. But instead of finding a threatening note or severed finger, we were treated to scrumptious white chocolate-covered Oreo cookies and beer. It wouldn’t make for an entertaining crime drama but our sweet tooths sure were satisfied.
The next morning, the who-done-it continued over breakfasts of delicious omelets, croissants, and waffles. Junket members were assigned to teams, cleverly named after TNT crime shows. Thankfully (or maybe not) Detective Mike waited until our bellies were full to introduce us to the medical examiner on the case, who gave us the hit man’s identity, and the chief coroner who filled us in on the autopsy report of cold case victim, Duncan Musgrave. Two Musgrave murder suspects were introduced to us, Tony Polifero and his lover, Trixie, a party girl with a criminal record.
Through an impromptu interrogation we found out that Mr. Polifero was the old business partner to the deceased and the two were locked in a series of lawsuits that were never settled, until, conveniently enough, Mr. Musgrave was murdered. With our curiosities piqued and the number of puzzle pieces growing we were told that each team was to sign up for a 10 minute slot to interrogate the new suspects. My fiancée, a self-professed true crime junkie, was designated the interrogator for our team, Major Crimes A. An evidence table was set up for the teams to sort through to start connecting the dots. This was all starting to get a little intense.
We broke from our sleuthing to embark on a Dearly Departed Tour. If you ever wanted to see the payphone where Joaquin Phoenix made that heart-wrenching call about River or where The Black Dahlia’s battered and blood-drained body was left, this is the tour for you. Just be warned: It’s not for the faint of heart!
Lucky me, I then had a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to pick the brains of stars of TNT’s summer lineup! I asked the questions I’ve been wanting to know since I first tuned in, and each cast member was gracious and extremely passionate about the shows.
First up, I had the pleasure of meeting seasoned Texas prosecutor Kelly Siegler and equally talented crime scene investigator Yolanda McClary from TNT’s brand new reality series, Cold Justice. The duo will travel the country taking on a new unsolved crime each week. Whew! Being in the same room with these two powerful women was intimidating to say the least. When asked about their new series, tough-as-nails Siegler explained, “We’re doing something that’s never been done before. We’re going to small towns all over the country, re-opening cases where the victims’ families have given up hope and starting investigations all over again. Yolanda and I are breaking people’s hearts and hopefully doing a lot of good in the world.”
And though her tough-as-nails methods are oft controversial, Siegler does have a soft side when it comes to her children. She said, “I think that everyone should know that if you’re a mom, you always have the guilt when you’re at work, and at work you have the guilt that you’re not at home and that’s normal. The guilt never goes away.” We’re almost sure working mamas everywhere can relate.
Before leaving, the crime-solving pair asked me to check out their premiere episode, which airs on September 3, 2013 at 10/9c and offer them feedback. I’m still flattered.
Minutes later, in walked Eric McCormack (if the name sounds familiar, it’s because he was Will Truman in the hit series Will & Grace), who plays Dr. Daniel Pierce, a brilliant neuroscience professor living with schizophrenia on Perception. With all of the coverage surrounding mental illness in recent months, I simply had to know how McCormack believes that the show is shifting perceptions about those with mental health issues.
He explained, “I feel very proud of it because it really could have gone either way. When your show is essentially a show about puzzles and crime-solving and entertaining people, to put someone living with a mental illness at the center of it is risky. You need good writers who are going to be responsible with what they do and it requires empathy and underneath the entertainment, you’re educating the public. I’m proud of what we did in the first season, but I’m particularly proud of a lot of what’s coming this summer, not only in terms of how Daniel deals with his disorder, but a lot of the other disorders we show in some of our victims and some of our culprits, the people being accused of things.”
When asked if we could expect any romance between Dr. Pierce and the gorgeous, talented FBI agent Kate Moretti (played by Rachael Leigh Cook), he coyly stated, “It’s part of the dance you do on television. If we can keep that going for a while and not have to define that, I think that’s the magic of TV.” Catch the season 2 premiere of Perception on June 25, 2013 at 10/9c.
For all of you Rizzoli & Isles fans out there, Angie Harmon (Detective Jane Rizzoli) and Sasha Alexander (Dr. Maura Isles) had inspirational words for women’s body image. Alexander told me, “I’m very grateful to have a beautiful costar who’s not going to show up next season with her lips injected, and I say that in a really honest way. I actually get mad when pictures are taken of us and the photographers feel the need to go in and airbrush it. I just feel like that’s not who we are and what we need to represent. You know, when I had my second baby, I had a hard time losing my weight and I did feel like I had to fit into Maura’s dresses. And there was a point when I won’t say who, but I had the pressure of someone who didn’t want me to wear anything with my arms showing, and I was like, get over it! These are two women, they look different, their bodies are different. What we want to do with these characters is represent women in their entirety.”
Harmon added, “It’s like that line…with great power comes great responsibility and it’s our responsibility to promote healthy body image, and being pretty on the inside, not just the outside. We’re all built differently.”
You go, girls! It’s refreshing to see celebrated actresses adamant about pushing the industry to celebrate our diverse bodies, not airbrush them into an “ideal.” Join Rizzoli and Isles as they bring the bad guys to justice on June 25, 2013 at 9/8c.
One of TNT’s highly-anticipated freshman shows is King & Maxwell, which centers around two private investigators who push buttons, kick butt, and cause the occasional laugh as they solve crimes. Jon Tenney (who plays Sean King, a disgraced Secret Service agent and one-half of the P.I. duo) told me, “There is something that is deliciously old-fashioned about the show, because it’s a P.I. genre that we’re familiar with but we’re hopefully doing a contemporary spin on it with the different dynamic between these two characters, who love each other, hate each other, and complement each other in different ways. He’s the man of words, she’s the woman of action and it’s a fun play on the stereotypical gender roles.”
As for the direction of this show, he explained, “One of the storylines that will actually span the whole first season is unearthing this mystery of what exactly was behind this assassination that actually happened, which caused my character to be dismissed from the Secret Service. At the beginning of the show, he’s convinced he’s made peace with his past, but slowly throughout the season little layers of the onion get peeled away and Michelle’s like you don’t want to go down this road and that’s going to be an overarching season arc. There’ll be at least one or two scenes in every episode that touch on that so it’s a nice puzzle.” Tune in to the debut episode of King & Maxwell on June 10 at 10/9c.
Last but not least, I had the pleasure of meeting acclaimed actress Mary McDonnell, who helms Major Crimes. As the unwavering Captain Sharon Raydor, she heads the crimes department with a rule-based approach. And though the bloodshed isn’t real, the plotline’s impacts on the cast are lasting. She told us, “We were just taking a breath yesterday on the set because of the darkness of a crime, the tragedy, the loss of innocence. It’s so difficult to embrace as you’re working day in and day out, for everyone. The crew got a little sad, it gets to you and you have to find a way to leave it there and separate. People can talk again and again and again about how it’s acting, but unless you are personally investing some of your heart and soul into serving the story.” Season 2 of Major Crimes will air on the small screen Mondays at 9/8c.
That night, we partied in West Hollywood with the stars. Drinks, fancy desserts, and TNT actors were free-flowing, but the night ended in tragedy. After a detective lineup revealed that Polifero had been arrested for speeding the morning after Musgrave’s death, one of our puppy-rescuing “guests” was poisoned. The body was removed from the scene in a stretcher as his tearful wife mourned his rather unfortunate passing.
The party goers couldn’t resist pulling out their cell phones to capture the action, just like at the rooftop event. In fact, we had just been reviewing some cell phone footage from the other night before a blood curdling scream led us to the dead body of Al Taylor. We were all thrown by this monkey wrench, especially since someone had broken into our room, yet again, leaving behind an item that left us thinking Trixie “the party girl” would be poisoned at the party! Sasha Alexander a.k.a. Dr. Isles observed the smell of a toxin that was in Mr. Taylor’s drink leading the medical examiner, who happened to be in attendance at the party, to call the lab. And dun dun dun! The lab found that (recently exhumed) Musgrave had been poisoned too.
Our last morning, we brainstormed with our team to solve the crime. We were close to winning, but missed the question about who killed Al Taylor. In hindsight, my fiancée remembered the spouse is always suspect number one in a murder. We were commended for our presentation of the evidence, and just a question shy of taking home the prize.
After that, it was time to leave the vast and vibrant city, its big celebrities, and even bigger mysteries behind. I won’t forget the lush grass, sunny skies, and mysteries just waiting to be solved around every corner.
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