Thursday, March 23Welcome

Feds showrunners tease winter crossover event, Garza’s health, Chenford’s date

The Rookie universe is ready for its go at a beloved network television tradition — the crossover episode.

On Jan. 3, both the flagship series and its spin-off, The Rookie: Feds, make their mid-season winter premieres with back-to-back crossover episodes that see John Nolan (Nathan Fillion) and Simone Clark (Niecy Nash) teaming up, along with their colleagues at the LAPD and the FBI, to solve a bank robbery that goes haywire. EW has your exclusive first look at the episodes, via photos and a clip.

There’s also some outstanding questions from their fall finales. In the case of Feds, we’re anxious to know if Agent Garza (Felix Solis) is okay after collapsing in a cemetery in the final moments of the most recent episode. The Rookie didn’t leave us hanging quite so badly, but we’re still dying to know how Tim (Eric Winters) and Lucy’s (Melissa O’Neill) date goes.

In advance of the shows’ premieres, which also mark a new time slot for The Rookie on ABC, we called up the showrunners, Alexi Hawley (The Rookie) and Terence Paul Winter (The Rookie: Feds) to interrogate them about what we should expect.

The Rookie Feds

The Rookie Feds

Raymond Liu/ABC Niecy Nash and Nathan Fillion on ‘The Rookie: Feds’

ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: You both ended your seasons on cliffhangers of sorts. For Feds, Garza appeared to have a heart attack while visiting the grave of his lost love. The Rookie was a little less stressful – Tim and Lucy are finally going to go on a date. Will this crossover give us any immediate updates on either of those situations?

TERENCE PAUL WINTER (The Rookie: Feds showrunner): I don’t know about you, but I’m very concerned.

ALEXI HAWLEY (The Rookie showrunner): In terms of updates, yes. On both fronts actually. We never mess with the audience, so if we leave you hanging, we’re going to pick it up when we come back.

How stressed or worried should we be about these folks?

WINTER: I don’t know. Like I said before, I’m very concerned about Garza. He’s one of our favorite characters. Things are not looking good, but fingers crossed things are going to work out for him.

HAWLEY: I just loved how in episode 9, how much of a family they’ve become in such a short amount of time and how they really did risk everything to try and save him. We’ll definitely carry that love for him forward as he’s going through whatever the aftereffects or repercussions of dropping at the graveside are.

You guys have found ways to weave characters from both shows across the series all season. Can you tell me how this crossover event might differ from those pop-ups that we’ve had all fall?

HAWLEY: Well, this at heart a case crossover. We do have characters who do cross from one of the shows to the other, but ultimately, the case that gets launched in The Rookie episode 10 takes a hard turn in Feds episode 10. There is a satisfying conclusion to a certain extent in The Rookie, and then it gets handed off to Feds as it goes to separate direction.

WINTER: And our favorite feds get the assist from our favorite former rookie at the LAPD. Nolan is going to join our federal agents to take on the handoff of what happens at the end of The Rookie and carry it forward and ask more questions. It takes us into a new mystery, which, we hope to conclude in a very exciting and satisfactory way.

Often, we see people on The Rookie saying, “I want to be a detective. I want to be a T.O.” Is anybody going to get a desire to be a fed at some point?

HAWLEY: Oh, from Rookie? I don’t know. We haven’t really talked about that. It’s a completely different mindset being a fed versus a patrol officer or detective. But it does happen, so I don’t know. We haven’t really gone down that road.

WINTER: But it’s a good idea.

Alexi, you really drew things out with Chenford for us. So, are fans going to be happy? No relationship is all sunshine and roses, but will we at least get something satisfying there?

HAWLEY: Ultimately it was important to get there in an organic way. He was her superior and her training officer for several years on the show. The 13 months of her rookie year were two and a half seasons of our show. We couldn’t just jump right into it. Once we started to go down that road with Dim and Juicy and the undercover work and everything, the last thing I would want to do is rush it or to do it in a way that felt surface. Audiences like romance; that’s what they want more than anything. The big Chenford fans have always seen this as romance, even when it’s not on the page, so to speak. But we’ve got to a place now where we have to keep going forward with it. There will have to be obstacles, there will have to be drama, there will have to be stuff, but never in a manipulative way. That would be really mean to the audience.

Terence, since Alexi was saying that sometimes people were seeing this on the page even when it wasn’t there — we’re still discovering these characters and who they are, but has there been any shipping that you’ve heard of that has surprised you?

WINTER: There’s no shipping yet on Feds that’s taken me off guard. But just like on The Rookie, we like to let these things organically happen. We get surprised with the journey of our characters, how they take shape as they go. Being on The Rookie, for instance, when I started on season 1, Alexi didn’t plot for Chenford to happen. That wasn’t an original game plan that Alexi had moving forward, but it happened organically. Alexi was really smart and wise in how he didn’t rush it, didn’t force us, just let it come about naturally. So, we’ll see what happens. We don’t want to rush anything on Feds, but there’s nothing yet that has taken me off guard.

HAWLEY: Romance has been baked a little bit more into the DNA of Feds. It probably is more conducive because it operates in more the one-case or two-case landscape, so there’s room for that to breathe. But even back in episode 4 with Mark Atlas (Deniz Akdeniz) and Laura (Britt Robertson) and that hotel sequence, which was really great, or Brendon (Kevin Zegers) and Antoinette (Devika Bhise). You hire actors, and if they have real chemistry, you lean into it. I do think that we’ve been a little more overt in our romantic storytelling.

Well, the episode description for the crossover does tease that we’re going to get a speed bump in Brendon’s interest in Antoinette. What can we expect from that storyline?

WINTER: The realities are when trying to date someone in the workplace, it can be very complicated. Things can come up that you don’t see coming, and there can be a blindsiding that can happen.

HAWLEY: No, look, what’s fascinating about Brendon as a character is his past, the fame that he’s walking in the door with and whatever that brings with him. Ultimately that’s a challenge for any relationship.

The Rookie Feds

The Rookie Feds

Raymond Liu/ABC Nathan Fillion and Niecy Nash on ‘The Rookie: Feds’

So, very early on we established how Simone likes to think John could be into her. Since he’ll be joining their team for a little bit, will she be flirting with him? Should Bailey be on alert?

HAWLEY: I mean, Simone flirts with everybody, so yeah.

WINTER: Simone’s very respectful of people’s relationships and especially of John and of Bailey. There’s not going to be any issues. Simone’s a big Nolan-Bailey shipper, so she’s not going to try to get in the way, but she’s also not going to stop being Simone. She is who she is.

Nolan has been doing a lot of contracting work lately. First we saw him helping out Tim’s sister and now that this crossover is teasing that he’s going to do some work for Simone, is he ready to start a full on side hustle?

HAWLEY: Well, he’s got to make those mortgage payments on that house.

With that view, no kidding.

HAWLEY: To be fair, it was a foreclosed, condemned house. That’s one of my favorite things that we did is the house was actually a character in season 2. It had its own arc, which I thought was great. But ultimately, he helps out his friends and it’s a little bit of a side hustle, but you can’t say no to Simone when she asks you for help.

Is her converted garage going to get its own story arc as well?

HAWLEY: [Laughs] I don’t know, but it does prompt a little bit of in-house controversy. I’ll say that.

Simone has this great respect for John, and it’s mutual, particularly because he’s been where she is now. As they team up here, is he going to share any wisdom with her? Or vice versa?

WINTER: Yes, absolutely. Simone carries herself [with] a lot of confidence, and one of the things that we’re going to be playing with in the back-half of the season is the nervousness and anxiety of being a probationary agent. What’s nice about this check-in that she gets to have with John is that she gets to be reminded that it’s okay to feel this out this way. It’s okay to be where you are right now and to keep pushing forward. That’s one of the wonderful things that relationship has because he’s someone who has been in similar shoes and she can confide in him. Also, there’s not that same issue of, “I’m confiding in someone who I work with at the FBI.” This is someone who’s at the LAPD. This is my friend who’s been in this similar circumstance. They have a very special relationship, and it’s nice to touch base with them again. We’re going to do it again later in the season as well. Because that relationship is gold, seeing those two together.

He’s always been wise, particularly because he was older than a lot of the other folks he was coming in with, but would you say that that’s something John’s getting more comfortable with as well? We saw him really be there for his rookie at the end of the fall half of the season.

HAWLEY: I definitely think so, but what I think is really special about him is that he doesn’t just talk, right? He also listens. Nolan would be the first to tell you that he has not lived Simone’s experience. His advice is never prescriptive. It’s just trying to offer up what he’s been through in case it’s helpful to her. I’m sure Simone in her life has gotten a lot of advice from people who are just basically telling her how to act when they don’t know what her life has been like.

You mentioned this case crosses over between the two shows. Can you tease a bit more about it and what they’re going to be investigating here?

HAWLEY: It starts with a literal bang, with a bank robbery that Harper and James are caught up in. The original pitch to me in the writers’ room, which I love, was this idea of, “What would’ve happened in Heat if all the bank robbers got away from that bank robbery and now we’re after them?” I thought that was a really interesting way to get our cops out into the street and have this event and then go out and now we’re hunting people to try and bring them to justice. But ultimately we come across some component to the bank robbery, which is unexpected, and that’s what spins off into Feds.

WINTER: There’s a little something from that bank robbery that becomes a federal matter that our federal agents have to pick up and carry forward with the help of John Nolan.

Historically, prior to Feds, there was a lot of tension whenever the FBI and CIA came in and claimed it was their jurisdiction. Is that going to continue to be an issue? Or now that John and Simone know each other, is there a a little more camaraderie between the two agencies?

HAWLEY: I think there is, but it’s partly because of Garza’s unit. Garza’s unit is designed not to be the bully or “We know better,” which you can get with the FBI because they do things a very specific way and have a sense of confidence that comes from that. Garza comes in, and he just wants the best answer. That helps smooth that relationship, the respect both ways from those two teams.

The Rookie Feds

The Rookie Feds

Raymond Liu/ABC Frankie R. Faison, Nathan Fillion, and Niecy Nash on ‘The Rookie: Feds’

Cutty (Frankie Faison) isn’t shy about his opinions, so how are he and Nolan going to get along once John is there doing construction work?

WINTER: He always has a point of view and he’s not afraid to ask tough questions. Once construction begins, I’m sure there will be ongoing conversations and debates and discussions about how to proceed. Cutty doesn’t mince words, but he has found a fondness for John Nolan, even though he does have a very complicated relationship with the LAPD coming from the backdoor pilot that we did in season 4. Nolan has a little bit of a special place in Cutty’s heart, as well as Simone’s.

This is the first time the shows are airing the same night, back to back. Is this a one-off or a new thing?

HAWLEY: ABC is moving us to Tuesdays at 8 p.m., and then Feds comes right after. It’s incredible. That’s a seismic vote of confidence from ABC, building a night around us. It’s a seamless two hours. It’s really special how it comes together.

If you had to tease the crossover in three words, what would they be?

HAWLEY: Big. Fun. What’s the third one?

WINTER: Dynamic. It’s always a good word. My three words would be Best. Episodes. Ever.

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