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'Rookie Blue's' Eric Johnson on Luke's Return Episode: It's a 'Huge Turning Point' (Q&A)

The detective rejoins 15 Division after a substantial time away and as he tells THR, everyone is hellbent on getting one of their own back in one piece and reveals that the Luke-Andy saga continues.

Rookie Blue Eric Johnson Still - P 2012
ABC
"Rookie Blue"

Detective Luke Callaghan’s return comes at a troubled time for the cops on Rookie Blue.

With a serial killer on the loose and one of 15 Division’s own in trouble, Luke comes back into the fray to help expedite the investigation. His return also brings up past relationship troubles with ex-girlfriend Andy McNally (Missy Peregrym), whom he cheated on with former love Jo Rosati (Camille Sullivan). Eric Johnson admitted to The Hollywood Reporter that it was “surprising” to find that “there are some Luke sympathizers” still out there after his character pulled some questionable acts in season two.

Johnson spoke with THR about Thursday’s big episode, how Luke’s time away from 15 Division and Andy changed him (hint: facial hair!) and why it was “awkward” – even for him – to come back.

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The Hollywood Reporter: When Luke reappears, he comes at a rather rough time for 15 Division. Can you speak to the events surrounding his return?

Eric Johnson: Luke comes back because of a suspected serial killer and it’s believed that Gail (Charlotte Sullivan) has been abducted by the serial killer, so the clock is really ticking. Everybody on the police force is now on the case and of course, despite Luke’s relationship issues, he’s a really good cop and he’s a great detective; he’s brought into the case to try to expedite and find Gail as soon as possible. I think for everybody, despite the awkwardness that would exist with past relationships, there’s really only one thing on everybody’s mind and that’s getting Gail back safe and sound.

THR: How different is Luke when we first see him?

Johnson: I think you’ll see everything you need to know about Luke and how he’s been based on his facial hair. [Laughs] Luke does what he does best when things are going bad, whether that’s a good thing remains to be seen. Sometimes it’s to his detriment but it’s also what makes him so successful. I think shaving just got in the way of doing his work and throwing himself into it. We saw in season two, he got to a lonely and sad place. A little time away from the Division was a good thing for everybody.

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THR: What is his first interaction with Andy (Peregrym) like? (Watch the scene between the two exes below.)

Johnson: I don’t know if you could spell awkward with a bigger capital “a.” Thankfully they didn’t bump into each other at the water cooler. At least there’s business to talk about. Even honestly, going back, it was the first scene I shot going back to the show so there was a little bit of that natural awkwardness. Like, OK, getting back on my feet again and doing this. At this point, everybody had shot more than half the season. It was a little bit like the kid coming back to school after being away. It was interesting. It played into the situation – and it was also incredibly cold that day so it was important to get the scenes done and get inside as soon as possible.

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THR: What can you reveal in terms of the Luke-Andy saga. How close do they get to resolving their past?

Johnson: [Laughs] You won’t see any sort of resolution on that front in this episode. There is much bigger fish to fry and much more important things and that’s the thing that that both characters realize. Yes, they had a relationship, first and foremost, they’re cops and they’re doing a job as awkward as it may be. Andy would be the first to recognize that Luke is a great detective. His skills are an asset to finding Gail.

THR: How much more of Luke will we be seeing?

Johnson: That’s kind of a leading question. We know that somebody doesn’t .. we know that there could some potential dire circumstances for some. You will see more Luke.

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THR: Now that Luke is an outsider looking in on 15 Division, what does he see? Are there things going on that he doesn’t agree with?

Johnson: I think you bring up a good point. Luke is definitely an outsider now. The opportunity does come up for him to point out some things to certain individuals and how they’ve been behaving and what’s going on and the dynamics in 15 Division and he’s largely honest about it because he hasn’t been a part of it. You’ll see that happen, not only with the usual suspects but also with Frank (Lyriq Bent). He calls out Frank on how his Division has been run and be perfectly candid about it. He gives a little perspective on how he thinks 15 Division has gone in the recent months. It’s a very interesting Division for Luke to be in; he’s not an ingrained piece anymore.

THR: We know Luke is ambitious with his career, so will we see him move forward in that respect?

Johnson: It was alluded to in the second season with how ambitious Luke was so Luke is heading his own special task force, a definite career opportunity. You’re going to see a bunch of that as the season progresses.

THR: What can you say to viewers who are Team Swarek and not Team Luke?

Johnson: What I thought was done really wonderfully in season two is they didn’t just have Luke cheat on Andy. There was emotional baggage there. If you think about their relationship – not the way it happened, necessarily – [Luke’s indiscretion] was probably the best thing to happen. They both have a little bit of growing up to do in that sense. What was very interesting to me was that it was very clear to me that this other woman, Jo Rosati, had really wounded Luke and there was a door that was left half-open. Luke isn’t a guy who talks about his feelings much and we got a sense of that. Sometimes with feelings you make bad decisions and that was very clearly what happened. We all make mistakes right? With that, we got some sexy Swarek (Ben Bass) action, which there was a whole contingent of fans who were happy with that.

THR: Was there a moment from this coming episode that you remember fondly?

Johnson: This whole episode is a huge turning point for the show. It was a little intimidating knowing that: reading the script and having this be the episode I come back in because it’s a huge part of Rookie Blue. Tune in. If you’re a fan of the show, this is an episode you don’t want to miss – and that’s not for my return, it’s for everything that’s going on in 15 Division. It’s a big one.

Rookie Blue airs 10 p.m. Thursdays on ABC.

E-mail: Philiana.Ng@thr.com