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[Warning: Spoilers ahead for Sunday’s Battle Creek series premiere, “The Battle Creek Way.”]
The Battle Creek duo proved opposites don’t attract in Sunday’s series premiere.
The CBS series’ premiere saw suspiciously perfect FBI agent Milton (Josh Duhamel) join Battle Creek, Mich.’s ragtag police department, which is desperately in need of resources (a working taser would be a start).
Prickly detective Russ (Dean Winters) is the only one in the office not immediately smitten with Milton, convinced the FBI agent did something wrong to end up in Battle Creek. The two men solved their first case, discovering teen Ricky (Travis Tope) murdered a drug dealer in revenge for his half sister’s drug overdose.
In the final confrontation, the men showed off their two very different styles of police work — with Milton using an eloquent speech about morality to convince the teen not to murder again, and Russ threatening to shoot Ricky if he didn’t drop the gun.
In a chat with The Hollywood Reporter, Duhamel and Winters weigh in why their characters are so different, and which mysteries will (and won’t) be solved by the end of the 13-episode season.
Josh, will we get to the bottom of why your character is in Battle Creek?
Josh Duhamel: That’s something my character would prefer never happens. But because Russ is such an annoyingly good detective, he doesn’t let it go and he doesn’t trust my motives. He knows that something happened. This character seems have it together. A very buttoned up, by the book, polished super agent — that’s what he would love everybody to believe, but I never would have wanted to play a guy like that unless I knew he had other stuff going on. And he really does.
Judging from his goodbye party at the FBI, Milton did something wrong there.
Duhamel: Part of the reason he’s there is his past transgressions and things that he’s trying to run from. The question is, can you outrun your past, can you right the wrongs of your past? He believes he can. He believes if he does enough good, it will erase the stuff he did in the past. It turns out, you never really outrun it.
What will viewers learn about Russ as the season unfolds?
Winters: There’s an episode where Candice Bergen comes in and plays my mom, and you get a sense of why my character became a cop. I’m always fascinated with why people become cops. A lot of the questions are answered there. But Russ is a bit of an enigma.
Will we learn why Russ is so prickly?
Dean Winters: There’s no quick answers here, especially for Russ. If anything, at the end of the first season, Russ is still more of a mystery than Milt is. The first 12 episodes is me trying to figure out why this guy is here and knowing that Milt is a liar. We look a lot at Milt and into his past, but you don’t learn a lot about Russ. It’s my journey learning who Milt is. It’s something I hope we explore in the second season
Josh, in the first episode, Milt is pumping himself up by saying “I love it here!” Can you talk about that public face he puts on for show verses how he actually feels?
Duhamel: This isn’t the trajectory he expected his career to have, and it’s because of things that he did, and he knows it. He really believes that he’s got a fresh start here and people are going to accept him for who the new Milt is. All of the hair and the nice suits and everything he does is sort of overcompensation for a guy who is really troubled.
Dean, what’s it like to play opposite a character everyone is always fawning over?
Winters: When you’re on the set and I’m dressed in frumpy clothes and I either have a black eye or I’m being attacked by Rottweilers, it’s not that hard to be frustrated. It’s not that hard to look around and see people fawning over Josh’s character, and quite frankly, fawn over Josh in between scenes. So it’s easy to play frustrated.
Some of the cast went to Battle Creek ahead of the shoot, though the show films in Los Angeles. What’s the key to transporting yourself there?
Winters: I didn’t have the opportunity to go, but Josh and Kal went. We found a lot of places in Los Angeles that were greens and mountainous. We had to search it out. We shot a lot downtown in neighborhoods that were having a hard time kind of like in Battle Creek. For anyone who has spent time in the Midwest, you see it in the clothes, you see it in the furniture .
Josh, you haven’t done as much television in recent years. What’s the most challenging part to return as a co-lead of a show?
Duhamel: It’s the pace at which TV goes. I’d been off of it for about eight years. There’s a lot of dialogue, and this specifically — David writes in a way where if you miss something everything sort of unravels. You can’t really riff. The amount of homework that I had on this was intense. But it was also really rewarding.
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