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THE last time we saw Taye Diggs (pictured) on the small screen, he was walking down the aisle again in Shonda Rhimes’s spin-off medical drama series, Private Practice.
Now he makes a startlingly quiet entry with Murder in the First, in which he trades in his stethoscope for a badge and a gun.
His character is emotionally bedraggled as his wife has died of cancer. And so he drowns himself in work, with his internal rage and grief rearing its ugly head every so often. Meanwhile, his partner Hildy Mulligan (played by Kathleen Robertson), a single mother, does her best to console him while also ensuring he doesn’t cross any lines.
In similar vein to True Detective, the series revolves around one case. The partners initially look into the murder of two seemingly unrelated cases: one being a drug addict and the other a flight attendant. During their investigation they uncover one common denominator – the wealthy and somewhat temperamental prodigy named Erich Blunt.
On returning to a series after leaving an indelible impression as Dr Sam Bennett, he told Assignment X that he was drawn to the writing and the fact that Murder in the First was co-created by Steven Bochco.
He added: “If it had been about a plumber, and the writing drew me in the same way, I probably would have played the plumber. But I didn’t find a lot of scripts that spoke to me this season. This is one of the ones that did.”
Although he has inhabited a detective role before – in Day Break – he needed a refresher course for this one.
He laughed: “I’m an actor. I have a very short-term memory, so I had to relearn everything. That’s one of the fun aspects of taking on a new character – going to cop camp, relearning how to load and fire a gun. I went to the shooting range… it was fun.”
And some of the cast got to lend more realism to their performances after gaining first-hand insight into how the San Francisco Police Department operates from the inspectors there.
As for working with former Day Break co-star Ian Anthony Dale, who plays the no-nonsense supervisor Lieutenant Jim Koto, he revealed: “Yeah, we have had the same manager for a long time. He is ridiculously talented and even better looking.”
Diggs is also loving working alongside Robertson.
He praised: “Kath is a tour de force and we get along off screen, which helps the chemistry on screen. I love how, as attractive as she is, the writers are not writing any sexual tension right away. So that’s always fun… to be part of something different.”
Murder in the First is not a groundbreaking crime drama series. It is pretty standard in the greater scheme of offerings saturating the genre. However, the talent on the show, as well as how the writers tap into their personal lives – allowing it to spill into their professional one – is what captivates the audience. In gravitating towards the characters’ delicate journeys, they become more invested.
And an invested audience translates to loyal viewers.
• Murder in the First airs on M-Net (DStv channel 101) on Fridays at 8.30pm.