‘Lethal Weapon': Clayne Crawford on Why He Almost Didn’t Sign On & Riggs’ Drive in Season 2
Currently in its second season, Fox’s Lethal Weapon is so much more than just your typical cop series or generic reboot of a title that never needed to be rebooted in the first place. It’s a story full of heart and humor, which primarily comes from the friendship and undeniable chemistry between classic cop duo Martin Riggs (Clayne Crawford) and Roger Murtaugh (Damon Wayans), who often find themselves in high-risk situations that they have to rely on each other to get out of.
During this 1-on-1 phone interview with Collider, actor Clayne Crawford talked about why it took some convincing for him to sign on for Lethal Weapon, so soon after his previous series Rectify, seeing Riggs as a cowboy superhero, why the chemistry with Damon Wayans works so well, how Martin Riggs is coping this season, whether he even knows what normal is, the importance of the women in these men’s lives, and why he has so much fun doing the stunts.
Collider: Coming off of Rectify, which you did such beautiful work on, but that also was very heavy subject matter, did you have any idea what you wanted to do next? Did you have a specific type of project in mind, or were you just totally open to reading everything, when Lethal Weapon came along?
CLAYNE CRAWFORD: No, but it’s funny how life works. I was watching the National Championship game and my buddy was in a movie with Ben Foster and Chris Pine, and there was a trailer during the game. I said, “Damn, how great to be in something where your buddies are watching a sporting event and you pop up on the screen! I wanna do something like that!” My wife went, “No, you don’t!” And I was like, “Yeah, I do! It would be cool to be in something where shit is blowing up and I’m chasing bad guys, in the middle of a football game. That would be sweet!” And then, she said, “Are you wanting to work, right after Rectify?!” We hadn’t shot the final season. It was January and I was getting ready to start the final season in April, and I was like, “No, I’ll shoot the final season and then take a year off.” We had talked about going to London and maybe living there for a year, and I was thinking about doing theater. I wanted to just get away and wait until the perfect piece of material came across my desk.
And then, two months later, Fox started calling. I was in Alabama on my phone going, “Get out of here! I don’t even want to know what the project is. I’m not interested in network TV.” They were quite persistent and said, “It’s a really high profile project. I think you should just be aware of it because it’s life changing.” I was like, “There’s no such thing! We’re making movies. It’s not a cure for cancer. Just stop calling me about it!” And then, two weeks later, they called me at midnight and were like, “Look, Peter Roth wants you to come sit in his office, look him in the eye and tell him why you’re not interested.” I didn’t want to tell the head of Warner Bros. that I didn’t want to do his show. And then, they told me that it was Lethal Weapon and that Damon Wayans was playing Murtaugh, and I was like, “You’re crazy, and Damon is crazy! None of us should be talking about this right now!” So, I jumped on the plane and [went out to L.A.], and I read the script on the plane and I had that moment of being a 12-year-old boy, who just wants to play cowboys and superheroes. I was like, “This is a cowboy superhero!” I called my wife and said, “Look, I think I’m gonna say yes, but there’s no way it will make it past three episodes.” And here I am.
This is a show that seemingly had everything working against it, as a cop show among many cop shows, and using the name of a familiar movie franchise that people would automatically be comparing it to, but that wasn’t the case. Instead, you were on one of the few break-out hits of last season, due in large part to the undeniable chemistry you have with Damon Wayans. When did you realize that you guys had such great chemistry?
CRAWFORD: When I finally agreed to [do this], it was Thursday, and they started shooting the following Thursday. They were trying to find this guy for two months and put all of these pieces together. I went in to talk to the guys, and I met McG and Matt Miller, and they wanted me to meet Damon and have a conversation, before I got on the plane to head back out. I grew up with In Living Color. That was my Saturday Night Live. Handi-Man and Men on Film were some of my first impersonations that I would do for my mom. For me, everything those guys wrote made me laugh out loud, and I had to be 11 or 12 years old. So, I went and sat down with Damon, and we just realized, right away, that because I grew up with their comedy, we found the exact same shit funny. I know how to push his funny buttons, so I can get him laughing and cackling sometimes. I was like, “Oh, we’ve got something!” We just find the same things funny, and we’ve been doing it long enough to know what’s expected and to know how to allow the audience to be engaged. It was a perfect storm, me coming up with those guys, and then once we met, it clicked. We agreed, at that breakfast, to just do it and make the best show for us. We went into it with that mentality, and we just got lucky that the audience appreciated it as much as we do.
I love the moment in the premiere where Murtaugh gets caught up in the moment and tells Riggs that he loves him. Do you think he really means that and that the feeling mutual, both for Riggs, and for you and Damon, as actors?
CRAWFORD: Yeah, we love each other. It’s hard not to, when you work so many hours a week with someone and you feel like it’s you against the world. We’re a family and we love each other very much. If you don’t, it would make a terrible working environment.
So, how is Martin Riggs doing, this season?
CRAWFORD: The positive to remaking Lethal Weapon is to explore the other characters in the story a little deeper, and to really delve into who these guys are and what makes them tick. Riggs was quite broken before Miranda. She was just his life preserver. That was the spiral where he flipped out because he lost that. So, Riggs is back to where he was before Miranda. The beauty of TV is that you have 22 hours to tell a story, so we’re gonna really find out who Riggs is and who he was before, and go into his childhood to see that it started out bad. I don’t think we ever want Riggs healthy. The more Riggs is a mess, the more fun it is.
It seems as though Riggs might be the only person who thinks he’s normal now. What is normal to Riggs? Does he even know what that means?
CRAWFORD: In Episode 2, he said, “I’m a normal person, so why do I still feel crazy?” I think Riggs is trying to find what happiness is, what is normal, and what regular people do. That’s his struggle, in Season 2. He’s trying to get his finger on what that is and how he can achieve it. Really, he’s all about string cheese and guns. He doesn’t understand anything else and he doesn’t care to understand anything else, and that plays to the beauty of Riggs. He’s quite selfless. He just doesn’t think about himself, at all. It’s always just what he can do to stop bad guys. If you go back to his family, you can see why he has such a desire to do the right thing.
Without solving his wife’s murder to drive him, what is driving Riggs in Season 2?
CRAWFORD: What’s driving Riggs is trying to find that normalcy. I think Riggs wants to have a life. Riggs wants what Murtaugh has. I think he wants children and he wants to be able to have someone other than strangers to protect. That’s the great struggle for Riggs, this season. He has to really find out who he is and what he wants, and for the first time, because he has a relationship with his partner that he’s never had with any other individual, and he sees how that man lives his life, it’s all very new territory and he’s trying to just make sense of it and find his place in the world.
This is a show that could easily have throw-away female characters, but there are some really important women in the lives of these guys. What’s it like to have that energy on this show?
CRAWFORD: I don’t think this show could be as great without those women. On a very basic level, they’re mothers to these boys. These are just 12-year-old boys, a lot of times, with the trouble they get into, and I think all men are that way. We’re still just these little kids, and we have these women in our lives that keep us on track. If not, we’d just be in our underwear watching football and eating Coco Krispies. Trish (Keesha Sharp) is so beautiful and so needed. She’s this strong woman in the workforce, and as a mother. She balances it all so well, and I know that’s almost impossible in real life, but it’s great to see that. You’re gonna see a lot more of that, this season. And Cahill (Jordana Brewster) is somewhat of a moral compass for Riggs. I know people are die-hard to see the relationship build between those two, but I think she’s just that little angel on his shoulder, at times, trying to guide him in the right direction. The women are a little more bad-ass this year. Men are only as strong as the women standing next to them, and you’ll see that, this season.
Riggs does some crazy things, in the line of duty, and you have some big action sequences on this show. Are you feeling comfortable and confident in the role of action star, at this point?
CRAWFORD: I don’t know if I feel comfortable in the role of action star and I don’t think anyone sees me in that light. I’ve died in every CBS drama there is, so my stunt work experience is getting squibbed and falling off of things. To have the opportunity to come in and work with Tim Trella, who is my stunt coordinator, has been great. We take the stunts and try to elevate them, as much as humanly possible, and that’s the most fun that I have on the show. I get a little nervous doing them. I’ve got a massive fear of heights, which no one knows, and I’m literally on the edge of something, in every episode, with a tiny harness and a strap. The stunts are a luxury. I don’t know if I want to be doing it like Tom Cruise, when I’m his age, but right now, at 39, it’s a lot of fun.
Lethal Weapon airs on Tuesday nights on Fox.