Dante has a complicated relationship with Robyn McCall (Queen Latifah), as they both want to see justice done but he’s also tasked with upholding the law that Robyn and her crew often flaunt. It’s not an easy alliance, but how is it to play?
Tory also told us what it’s been like working on this re-imagining of the classic series and whether or not we’ll learn more about Dante as the first season goes on. Discover more about him and his character in our interview, then don’t miss a new episode tonight on CBS at 8:00 p.m. ET/PT!
Precinct TV: What was your initial attraction to The Equalizer and to the character of Marcus Dante?
Tory Kittles: I said yes before I ever read the script. I said yes because I knew Queen Latifah was attached, and I wanted to be a part of it. And then I read the script and I thought oh, I’m glad it’s good. I knew it would be good because of the people involved in it. Queen, Debra Martin Chase, Shakim Compere, John Davis, John Fox, Andrew W. Marlowe and Terri Edda Miller.
The character just keeps growing and getting better every episode. It’s been an exciting journey just from start to finish. Where we are right now—we haven’t finished the season—the whole process has been really exciting.
PTV: You’ve played police roles in other projects, most notably the first season of True Detective. Do you carry anything from those similar types of characters into a role like this, or did you start totally fresh with Dante?
TK: You take all of the characters with you, whether consciously or unconsciously. Everything that you do becomes a part of you. So I think a lot of the cops that I’ve played, detectives I played, they inform just the foundation of his detective skills. Not the individual choices and the specific choices that Detective Dante would make. But I definitely think there’s something about being a cop.
My great-great-grandfather was a cop, and so there’s also that history that I’m always sort of mindful of. And I try to make sure that you remember that they’re people; they’re human beings, they have lives. I like to start from that place before I get into any judgments about what this guy is going to be and not be. And obviously, the writing forms most of the choices, so I just try to honor what the writers’ intentions are.
PTV: Sometimes in series where the cop is the foil, we don’t see much of them outside their work. Will The Equalizer show us more of who Dante is other than a cop?
TK: You’re going to get to know a lot about Dante. You’re going to get to discover a lot about him and McCall’s relationship. Going to get into his personal life. Why he is the way he is, the way he does things. A lot of those dots will be connected as the season goes on.
PTV: You have an interesting balancing act—he has to be smart enough to be competent, but always just a step or two behind McCall. How is that for you to play, so that your character is still fully three-dimensional?
TK: I think that’s in the writing. It’s always there. We had great conversations and a lot of conversations early on about tone and what we were trying to accomplish with the character, where the character is set within the piece as a whole. We’ve got a great room of writers, and it’s all Terri and Andrew at the head of that. They’re very smart people and they played out a gang of great stories, and how all of these things are going to connect.
I’m never too worried about where the character is going to go. I’m more interested in, okay, well, how he’s going to get there? They have a broad view of where it’s going and they also write in great detail about what he’s doing and how it’s going to intertwine with what McCall is doing. I just try to live in the moment, stay in the moment, stay present—and the rest of that stuff always seems to take care of itself.
PTV: We saw earlier this season Dante taking pains to right a potential wrong, so is it safe to say that The Equalizer is giving him a different perspective than the usual black and white of some TV cops?
TK: With Dante, he is not black and white. I think he lives within a world of gray. And within that gray, there’s even lighter shades and darker shades of gray. I think he’s a good man within a system and he’s trying to do the right thing. Sometimes doing the right thing means going back and correcting your mistakes. Sometimes you have to go backward, to go forward. And I think that’s the way he views the world.
He’s not willing to get himself dirty if it’s in service of doing the right thing. The conflict comes when he brushes up against the line. Because he does have boundaries. And when he gets close to those boundaries, he has to make a decision. He has to make decisions to say, am I willing to cross this line? And what does that mean? Not only for this specific case, but what does that say about me as a man?
PTV: Any chance he gets involved in more of the action? Because we’ve seen from your past role on Colony that you’re very good at that.
TK: I will tell you, I am more than happy watching Robyn McCall whip ass every week. Tory Kittles loves to see Robyn McCall whipping ass. Whether or not Detective Dante gets to kick some ass, we’ll see.
PTV: Now that you’ve lived in Dante’s skin for a little bit, what’s been the most surprising or interesting for you in this first season of The Equalizer?
TK: What I’ve been surprised about is every week I get an episode, and things come up about Dante that we talked about before we ever started shooting the season. They’re little nuggets that are golden about who he is and why he’s doing the things he was doing. That’s what I’m loving. I’m loving being in the process of all of that, letting it unfold. That’s been exciting for me. So every week I’m surprised.
Like, okay, you’re going to find out a little bit more about who he is. That’s great. And it’s not done in a way that I probably would’ve done it…It’s done in a way that’s surprising. And so if it’s surprising for me, as the guy playing the character, I think it will be even more surprising for the audience.
PTV: Is there anything you want to say to the audience as we enjoy the rest of season 1?
TK: Keep watching the show. You’ll be surprised. If you have one idea about where you think this is going, I can tell you that you’re wrong.
The Equalizer airs Sundays at 8:00 p.m. ET/PT on CBS. The series has been renewed for season 2.