New York - An odd-couple cop drama with a not-so-buddy comedy streak: That's "Battle Creek," which pairs a hard-bitten detective from the budget-strapped police force in Battle Creek, Michigan, with a golden-boy agent in the flush FBI who seems incapable of making an uncertain move.
Needless to say, these partners-under-duress clash in personality and crime-solving style.
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"Battle Creek," which airs on CBS on Sunday at 10 p.m. EDT, stars Dean Winters as cynical Detective Russ Agnew and Josh Duhamel as silky-smooth Special Agent Milton Chamberlain. In separate phone conversations recently, they discussed their new series, their roles and each other.
Winters: "After a snowstorm last February I thought, 'I haven't felt the snow on my head in a long time.' I had long hair at the time, and I went and shaved it. The very next day I got a call about 'Battle Creek,' and I went out to L.A. for a meeting on the show. I got the job, but they said, 'Please don't cut your hair again!'"
Duhamel: "I liked the script, but my character I wasn't so sure about. He seemed too button-down and perfect. I said to the producers, 'Tell me there's more to this guy than that.' The more we talked, the more interesting he became."
Winters: "We've seen cop shows where the partners don't get along most recently, 'True Detective.' But this show is lighthearted and felt like something fresh. Plus, we film in L.A., and it was 4 degrees in New York. I wanted to get out of there!"
Duhamel: "I took this role because it was a good opportunity to misdirect the audience. I'm not trying to play a handsome guy who everybody loves. I want to play a guy who's hard to pin down."
Winters: "I think Josh feels like he has something to prove, because it's so easy to pin him down as just the good-looking guy, which can be a burden. And he's a great-looking guy all right! You have to put on sunglasses when he walks into the room, just to tone it down. He deals with that by being a good actor."
Duhamel: (whose credits include "All My Children" as well as "Las Vegas" and the feature "Transformers," and whose wife of five years is Fergie of the Black Eyed Peas): "I'm trying to surprise people, to say I'm more than a handsome guy. If people see me as just that person, then it's my job to make them feel differently."
Winters: "There's some stuff coming down the road concerning Josh's character that no one could have predicted. They're NOT gonna write Josh as this Zeus-like pretty boy for the whole series!"
Duhamel: "I understand completely why Dean's character can't stand the guy I play. I don't like the guy either! But that's part of the fun of it. I'm happy to play this kind of character that I'm trying not to play anymore, as long as I know underneath he's got serious issues. And this guy does! He's a troubled soul. He's got a lot of stuff to overcome."
Winters: "I like playing the underdog on this show. I think there's more for me to sink my teeth into. But lots of characters I've played have been kind of (screwed) up." (Like his sleazy jailbird on the HBO prison drama "Oz," his betraying brother on the firehouse series "Rescue Me" and his hapless beeper salesman on "30 Rock," not to mention trouble-making Mayhem on the Allstate commercials.) "But as cranky and gruff as I am on 'Battle Creek,' and as polished and mysterious as Josh's character is, both are very altruistic in the end game. And they're professionals. I think that's what keeps them from strangling each other."
Duhamel: "They need each other! But I would hate for these guys to ever become buddies. I hope they never get along. I hope the rift gets deeper and deeper. But for that to work, there's got to be a lot of trust between the actors off-camera. And Dean is a really solid dude. He's a compassionate guy, a loving guy."
Winters: "Josh is a mischievous guy with a twinkle in his eye. He's a joy to be around. We have a really nice thing going."