Murder is the crime of choice in the TNT drama MAJOR CRIMES and for every dead boy, there is someone who has to take possession of that body and ensure its safe keeping from the crime scene to the medical examiner’s office. In MAJOR CRIMES, that person is the medical examiner investigator, portrayed by actor Ransford Doherty. Ransford has had the privilege being the guardian of the dead on two hit drama series having worked on both THE CLOSER and MAJOR CRIMES. In an exclusive interview, Ransford candidly talked about the challenges of working on such meticulous shows and the unexpected events that can happen when working around such large amounts of fake blood.
How does it feel to be going into the second season of a hot show like MAJOR CRIMES?
RANSFORD: Very, very excited. It was great to work on THE CLOSER for the 2-3 seasons I was on the show, where I got to see how great that was. Then I got to be blessed on MAJOR CRIMES, which I feel will go another 7 seasons. So I am thoroughly excited. To be around the cast and crew, it’s a nice family.
Did it feel any different going from THE CLOSER to MAJOR CRIMES?
RANSFORD: For me, it’s all the same. You know what Kendall does, Kendall just looks at the bodies and I’m not looking at the body any differently. So it’s not different for me. I just go in and do what I’ve got to do.
As a medical examiner investigator, Kendall is out in the field, but do you ever feel like you’d like to be a part of the action a little bit?
RANSFORD: I do. But you know what’s funny is I went to the L.A. County Coroner’s Office and I really respect what they do. After they gave me a tour of the building, they were like, “There’s more than just the tour. There’s the nice tour or there’s the meat-and-potatoes tour.” So they gave me the meat-and-potatoes tour and I saw it all. They did not hold back. What was beautiful was that they loved what they were doing. In Los Angeles, there are people doing jobs – especially in the acting business where you deal with people who say, “I’m a waiter, but really what I want to do is be an actor or I really want to be a producer.” But when I went down to the L.A. County Coroner’s Office, they were like, “This is what I do. I’m a coroner’s investigator and I do it. This is my job and I love it. I don’t see myself doing anything else other than that.” To me that was beautiful. To see that was like, “Wow.” If something was to happen to me, I know that I’d be in good hands. So that’s why I’m happy where I’m at. Would I like more, yeah, but only if it’s necessary for the story. If it’s not helping the story, then no.
So where is your focus at when you get into character as Kendall?
RANSFORD: First of all, breathe. I try not to get intimated. When I first did it, when I was around Kyra [Sedgwick] or Mary [McDonnell] or just the whole cast I used to get intimidated. I would talk really fast, but what I’ve learned to do is just breathe. Then my focus is on the body. Just look at the body and tell the story. I’m there to offset the other characters. It’s not about me. I just tell the story. So that’s how I focus and get into character with Kendall. I keep it really subtle too.
Kendall’s very efficient, usually in the background, but he’s always there. What do you like best about Kendall? What do you have in common with him?
RANSFORD: What I love is he is a reflection of my life. But here’s the part that’s different: Kendall’s character is a single father and his mom watches his son. So if they wanted to tell that story that would be great in MAJOR CRIMES just so we could find out a little bit more about him. But that’s Kendall’s life, whereas I have a supportive family. I also noticed with the L.A. Coroner’s Investigators when I went to visit them that they said they really don’t get to know the bodies. They just go in and are very nonchalant about it. The time to get to know the deceased person is when the family comes in and shares that particular deceased person’s story. So I try to use sense-memory when I want to connect to the character, like what would happen if that were my child. I know I’d probably just breakdown and cry. So I try not to go there too much, it’s too painful. So I try to remember that I’m doing this for my children, I’d doing it for my family, and I come in and do my job. That’s how I think I can relate to Kendall. What Kendall and I have in common and how I can relate to him is we provide for our families. That’s it. We got to work everyday and provide for our family.
Do you get to work with the other MAJOR CRIMES actors outside of the show’s crime scenes or is that always the capacity we see Kendall in?
RANSFORD: It is always at the crimes scenes on the show; but outside of the show there’s celebrity events we get invited to and I really enjoy that. Like the one for the L.A.P.D. was great. But outside of the MAJOR CRIMES, if I’m not working on the show, I’m a substitute teacher Manual Arts High School. I’ve been teaching physical education and a few months ago I was teaching a French and Spanish class, even though I don’t speak French or Spanish. I found a way. I’m getting my Masters too at National University, where I learned about using computer technology with the younger generation, who are called “digital native” while I’m called a “digital immigrant.” Our generation used to pick up a book and read, and if we went outside to play, we knew how to play. But this new generation is like, “I’ve got to do what? I’ve got to run?” So you have to find ways to connect to these kids and what I did in teaching French and Spanish was I decided to be entertaining. I found a way to connect with the kids and that’s what I do outside of MAJOR CRIMES. So I always keep myself busy.
What do you bring to Kendall that brings him to life? Like a personality tic or a way that you kind of express yourself , something that makes him more of a person on the screen. Like you probably bring the strength of integrity, professionalism, and the want to do the job right.
RANSFORD: The word that comes to mind is “character,” but you’re right, it’s integrity. That’s what I love about MAJOR CRIMES. They bring an integrity, which allows me to bring integrity to the character. They make sure that with all the professionals that have worked in the police force, that they are giving information accurately. Like when Kendall touches the body, they say, “Don’t touch the body this way, you’re going to feel if it turns to rigor right here.” And you don’t let your tie touch the deceased’s body. So there’s this care and compassion. That’s what I saw with the L.A. County Coroner’s Office, that compassion. It’s not just, “Oh, its another dead body.” You don’t joke. That’s what I love about this show. There’s no joking. Any of the, “Ha, ha, it’s a dead body.” It’s more about how this dead body has a family too. So there’s no sarcasm with anything. It’s you show care and you bring professionalism. And you wear gloves. You don’t just grab the body. Then they will show me how to pick up the body and how to zip it up.
Sounds like a lot of attention to detail. Is that stuff written in the scripts?
RANSFORD: Exactly. That’s it. It’s attention to detail. That’s another thing I noticed at the Coroner’s Office, the attention to detail. That’s what helps solve the crimes. What if you were that family member, you’d want someone to put that care into finding out and solving this crime. That’s comfort. That’s a chance to put your pain at ease and each day it gets a little bit easier to deal with once you find out the crime has been solved.
From last season on MAJOR CRIMES or even on THE CLOSER, what have been your favorite scenes that you got to be a part of?
RANSFORD: All the scenes! Now don’t get me wrong, I love substitute teaching, however, when I get on the set that to me is my dream, so it’s like you get to live your dream come true. If I can get to the place where I work it so much that I can take it for granted, but I’ve never done that. I don’t think I ever will. I know how hard I’ve busted my butt to get into this show to be on the set with that caliber of talent. So I don’t have a favorite scene. Though if there was one, it was when I fell on one of the dead bodies. It was not on purpose. What happened was they put the detail of the blood on the ground and it gets a little slippery, so I had to wear the rubber boots. So they said, “Action!” and I tried to lift this body up and this guy was playing dead and he was really playing dead, and the way I was carrying the body, I slipped, putting my crotch in his face. Luckily his face was covered, and I didn’t break character. They were like, “Ransford, you okay?” and I’m like, “I’m fine. I’m good,” and then I said my lines. Then afterwards that’s when everyone bust-out laughing. The guy who was the body then took the blanket off his head and said, “What happened?” and it was like, “Dude, you really don’t want to know.” (Laughs)
How often are the dead bodies on the show portrayed by real people?
RANSFORD: Real people, all the time. No dummies. In fact the worst one was the one with the fly. I felt real bad. That was my first time on the show in “Tijuana Brass” and they have this guy who is like the fly tamer. He brings the real flies – no fake flies – I think he breeds these flies and they are raised off this sugar. So when we put the fake blood with the syrup flavor and when they call “Action!” he puts out a couple flies and they’re all flying around. They are like tame flies. They don’t go anywhere. They stay in the vicinity. And these guys who played dead just lay there with the flies crawling on them. Then I think it was in the first episode of last season, there’s this guy inside of this can, like a small trash can. He had to contort his body and you’re like, “Damn, dude, damn.” The way he did it. That’s another thing, by using a real body you look at the criminal and see the way the body was contorted in that small trash can and you think, “How could you do that to someone?! You took a person’s life. Then the way you discarded their body.” So when you look at that murderer, you’re like, “Alright, dude. I’m not showing any compassion to you.” It’s not like some shows where you root for the bad guy; there’s not rooting for the bad guy. It’s “you’re evil and you need to go to jail.”
I know Kendall in his capacity as a medical examiner investigator does not get to work with all the other detectives on the show. So who would you like to see him shadow or work closely with for an episode?
RANSFORD: Wow. Okay, I love me some Dr. Morales (Jonathan Del Arco). But he’s in the same profession as Kendall. But if it was one of the detectives, then Cruz. Raymond Cruz. You know why? ‘Cause he calls me “Helmet Head.” He’ll say, “Your haircut looks like a football helmet.” So I’d love to work with Cruz. It would be great. I’d love that. I really would!
What kind of teasers can you offer for the 2nd season of MAJOR CRIMES?
RANSFORD: Just great writing. Great stories. Great acting. I’m telling you, I can’t say it enough, MAJOR CRIMES is a show to want to be on and work on if you’re an aspiring actor. They make it like you’re a star. If you went to the table reads, you’d be like, “Wow, I feel special!” They don’t care if you only have one line, you are treated like a professional. So all I can say is get ready for a good show with good writing. You know how we do – we deliver.
To see more of Ransford and the tricky situations his character Kendall find himself in, be sure to tune in for all new episodes of MAJOR CRIMES on Monday nights at 9:00 p.m. on TNT.
Where to find this article: