‘The Rookie’ star Titus Makin Jr. says the BLM protests in the summer changed his character forever

The actor nearly left the series last year.
Published February 19, 2021 10:05 a.m. EST
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Titus Makin Jr. almost didn't return to The Rookie (Sundays at 10pET on CTV) for season three after he found himself doing some soul searching following the police killings of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor last year. He questioned moving forward, playing a Black cop and not having his character address what is going on in the real world. 

Thankfully, Titus didn't leave his character Jackson West behind because he was able to work with showrunner Alexi Hawley who wasn't interested in ignoring reality. The Rookie's new season is choosing to be reflective of the current times and takes an honest look at police brutality, racial profiling, systemic racism and the Black Lives Matter movement.

Titus told etalk's Chloe Wilde that this time around, we see a different side of Jackson. “People always ask me, ‘Do you and Jackson have anything in common?’ No, we don’t, until now. Season three is the first time that I’m like, ‘OK Jackson, there we go,'" Makin explained.

"He’s finding his voice. We see him starting to stand up against Doug Stanton, his new training officer, who is racially profiling people on the streets,” Titus said, adding that Doug is a “truthful depiction of what the worst kind of cop could be.” 

Jackson gets the “honour” of having that training officer, Titus said, “but thankfully we see Jackson rise to the occasion, and we’re starting to see him stand his ground and get this guy out of there.”

The change in Jackson's character comes from Titus working with the writers and showrunner Hawley. The show has also enlisted Arisha Hatch, the vice president and chief of campaigns at Color of Change, which is a high-impact, collaborative team of activists who are committed to making justice real for Black people, and passionate about designing or supporting strategic and creative campaigns.

Titus called Hatch's involvement “such a blessing” to the show. “It’s just really inspiring to see — honestly, I love what she does, but it’s even cooler to see ABC employ this team of people to do the work. It’s really cool on that side, seeing they’re willing to have hard conversations, to let people speak."

"Our writer’s team, they’ve already employed, not only Black people, but they have a Black officer, you know, who is one of the writers. Little things like that, that really do make a difference as to the narrative of the whole show.” 

The 31-year-old said that it’s “awesome” to be involved with a show that’s doing the work and really bringing these important narratives to life. “To be fully transparent, it’s one of those things that you’re afraid of, you know, going into the beast of a network world where it’s like, 'OK, will my voice be heard?' I know this ship kind of can move with or without me, but the great thing about our show and Alexi Hawley...  is he really listens,” Titus shared.

Hawley has had zoom meetings with all the cast members individually to ask them for their opinions on things and how they feel about certain topics. “He’s always been amazing about, like, including all those aspects into the script, and it makes it more organic as opposed to people assuming how we feel as Black people. He just asks us, and we keep that narrative open. If I’m uncomfortable, he’s the first person to know and vice versa,” Titus explained. 

"The times that we’ve seen has honestly helped me find my own voice a bit more. When I was comfortable enough to ask the hard questions of like, 'Hey, this is reality for this character. Is that a topic we’re going to address? The fact that he is a young Black cop today in Los Angeles. Is this something we’re going to address?' I feel like it would mute the reality to not at least mention the topic that’s something that they deal with,” he said, adding that making changes to the character made him more excited to play him. 

 “We’ve seen Jackson — to be one hundred per cent — honestly, kind of be a little pansy, a little pushover, like he’s not exactly been the big and bad character,” Titus said. “He stayed in his place and tried to abide by the rules.”

“I don’t want to say we glazed over anything. We still talked about important things, but during this time, the network and the creator of the show and the writers have been amazing at being willing to tap into the issues going on in the world," Titus said.

Watch The Rookie Sundays at 10pET on CTV.

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