'The Red Line': Female cops are far less likely to use force, fire weapons, says Elizabeth Laidlaw
Elizabeth Laidlaw plays the role of officer Vic on the CBS drama 'The Red Line', which explores racism and justice. She spoke about the role exclusively to MEA WorldWide (MEAWW).
In 'The Red Line', which premiered April 28 on CBS, after Officer Paul Evans (played by Noel Fisher) wrongly shoots Harrison Brennan, he is only a conviction away from paying the true price of his actions. When everyone else is waiting for his conviction, there is one person who not only believes in Evans but goes out of her way to protect him - Officer Victoria “Vic” Renna.
A tough, smart and loyal cop struggling with the stress of being a single parent, Vic is the on-duty partner of Evans the night of the shooting and reacts to protect him. Elizabeth Laidlaw plays the role of Officer Vic. In Laidlaw's own words, Vic is not a rookie officer - she has been on the force as a patrol officer for some time now.
"Maybe she took a few years off when her kids were born, but they are tweens now, and she’s divorced and needs to work," she Laidlaw exclusively told MEA WorldWide (MEAWW). Vic has her kids in a Catholic school, which isn’t cheap, which according to Laidlaw means "she’s returned to the force and works a lot of double shifts to make enough to pay her bills."
While 'The Red Line' explores racism, police brutality and justice, Laidlaw points out it isn't far from highlighting the other issues faced by police officers. Given the fact that Vic has to work two shifts to ensure her daughters are given the education they deserve, it shows how strapped for cash the police force is. "That’s something I like about the series, pointing out that the pay for police often isn’t really enough to raise a family on, that cops work long hours to make ends meet."
Vic's hardworking nature is only one of her on-screen attributes that Laidlaw admires. "She’s a very hard worker and she loves her kids and her chosen family. She’s got a good sense of humor and she cares deeply. She would throw herself under a bus for the people she cares about. With one glaring exception, she can be relied upon to be very straight with people. She lays it out there, even when it is uncomfortable. There’s a real tenderness to her and it’s not even all that well hidden under her tough exterior. I like that about her."
Preparing for Officer Victoria's role wasn't an easy job - there was a lot of studying that went into the preparation of the role. But playing a cop isn't new to her, having played similar roles in 'Crisis' and 'Cleveland Abduction'. "She [Vic] isn’t my first cop, I’ve played a few over the years, as well as an assortment of characters who are physically strong and in positions of authority, so I suppose her physical bearing was a fairly short walk for me. I’m also a mom, and I certainly understand the stress of having to put in crazy work hours in order to make sure your kids have what they need," Laidlaw added.
"I also did a fair amount of reading up on the history of women in the police force. Found out a couple of interesting bits; the first police officer in the U.S. was believed to have been Marie Connelly Owens, and she was a Chicago police officer starting in 1891, retiring 32 years later with a pension. I also found out that in a sweeping study, 77% of female officers reported enduring intense sexual harassment on the force, which I allowed to inform Vic’s choices of how she comported herself, and the friends she chooses. Paul (played by Fisher) and Jim (played by Michael Patrick Thornton) respect her, and I think she repays that with fierce loyalty."
It was one very interesting statistic, however, that led Laidlaw to draw conclusions to how Vic really feels. "I found it interesting to note that female police officers are statistically far less likely to use force or fire their weapons, and tend to be statistically more successful at 'talking down' a potentially dangerous situation. I think Vic lies awake at night wishing she’d let Paul drive that night, that she’d been the first one through the door. I think she thinks Harrison would still be alive. There’s no way to know, of course, but I think it haunts her," the actress said.