The new police drama End of Watch puts two beat cops in the middle of escalating danger when a violent drug cartel begins operating in a South L.A. neighborhood.
The cops are patrol partners played by actors Michael Peña and Jake Gyllenhaal. The characters' cop-car friendship is one that extends beyond their jobs. The nature of their work makes them more like brothers, something director David Ayer pushed to bring alive on the screen.
Morning Edition's David Greene talks to Jake Gyllenhaal about his role as a police officer, and how Ayer's approach brought it to life.
On what was appealing about the 'End of Watch' script
"Well, to be honest, I think first and foremost, it didn't have initially to do with police work at all. It had to do with this huge heart in the middle of the screenplay. This relationship between these two men who happen to patrol the streets of Los Angeles together, and their friendship. That was the thing that struck me at first, was how much they really loved each other, and how much they devoted their lives to each other and, I mean, I think that's what makes things entertaining and ultimately original — is connection between two human beings. And that's why I go and see movies — why I go and see any art — is for that connection."
On preparing to play a police officer
"[Michael Peña and I] spent two, three nights a week on the streets with different sets of partners, and it was hugely eye-opening for me, just ... to see what was actually going on in some parts of South Central L.A.
"Our experience of shooting the movie was very short, you know, and I think when you have a low-budget film, when you're shooting an independent film, you know, you have to get the entertaining aspect. I mean, I would have loved to ... have the audience see how boring it can be in a cop car. Because that is a big part of the job. And that to me is what was most interesting about the movie and, I think, was most interesting about discovering, was the change in police officers from joking in the car, from having a great time, and then as soon as the call comes in, they are completely different."
On the relationships he built with real police officers
"I have probably three guys that I'm really close with after my experience on the streets. This movie, because we shot it in such a short time, the preparation, the experience of being on the street, was really the experience for me. You know, the movie was the easy part, and the relationships I made changed my life, changed my perspective on my career, changed my perspective on my life and my family and many, many, many things."
On how the experience changed his perspective on life
"One of the most amazing things I can see with police officers is that they are family. And I think that the closeness and the community of that was an inspiration to me. And, yeah, I have a family who's in the arts, so — and we're all doing different things at all different times, and I just find myself desperately wanting to connect with them every day, you know, thinking that I don't know how long we're all going to be happy and healthy, but I'm blessed to know that we all are now, and that's what matters to me. It's the only thing that matters to me, really. And this experience brought that out."