EW spoke to Will Trent star Ramón Rodríguez about what drew him to the role, Will’s new houseguest, the many complicated relationships in his life, and what’s ahead.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: What drew you to the role of Will Trent?
RAMÓN RODRÍGUEZ: I was not familiar with Karin Slaughter’s book series prior to receiving the script, but once I dove into the book — I started with Fractured, then went into Triptych — I met this character who I pretty quickly found very compelling. He’s been through a lot in the foster care system down here in Georgia. I love that through everything he’s been through and living with, because he’s dyslexic, that he is able to find a way to look at crime and the world in a pretty unique way. That is what has allowed him to be pretty successful as a Georgia Bureau of Investigation [agent]. We had multiple conversations talking about their vision and where they wanted to take the characters and his story.
Will and Amanda have such a funny and touching relationship. What’s it like to develop that dynamic with Sonja?
There’s very few people that have a deep history with Will, one of them is Amanda and the other one is Angie. We will learn in the series how deep those roots go, what they’ve been through together, and what those people mean for each other. Amanda is someone who has championed him, she’s been there for him in a lot of ways. Amanda respects him and understands what he’s able to do because of their deep history.
His relationship with Faith, on the other hand, begins very adversarial, but by the end of the second episode he’s starting to trust her. What’s ahead for them as partners?
It continues to build as a slow burn, which I really love in terms of characters arcs and relationships. [It’s interesting] how their relationship evolves from this place of tension and adversity to slowly starting to realize what each person can bring to this relationship. Will is not someone that lets anybody in very easily and there’s a lot of resistance on his part.
In the pilot we see Will’s scars and learn a little about his past in the group home. What can you tease about what else we’ll learn about him this season?
Everyone’s goal is to slowly peel back the layers and there’s a lot of layers to Will, by the way. Even in the clothes he wears. He’s got a three-piece suit, which is his armor keeping people at a distance. Throughout the season, we’ll get a better sense of what he’s been through, what his childhood was like. One thing we talk about a lot is that in many ways this is a show about people trying to make a family and Will is someone who didn’t have one at all growing up and that’s something that he yearns for.
We see it in the pilot where he adopts a dog that he didn’t even want. It immediately tells us that he is someone that also has a big heart, as cold and distant as he can feel. He has really deep feelings and he’s incredibly sensitive.
Speaking of Will’s dog, what’s it like to work with her. And what does Will keeping Betty say about Will?
I always loved that scene because it’s a great way to introduce Will. He finds a dog that was abandoned and tied to a tree, and he decides to rescue it. He’s not going to leave the dog at the animal shelter. He’s longing for something more and that’s very deep for Will. There’s a void within him because of his childhood and he’s not going to let a dog or a person go through what he had to go through. Bringing a dog home is part of his search for family, even though he’s never had a dog. People are going to have a fun time watching that relationship grow with him and Betty. Also, Betty was a big part of the books, so fans of them will be pleased about that.
Betty’s real name is Belly and she’s amazing. She’s well trained and has great trainers. She does some pretty incredible stuff and hits her marks. Also, you just look at her and she’s adorable. I’ve made jokes that she’s got a chihuahua entourage because she’s a star. That she comes with a personal chef on a private jet.
We get more pieces of Will’s past through his sparring with Paul Campano as the authorities search for his missing daughter. What was it like to film those scenes with Mark?
What was great was Paul is another character that is tied to Will’s history at the group home. In the pilot, we learn the kids called Will “trashcan” because he was found in a dumpster, and when Paul still calls him that we quickly understand who this person is. We get to explore their dynamic a little bit more and also the relationship between Will, Paul, and Angie, because they’re all tied together by their past. Those scenes were a lot of fun to film. Having a bully growing up and seeing them as an adult is complicated.
One of the most complicated dynamics on the show so far is Will’s with Angie. She’s so tied into his past and they trust each other, but episode 2 ends with her stepping back from their on-and-off romance. What’s it like working with Erika and what is ahead for them?
They have an interesting relationship and dynamic of two people that have been through a lot together in their life and are trying to figure it out as adults. It’s really fun to watch and also heartbreaking at times. Their relationship in a nutshell is an on-and-off one that they’re trying to work through and they probably get in their own way and trigger each other in various ways. It’s fun to build with Erika [Christensen] and see how the writers explore where this relationship can go. In the book, it’s a pretty complicated and toxic relationship and we’re trying to convey that as authentically as possible.
What can you tease about the next episode?
The show will have cases that bring in real Atlanta history onto the show and some of the locations down here in Georgia. The writers find ways to integrate that into the story, but also keep these character arcs. No matter what’s happening on the cases, those personal stories will progress or they won’t.
Next week is one where we get to explore outside of the city proper and tell a story about this lake in Atlanta that has a pretty complicated history. It’s a fantastic episode.
This interview has been edited and condensed for length and clarity.
Will Trent airs Tuesdays at 10pm ET on ABC.
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