‘Southland’ star faces the fear borne by cops

“These scenes stay with you for a long time.”

Ben McKenzie plays LAPD officer Ben Sherman on TNT’s “Southland.” The police drama has been hailed for its realistic portrayal of the experiences of beat cops, which inevitably involves violent situations.

How does Officer Sherman deal with his gun?
If you’re about to kill somebody, and most of us have never experienced that — or at least I hope so — the biggest emotion you might feel is fear. If you’re forced pull a gun that you don’t want to, you’re expressing fear because not only might you have to shoot this person, but they might shoot back.

How do you prepare for scenes involving a killing?
I don’t necessarily work from a Method actors point of view. If I’m killing somebody I don’t remember something violent in my life, like fights in high school, but you understand more about the range of human emotions.

How do you decompress from these scenes?
These scenes stay with you for a long time. Your adrenaline really gets going and your blood is coursing through your veins. It does subside but for how long it sits with you is interesting thing. It sits with me for a little longer and I have had dreams about what I’m going through and re-enacting what I’m doing. There are some scenes that will sit with me and you need a drink to decompress at the end of the night. Those are things you won’t experience in your own life.

What thoughts and emotions are you dealing with?
There is a fine line between anger and fear, and those emotions are very similar. Even if you’re acting out aggressively on camera, it has a lot to do with your own fear.