While "Major Crimes" fans have been waiting out answers from the midseason cliffhanger, the show's charming Buzz Watson — Phillip P. Keene — has been busy indeed.
He and James Duff have been off on a trip celebrating their third wedding anniversary. (Duff, creator of "The Closer" as well as "Major Crimes," has been his partner since 1993.)
"Major Crimes" has been back in production, with the remaining episodes of season five due to air sometime after the New Year. Keene is delighted with Buzz's activities of late, as this season has already seen him doing his first interrogation, on his quest to bring to justice the murderer of his father and uncle. It was a nerve-wracking but satisfying shoot. Then Buzz had to deal with a crisis of conscience.
"The writers have been so great this year giving me this story arc," he notes. "The response has really been fantastic so I'm really happy about that."
Keene's also been nosing around some non-"Major Crimes" acting possibilities. He notes that auditioning is a skill that requires practice, so he keeps it up.
And then there've been his charitable activities. Recently, the show's team took part in an extravaganza of fun for children who are cancer patients.
Phillip spent three days with 35 youngsters from The Sunshine Kids, an organization dedicated to helping kids with cancer — who were treated to Disneyland, Malibu's Paradise Cove, Universal Studios in Hollywood, and a visit to Paramount Studios, where "Major Crimes" films. He recalls, "They were staying at Sheraton Universal where they were treated like kings. On the top of the parking structure, there was a flyover by LAPD helicopters and the chief, Tony Beck, deputized all the kids.
"Each child is assigned a police officer, then they go, by Humvee or police car — I get tears in my eyes thinking about it — over the hill with a police escort, full lights and sirens, into Hollywood, right across the street from Paramount," he adds. "It's the kind of motorcade normally reserved for heads of state."
The "Major Crimes" team has been involved in this annual excursion for years, as it was started by one of the show's technical consultants — a great joint operation of the police and Hollywood, working together. "Some of the kids we see again, some we don't. Some don't make it. It's an incredible spirit these kids have. One girl, just turning 16, had tumors from the top of her head all over her body, but she was still excited about gettting her driver's license."
On another front, the one-time flight attendant and self-admitted aviation nut is on the board of directors of the Pan Am Museum Foundation, a charity he reports is "about a year old, which is partnering with an existing museum on Long Island called the Cradle of Aviation Museum. They in turn partner with local schools. They have a STEM program — science, technology, engineering, math — to encourage students to get into the fields of either aerospace or aviation. They may not necessarily become astronauts or pilots, but there are a lot of support services, too." Keene adds that students involved in the program have a 90 percent graduation rate, and 80 percent go on to four year universities.
There will be a fundraiser "at our studio in November. We're also holding a gala at the Cradle of Aviation Museum in December."
Meanwhile, his balancing act between his personal and professional life continues. Phillip is careful not to carry tales off the set of cast goings-on home to the boss, his husband, or to ask Duff to spill details of forthcoming scripts.
"I wouldn't feel comfortable doing that," he notes good naturedly. By now, he says, they've developed a shorthand for veering away from dicey topics.