8 Questions with HAP AND LEONARD: MUCHO MOJO‘s Cranston Johnson (Detective Hanson)
As the mystery on HAP AND LEONARD: MUCHO MOJO heats up, our heroes find themselves running afoul of the local authorities, including Detective Marvin Hanson (Cranston Johnson). Being an honest cop surrounded by colleagues with dubious morals, Hanson has his work cut out for him as he navigates the intricacies of law enforcement in East Texas.
We spoke to Cranston Johnson about being a cop in Hap and Leonard’s world, Hanson’s theories about who is behind the missing children and the unique way he approached playing his character.
Q: Do you think Detective Hanson believed Leonard was Chester’s partner in the murder of the child?
A: Absolutely. If [Hanson] has a numerical suspect list [at this point], Chester would be my top guy and Leonard would be right behind him. And Hap would be the third. Uncle Chester seems like a suspicious character — maybe by asking police about the [missing children] he’s messing with us psychologically to get us off his trail. And with Leonard living [in Uncle Chester's house], I’m thinking as a detective, you have to have some involvement in this. Something stunk about Leonard. Something wasn’t right about him.
Q: Did Detective Hanson ever wonder about all the missing kids in the area? Why do you think it’s ignored in the town?
A: It’s weighing on him a lot. He’s constantly trying to figure things out and look into every situation. He wants the case to be solved and be a savior in the community. The [missing] children being African-American is just as important as if they were Caucasian or any other ethnicity. There is a ton of stuff weighing on him.
Q: How does Hanson deal with cops who hit suspects with bags of oranges to get confessions?
A: He’s extremely disgusted with Sneed’s interrogation of Leonard. One of Hanson’s main character traits is fairness. He never wants to use his authority in a negative way.
Q: Do you think Hanson is used to covering up for his fellow officers’ dubious interrogation methods?
A: He knows growing up as an African-American, law enforcement isn’t always your best friend. Seeing officers cover things up and operate freely to harass and intimidate really bothers Hanson. For example, [Hanson's partner] Charlie using the “N word” in his presence [during Leonard's interrogation]. It gave him compassion and sympathy for Leonard at a moment where he probably shouldn’t have had any. It was a time when being black men together, we had this moment of “this is screwed up.” The racism is a big issue [for Hanson]. He felt like he couldn’t trust any of his colleagues — not even his partner.
Q: Did you have theories on who was behind the missing kids when you were reading the scripts?
A: To play [Hanson] as honest as possible, I only read up as far as we shot. I wanted the element of mystery until the last possible moment. That way it will hopefully keep my character honest and suspicious the whole time. I steered clear from reading the book and other castmates who had read [ahead in the scripts]. I felt that was the best possible character choice — to keep an open mind. It was a fun way of playing it. It brought that essence of real life — “How is this going to play out?”
Q: What was it like playing a cop, Detective Marvin Hanson, in Hap and Leonard’s world?
A: It was a lot of mixed feelings due to the fact that it’s set in the late ’80s in East Texas and he is a black officer. There’s a lot of racial injustice, and the black community is feeling left out. He feels a lot of pressure to be fair and uphold the law — he’s constantly under a microscope, being an African-American in a high position. It’s a scary situation in the community with the possible child murderer on the loose and then the dynamic with the African-American community feeling isolated and left out when it comes to law enforcement. It was a very tough thing for me to juggle as a character. You don’t want to be perceived as a sellout — someone in a position of authority who isn’t helping their community. At the same time he has to protect and serve everyone. It was tough being a law enforcement official in Hap and Leonard’s world.
Q: This season deals with racial tensions in the South in the ‘80s when “Mucho Mojo” takes place. Do these themes feel relevant in light of current events?
A: Even though it’s set in the late ’80s, it runs extremely parallel to what we see in 2017. There’s been a ramp-up as far as police brutality. Also the progressiveness of having a gay character [in Leonard Pine]. I like the themes that we address [this season] because we are giving voices to a sector that has been ignored and made to feel not welcome. [Mucho Mojo] is perfect for the climate that we’re currently in. I think it’s spot on.
Q: Since this season is called “Mucho Mojo” — does Detective Hanson have any mojo? What do you think it is?
A: [Laughs] I think Detective Hanson’s “mojo” is his style. He’s a very sharp dresser and a well-groomed gentleman. He has a very confident aura to him. Law enforcement is a very important job, and to have people who have the right ideals and who are fair and out for justice — those are the people we need. That’s who Detective Hanson is.
Find out if Detective Hanson can solve the case on HAP AND LEONARD: MUCHO MOJO, Wednesdays at 10/9c on SundanceTV.