Do not mess with Preston Webb. That’s the lesson that the latest Law & Order: Organized Crime episode taught us about Mykelti Williamson‘s character — call him soft, and he’ll kill you — and it sounds like there’s more of that to come.
But we can’t help but wonder if that includes Webb finding out that Carmen “Nova” Riley (Nona Parker Johnson) — whom he trusts so much, he made her his second-in-command of the entire Marcy organization — is undercover. If he does, how might he react? And what can we expect from Webb’s interactions with Detective Elliot Stabler (Christopher Meloni) in the April 14 episode? TV Insider spoke with Williamson to get the scoop.
I definitely do not want to mess with Webb. He gets accused of going soft, and we see him prove just how untrue that is. Chopper had said he lost his mind, but does Webb think he’s still completely in control at this point?
Mykelti Williamson: He does. He thinks he just saved himself from a lot of fallout and set an example going forward that “what happened to Chopper will happen to the rest of you if you don’t stay in line.” Webb is the kind of guy, if someone needs a raise, needs to make more money, he’ll figure out a way they can do so. But don’t tamper with this business, the structure that he’s built, because it will cost you everything.
Or you’ll get stabbed in the hand. Chopper went through a lot from Webb.
[Laughs] It’s a lot of fun. It’s actually scary for me to do some of the awful things that this character has to do, but I’m hoping that it’s a learning opportunity for people that folks see someone that has a good person down on the inside, but they’re involved in all this dark underworld behavior, and how do you get out of that? How do you get past that? How did you get yourself in this mess? And when I play a villain, I want people to see the villain with the thought in mind that I would never want to be in this guy’s position, I don’t glorify it, and they just need to see that Webb is conflicted. They’ll start seeing more of that going forward, but I’m having a good time doing it.
He’s also a family man. Let’s talk about Preston and Cassandra’s [Jennifer Beals] marriage. How would you describe their relationship?
I think the closest thing to this relationship I’ve seen in cinema has been Bonnie and Clyde, where it’s an us against the world kind of a dynamic. And these two characters, Preston and Cassandra, are in alignment because they’re just footsteps away, inches away, if you will, from building the next Amazon, Walmart, and so on and legitimizing all their efforts and they’re also building schools, healthcare clinics, churches, and they want to do much, much, much more of that as they go forward and legitimize themselves. But right now they’ve got just a few more steps to take to get out of this life of crime and make that transition. And so the ticking clock is, will they be able to do so, or will they get busted and brought down before they can legitimize and start doing even more good work?
I feel like she could be just as dangerous, maybe more so than Preston.
Right. The thing about the Preston and Cassandra dynamic is if you hurt Cassandra for any reason, Preston is coming for you. It’s not so much that she’s a crime boss type figure, but she’s a very intelligent woman who is the love of a mobster’s life, a man who’s got resources, wealth. The fact that someone steals a couple million dollars from him doesn’t really move him. The thing that moves him is that it was an act of disrespect because Preston’s got so much money stashed in so many places, 2, 3, 4, 5 million dollars is not gonna move the needle for a guy like that. But Cassandra knows what kind of man she married and she’s in for the ride. She’s locked in for the ride.
Would they ever turn on each other?
If they did, that would be, in my mind’s eye, typical television, like soap opera TV, so I’m hoping that’s not something that we even entertain.
What does Preston think of Carmen at this point? Does he have any suspicions? Because now he’s in her brother’s life. He could get close to the truth.
Preston sincerely, genuinely loves Nova. He knows her name is Carmen. He has no idea she’s undercover. That would be heartbreaking, to let someone get that close to you, confide in someone like that, teach them the ropes, teach them the ways and take them on your family’s journey to carve out a place for them to remain on your family’s journey with you for the rest of their lives and yours, and to find out you’ve been betrayed. Betrayal is a horrible, horrible result to receive no matter who you are. And so it would really be devastating for Preston.
How do you think he would react if he found out the truth?
I have an idea, but I won’t tell you. [Laughs] All I can tell you is initially he would be very hurt by it, then the rest of it, I’ll just leave it up to your imagination.
The logline for this week’s episode teases that Stabler looks for ways to gain Webb’s favor while staying loyal to Donnelly [Denis Leary]. What can you tease?
Stabler knows that he needs to get close to Webb to get to the bottom of it. He also knows that Donnelly is kind of a loose cannon and can be squirrelly and not exactly reliable, so Stabler wants to get closer to Webb himself. You’ll see that Webb and Stabler actually have an admiration for one another, kind of like the dynamic in Heat between Al Pacino and Robert De Niro, and it’s an interesting dynamic.
But we just shot a scene the other day where Stabler is with Webb and Stabler finds himself in a very precarious situation and the way he navigates himself out of it is so smart. I’m like, oh, man. It gives birth to somewhat of a man crush on Stabler from Webb, because Webb begins to admire Stabler and like the way he handles things and does business. He’s still not 100 percent sure that he can trust him, but he does begin to admire him.
What else can you tease that’s coming up for the Webbs?
Bell [Danielle Moné Truitt], Stabler, and the Webbs are all going to meet up. They’re all going to end up in the same place at the same time. And that’s all I can tell you.
Of Dick Wolf’s shows, you’ve directed episodes of Chicago P.D., FBI, and Med. Any plans to direct more episodes?
Yeah, I just got the phone call last week to direct some more episodes of some Dick Wolf shows after we finish up the season here. So next season I’ll be in the directing saddle a little bit and will likely be in the actor saddle too. We don’t know yet. We just have to kind of see how this season ends and then how we kick off next season.
You can always show up as another character on another show because you were on P.D.
Right, I was. There’s been questions about whether or not Webb will pop up on SVU or other shows like that. We’ve fielded questions in those regards as well, so we’ll see.
Is there anything you particularly enjoy about directing these types of shows?
P.D.’s an action show, more action. FBI is more action in the field. Med, the action is saving lives. It’s like a life crisis. They’re all sort of action oriented and very emotional if you do them right. And they’ve all got such great cast members and they’re staffed with so many amazing writers that it’s always a fun challenge doing the Wolf shows because you’ve got eight or nine days to shoot an episode and it’s like a roller coaster. You have to hang on and ride. So it’s just fun. I’m always surrounded by other giants, so I always feel like we’re all competent and we’re all collaborative and that’s what makes it fun.
Law & Order: Organized Crime, Thursdays, 10/9c, NBC