Lethal Weapon - Seann William Scott Damon Wayans

The Fox TV adaptation of Lethal Weapon was a hit, so it was surprising when Clayne Crawford, the actor who played Mel Gibson’s character Martin Riggs, was fired and a new character, Wesley Cole (Sean William Scott) was introduced. Crawford went on the Dunkin’ Bros. podcast last August to tell his side of the story.

Today, Lethal Weapon producer Matt Miller was on a panel of Fox drama showrunners. After the panel, /Film asked him to respond to Crawford’s side of the story.

Clayne Crawford

Crawford detailed conflicts with co-star Damon Wayans, which came to a head on an episode Crawford directed. Wayans did not show up for one day of filming. Crawford also felt like his anger in response to taunting from Wayans was being used to blackmail him, even after he issued a public apology.

“I didn’t listen to the podcast,” Miller said. “I know vaguely what it was about. He was in a bad situation with what happened. I know it’s difficult for him. I feel like I can’t comment on it because to comment on it is to go down a very slippery slope. So I’ve sort of taken the high road on the whole thing and I haven’t talked about it at all. I really can’t say anything. I’m sorry, man. If you wanted to ask something super specific about it, I could answer it but again, I know he gave a long podcast.”

The specifics of Crawford’s story include feeling he was set up to fail, and railroaded out of the show. “That didn’t happen,” Miller said.

As long as we’re taking sides, I might as well add I tend to believe Crawford. The Lethal Weapon team has to toe the line of Fox and producers Warner Brothers, so they’re not likely to admit they chose Wayans over Crawford. If they decided to keep Wayans happy by firing Crawford, they’re not about to admit it. Crawford could just be smarting that he lost a big gig, but it sounds like he was trying to play ball by issuing an apology. However, this is just my personal analysis.

Damon Wayans

During the panel, Miller addressed another lingering issue hovering over Lethal Weapon. Damon Wayans had made statements about leaving the show. Fox has not picked up a fourth season of Lethal Weapon, but Miller explained that Wayans’ reticence came from his health issues. He joined the show after already surviving heart surgery.

“His medical issues came out halfway through our season,” Miller said. “As a result of that, it made us sit down, roll up our sleeves and go okay, now we’re really hearing you. What do you need? You’re sick. What do you need? He was tired. When all of us are tires, we’re like we’re tired, let’s keep going. He’s like no, I’m really tired. It was a cry for help. We worked on ways to change his hours to accommodate him. Since that time, it has been an absolute delight making the show. He has come to work with a smile. He’s been thrilled. He may have a different take on this, but seeing him, there was a big smile on his face the entire time. He brought the whole crew together at the end of our wrap last week.”

Should they get a fourth season, Miller now knows how to design Lethal Weapon episodes that can accommodate Wayans’ needs.

“He is in a beautiful headspace right now,” Miller said. “I think it’s really, honestly, negotiation more than anything about I don’t want to come back. I think he is in a good headspace right now. It was tough for him. He’s not a young guy and this is a crazy show to make. The stunts we do on the amount of time we have is really grueling. All I can say without deferring to him is he’s in Hawaii right now. He’s got a big smile on his face. He thanked everyone, got everyone on the crew these expensive jackets. He and Seann got along great. It was a charmed experience from then until right now.”

Seann William Scott

Despite the acrimonious way in which Crawford was fired from Lethal Weapon, Miller found creating a new character to be Murtaugh’s partner to be creatively rejuvenating.

“The premise is these two broken cops that need each other,” Miller said. “That did not change. It’s still the same thing. We changed the last name of the character and introduced a new character. From a purely creative standpoint, knowing that I personally don’t love a show that’s stagnant, there are procedurals and the way they work is in repetition. A mystery and you solve it at the end. This is very much a character piece with a character element. For two seasons we played that hand really hard between those guys. Forgetting the off camera stuff that led to this, from a creative point of view, we ran that relationship into the ground. It was an incredible gift to be able to relaunch a new version of that relationship starting from scratch, with two characters who didn’t know each other with new sets of problems.”

Avoiding repetition means that Miller feels Lethal Weapon could have a shelf life. Season four is far from that shelf life though.

“I don’t know that this is a 10 season show,” Miller said. “I think because of the fact that it is this living breathing character thing that’s going to go, it has a shelf life to it and that’s okay with me. If we could tell a few more delightful seasons of television, let’s call it six. Is that a deal? That would be perfectly fine with me. As long as it feels like you’re dealing with fresh snow, that it feels as if we haven’t been down this road before with these guys, and not just the same cookie cutter model going forward, it’s great for me doing the show and hopefully great for the audience.”

The replacement of Riggs doesn’t seem to have hurt Lethal Weapon’s ratings. Movie buffs may be sticklers for Riggs and Murtaugh, but if Fox audiences are okay with any buddy cops, let ‘em keep having Lethal Weapon.

Lethal Weapon airs Tuesdays on Fox.

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