Crackle's New Orginial Drama Series "The Oath"
The Oath Executive-produced by Curtis 50 Cent Jackson and his G-Unit Film and Television team and created and written by showrunner Joe Halpin, a former Los Angeles County Sheriff's deputy who shares his personal story in this gritty and intense ten-episode drama. The hour-long series about a world of gangs made up of those sworn to protect..
The Oath, which debuts all ten episodes on March 8th, follows a gang of corrupt cops led by Steve Hammond (Ryan Kwanten) and his three crew members – his adopted brother Cole (Cory Hardrict), Pete Ramos (J.J. Syria) and Karen Beach (Katrina Law). The four get arrested by the FBI and now have to operate under the shadow of the Feds while keeping the secret from the other Ravens as well as other rivalry gangs both within in the police field and outside as well. Each struggle with their own personal issues, in an attempt to make them three-dimensional, but their issues are pushed on the back burner for the gang. The Ravens are also forced to work with young FBI undercover agent Damon Byrd (Arlen Escarpeta) and sell him to their fellow Ravens and other cop gangs, which proves difficult.
We spoke with the cast and creator of The Oath about what to expect this season and what was it like filming in Puerto Rico post Hurricanes Maria and Irma.
Can you talk about what purposes do gang relationships serve in society?
JOE HALPIN: The purpose is not really -- their purposes are individually set. I mean, corruption is a large part of why these subsets, these gangs exist within police departments throughout the United States. A majority of it is it starts out banding together to protect yourselves. I mean, you're out there making snap decisions every day, thrust into violent situations, and held accountable for those decisions. And at times you make bad choices and those choices can cause you to lose your job or go to jail. And so it's kind of a micro-succession of covering for each other that leans into that corruption world or that world of corruption and causes people to have that "us against them" mentality and band together and form these gangs. And from there, it progresses to different things. That said, I was a police officer myself here in Los Angeles for 18 years, was part of a cop gang. But I think it would be wrong of us to paint all police officers with the same brush. 99 percent of cops go out there, they take the oath, they do what they have to do to defend the people and enforce the laws. We happen, for entertainment reasons, to live in a world on this show that specifically deals with the gang culture.
KATRINA LAW: I also think this is a slice of life of storytelling that is not a normal slice of life. People don't get to see this often. They don't experience this often. This isn't a story that's necessarily been told. So for us to tackle these topics and basically say -- especially with the culture of police brutality, the militarization of our police force, the corruption that's going on, a lot of people are asking to see this part and to hopefully try to understand how it gets to this point. And the way that you see this entire cast band together as a family in the show and the way that our characters are written and they're so well rounded, you really get to start to understand how they get into this gang mentality and why they fight so hard for each other, even though their moral compass may be a little off.
ELISABETH ROHM: And you feel them because, as Joe said, this is his true life story. So these aren't just characters. These are people, people that will resonate with other people because they're based on people he knew, people that he was intimate with. So there's a feeling for these characters that's really authentic. And like Katrina said, I think that we're casting light on this type of corruption, but we're not glorifying it by any means. And even though there's an element of violence in this show, the heart of the show is these characters, their relationships, Ryan's relationship with his brother, with his best friend, you know, Katrina's relationships with -- you know, her personal life, and J.J.'s relationship with his family. So at the heart of the show is a family drama. And also, with my character, Aria Price, I mean, you really get into complexities of this negotiation that we're constantly doing in our work lives and what we give up in our personal lives for our work. So there's that element.
J.J. SORIA: That gray area that we live in is what's so interesting about the show. You're going to get to see us in these awkward situations and doing these things that you will look at as wrong. But when you get to the inside of our lives and see why we're doing what we're doing, ultimately it makes you feel like, ah, you're feeling for us. You're going to be invested.
Ryan, talk a bit about your producing status on this. Were you looking specifically for a future television project in which you could produce, or did it come after you started here?
RYAN KWANTEN: It's a good question. It did come after. There was such a strong gravitation towards the material. This is the kind of stuff that, for actors like us, which most of us aren't really classically trained. It's sort of a life-experience type of acting. This is the kind of material that we salivate over. And I guess Joe sort of saw my level of commitment. And the producing thing was sort of something that I think was, on offer, more in part to sort of help inspire the team. And to be honest, I'd felt like it was a nice chance for me to sort of prove that I've been waiting in the wings for a chance like this, and I kind of took the bull by the horns and ran with it.
Can you talk about working in Puerto Rico, and does that inform your performances in any way?
ELISABETH ROHM: I think our filming got a little bit extended because a few hurricanes and natural disasters took place. That made us be there a little bit longer. And I think that we all felt very connected to our crew. They were primarily Puerto Rican. We were really very thrilled that Sony and Crackle allowed us to go back and finish. After each evacuation, to go back into that environment and to stay committed to our crew and to continue to bring money and creativity and production there so that -- that's the only way that they can rebuild. And so I think it tremendously influenced us. Not only did we make a show together, but we survived some hurricanes together too.
ARLEN ESCARPETA: I think also in regards to us as actors and working together and being on the show, being in Puerto Rico gave us an opportunity to just bond together. If you're shooting here in L.A., once it's all said and done, we all go back home to our safe place, you know, which is home. Puerto Rico became home while we were there, you know? The crew became family. So we all got to really just merge together as one and not just behind the camera or in front of the camera. We really got to just blend together and make it the best.
ELISABETH ROHM: And specifically after Maria, that we went back for the last two weeks there, you know, a lot of us all of us did volunteer work there and we were very happy to be reunited with our Puerto Rican family, which it's still a mess there and still requires a lot of support.
JOE HALPIN: There was an amazing amount of survivor's guilt getting on the plane and leaving the island and leaving this family that we'd spent so much time and worked so hard with, and so that was hard. But it was also great to be able to tell them that we were coming back after the hurricane, that we didn't abandon them, and that we continued to shoot the show.
CORY HARDRICT: It felt really, really good to go back, to bring more jobs. Because most of the Puerto Rican families, they didn't have anything, you know? They didn't have shelter. They didn't have clean drinking water. So to go back, I felt like that meant everything to us, just to see human lives, you know? That we can change it and help it out more. You know what I'm saying? It's like it was our obligation to go back. And like I say, we're all the same. Even though we live here in L.A., I feel like the Puerto Rican people are the same. It's just one. And that's how we treated it. You know, we were all family, and it all comes from a loving place and that's what it should be about. So thank you to Eric and Sony and Crackle for providing us with this opportunity to help.
J.J. SORIA: Every day you go to work and you hug these people. It's like, oh, let's do it again. We're on this ride together. We're doing this. Man, but this story, it's intense and we all just gave it our all, the cast and crew when we rode that whoo, we rode that ride together and it brought us all closer together, for sure.
KATRINA LAW: J.J. survived one of the hurricanes. He actually stayed during a hurricane.
J.J. SORIA: I said I'm not going. I'm going to ride this out.
ELISABETH ROHM: He stayed for Irma but he left for Maria.
CORY HARDRICT: But what I can say is a testament to when you look up at these posters and billboards. That's mainly for the Puerto Rican people, you know? Because we couldn't have done "The Oath" without them, so they're a big intricate part to what we do.
KATRINA LAW: Also, Puerto Rico just has a texture of its own that you really can't find anywhere else. There's a grittiness to it and a vibrancy and a beat to it, and just the Puerto Rican people, they're so fiery.
J.J. SORIA: If you didn't know, after the hurricane hit and came through, the people were out there with their instruments in the dark, and that's the essence. That's the heartbeat of the island. That's what we got to experience and connect with, and that's the people that we got to gel with. And we were like, "Yo, let's go ride. Let's do this. Let's give it our all." And we did. I want to go back.
You can watch all 10 episodes of The Oath on Crackle here.