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Mary McDonnell weighs in on season 3 of 'Major Crimes'

Mary McDonnell as Captain Sharon Raydor on "Major Crimes."
Mary McDonnell as Captain Sharon Raydor on "Major Crimes."
TNT/Frank Masi, with permission

There's a lot going on for Captain Sharon Rador (Mary McDonnell) in Season 3 of "Major Crimes," now that the Phillip Stroh (Billy Burke) case has been put to rest, and Rusty (Graham Patrick Martin) no longer needs her to be his legal guardian. But Rusty has become such an integral part of Sharon's life that she doesn't want to be separated from him, so she decides to adopt him.

Of course, a monkey wrench needs to be thrown into the proceedings, so we will also meet Rusty's mother (Ever Carradine), who has been sentenced to a rehab facility for chronic alcoholism, and who will complicate matters between Sharon and Rusty. Rusty had been searching for his mother for a long time, so her return could make him rethink his relationship with Sharon.

Also on the personal side, Sharon has finally decided to divorce her husband Jackson, so we can expect a return visit from Tom Berenger. But when it comes to cases this season, there are going to be some gruesome ones, made more so by the fact that they feature childnre.

So what else can we expect? Check out my chat with Mary McDonnell about what lies ahead.

Now that Rusty's case is behind him, what are Sharon's hopes for that relationship going forward?

Her hopes are for Rusty [to do well] going forward. What has become profoundly important to her is that the potential in this beautiful human being is allowed to flourish, and that he has the proper structure behind him in society to be able to endure life, celebrate life, and have opportunities in life, and that he doesn't wind up in a compromising position again. How that is going to manifest, I think is going to relate to their lifestyle, which I can't really say yet. She wants him to have every opportunity that she could possibly provide -- that she would provide for her own children and has.

Sharon is so positive she knows what to do when it comes to her job, but when it comes to Rusty, she seems to be on shaky ground?

The hardest part of being a mother is that you're never sure if your children are always going to be okay. You just don't know. There are some nights you can go to bed, you do your tallying, and go, "Okay, today was a good day," and you can get to sleep. Then, there's other days, where one little tiny emotional component of a family starts to veer in a certain direction, or your teenage son is on the phone and you hear something, and your whole system is on fire. You can't do anything about it most of the time but stand by and listen. That's where Sharon ends up with Rusty. That's completely different from how she can control what's going on at work. It's the difference between hard candy and Jello.

You didn't replace Kyra Sedwick in her role, but your character Sharon did replace Brenda as the leader of the Major Crimes unit. Are you more comfortable with it now in Season 3? And how has Sharon changed? She seems to be more shades of gray than black-and-white as she used to be.

Her job has changed. Her job is more gray. When you are internal affairs and your job is to police the police, two things happen: One is you can't be friends with the police, because then you are not doing your job. Two is the whole reason for that enforcement is to make sure no one has broken the law. She wasn't a detective. She wasn't in the gray area; she was in the black-and-white. So I don't perceive her as changing. I perceive it as a different job. So whoever she is, gets to expand into that different job. And because we found out something about her as a mother, she is expanding that way, too.

I think one of the things she is happy about is the growth of the relationships between her and the squad, because that was something she couldn't force. She had to be very careful and not ask them to like her because that would have boomeranged. She feels better about it because they have done a lot of work together now and there is trust.

I think you're right. The team resisted her at first, but now there seems to be acceptance.

They should have resisted her at first. She was the enemy. When someone who was your enemy is suddenly your boss, you would be crazy not to be careful around them.

Executive producer James Duff said that Season 3 is about expectations. What expectations do you think Sharon has?

I don't think she lives that way. I think she is much more about solving the problem at hand. I think she is thrilled that the whole Phillip Stroh thing is behind them, so if there are expectations, she looks forward to and expects a little less tension at home, a little more normalcy, while taking on all these new, really disturbing cases. We have some terrible, terrible cases this season that focus on children. That has been an interesting thing so far: To go deeper and deeper into what it is to be a maternal archetype in today's world, and face day in and out what is happening with the kids.

Tom Berenger is going to be back as Sharon's husband Jack this season. I heard she wants a divorce?

I cherish Sharon and Jack's relationship because I know Tom so well. We have worked together before. We have great trust, so there is no problem going in there. I am never afraid or worried about how to play [opposite him]. You just go fully. I think he is amazing.

"Major Crimes" returns for its third season on Monday, June 9 at 9 p.m. ET/PT/8c on TNT.

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