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The Protector – How Ally Walker is odd and smart as a homicide detective

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The Protector - Ally Walker
Gloria Sheppard (Ally Walker) © 2011 ABC

Ally Walker’s most notable role to date was Samantha Waters in Profiler, a forensic psychologist with a dark past. Recently she appeared as the sociopath ATF Agent June Stahl on F/X’s critically acclaimed series Sons of Anarchy.

She is now starring in the Lifetime series, The Protector, portraying Gloria Sheppard, a divorced mother who juggles her demanding personal and professional life as a LAPD homicide detective while raising two boys, with the live-in help of her troubled young brother Davey (Chris Payne Gilbert).

Did you approach Lifetime or did they approach you about doing this series?

The Protector - Ally Walker
Gloria Sheppard (Ally Walker) and Michelle Dulcett (Tisha Campbell-Martin) © 2011 ABC

They approached me. I was doing June Stahl on Sons of Anarchy and I got a call from them. I knew I was being [written out of] the series, and [Lifetime] called and asked me and I said, ‘Sure.’

What was it about this role that if it’s successful you’d be happy playing her for many years?

She’s funny, she’s quirky and I thought she was odd and smart and I loved the relationships she had with all the characters. She wasn’t jaded and judgmental, which is great. I’ve done a lot of drama, and some heavy stuff, and I played a real villainess in my last job, which I loved, but I wanted to see if I could do something light and airy.

I think the challenge for an actor is always to see which parts of you you can explore and go have fun with. I just wanted to branch back into comedy again.

I think the dark genres are great, but there is just so much of it now. When I did Profiler, there were like two of us doing it, and now that’s all there is, and I’m like, ‘Maybe I should go back and try the lighter stuff now.’ So I thought it would be a good time to do that.

How important was it for you to have this character have a family, because so many procedurals if there’s a female detective, that’s all she’s about?

The Protector - Ally Walker
“Pilot” – Gloria Sheppard (Ally Walker) © 2011 ABC

Well, that’s the thing. It comes from character; it didn’t come from the plot. One of the things we did on Profiler that I think was right is that we kept the character having a life and we showed her as a human being.

Can you talk about working with Tisha Campbell-Martin, who plays your partner in this?

Tisha’s a hoot. I love Tisha, I’d never met her before, she’s in a different world, the sitcom world, than I was in, but she’s a doll, she’s a joy to be around. We’re really close.

It’s so funny because when we met each other she was like, ‘I’m going to get my nails done.’ I said, ‘Do you want to run lines or anything?’ And she’s like, ‘Yeah, you want to get your nails done? You need to get your nails done.’ She so girly!  So I went with her to get my nails done. We blend really well.

She makes me laugh, she’s a very good person. I just like her a lot.

You do have a great rapport on screen, was it there from the beginning?

The Protector 1.01 - Miguel Ferrer, Ally Walker
“Pilot” – Felix Valdez (Miguel Ferrer) and Gloria Sheppard (Ally Walker) © 2011 ABC

Yeah, we just bounced off each other. I like her, there’s no drama, we’re both moms, we’ve both be doing this a long time. It’s like, ‘Let’s hit it, let’s go, I want to get home.’ She’s just really funny.

Did you and Tisha do any ride-alongs with detectives?

Yeah, I’ve done them before. We talked to the LAPD, Tisha and I went to training. I could shoot from before, I did a lot on Profiler, and the ATF people talked to me on Sons of Anarchy. [We went to a shooting range], and Tisha can’t shoot at all. Meanwhile I’m trigger happy and [in a simulation] I went in and shot everybody in the bar, all the innocent bystanders were all dead after I came in. So we’re a great team!

Can you talk about the relationship between Gloria and her mother Beverly?

The Protector 1.01 - Tisha Campbell-Martin and Ally Walker
“Pilot” – Michelle Dulcett (Tisha Campbell-Martin) and Gloria Sheppard (Ally Walker) © 2011 ABC

Yeah, first of all it’s Patty Duke. Did you ever see The Miracle Worker with Anne Bancroft? She won an Oscar for that, she was 13-years-old, so she’s an accomplished, amazing actress. I didn’t want to say anything, so I ask her husband, ‘Is it going to freak her out if I start talking about The Miracle Worker?’ He was like, ‘No.’ (she laughs) I was like, ‘Listen, I loved The Miracle Worker.’

She’s astonishing. When you have talent you stick around for a long time, and I think she’s living proof of that.

In this, she plays a mother who is not a real sweet or loving mom, but a good mom. It’s the same thing that I liked about Gloria, that you don’t resent her; it’s just all part of the package. Is your mom perfect? Everybody has this stuff and I like that.

Have you done any scenes with Patty Duke yet?

Yeah, she’s great. I respect her and Anne Bancroft. There are all these great actresses who preceded me and the material was just mind-blowing, and she was a part of that.