Interviews

Exclusive: How Richard Kind embraces his quirky police captain role on CBS’s new hit drama, East New York

 Richard Kind as Captain Stan Yenko.
Richard Kind as Captain Stan Yenko. Pic credit: Peter Kramer/CBS

Richard Kind calls himself a “very lucky man,” but the accomplished television, film, and stage star is enjoying a stellar career and dramatic new role on the popular new CBS police series, East New York.

From the executive producers of NYPD Blue, East New York stars Amanda Warren as Deputy Inspector Regina Haywood, the newly promoted boss of the 74th Precinct in East New York – a working-class neighborhood on the edge of Brooklyn in the midst of social upheaval.

With family ties to the area, Haywood is determined to deploy creative methods to protect her beloved community but has the daunting task of getting everyone else on board with her unique style and methods of leadership.

At Inspector Haywood’s side is Captain Stan Yenko, portrayed by Richard Kind. He is a quirky kind of guy with lots of facts to share, and only someone with Haywood’s patience is willing to give him a shot as her righthand man.

Unlike a few of the other characters, he’s quite supportive of Haywood’s new initiatives and is quite thrilled to help her out. His overall demeanor provides some comedic relief in the series. 

The rest of the team includes TV veterans Jimmy Smits as her mentor and two-star Chief John Suarez, Ruben Santiago-Hudson as Officer Marvin Sandeford, Kevin Rankin as Detective Tommy Killian, and Elizabeth Rodriguez as Detective Crystal Morales. The show premiered on October 2 on CBS and is getting rave reviews from critics and kudos from viewers.

Richard Kind is best known for his roles as Dr. Mark Devanow in Mad About You (1992-1999 and the 2019 reboot), Paul Lassiter in Spin City (1996-2002), Andy in Curb Your Enthusiasm (2002-2021), and Arthur in A Serious Man (2009). Additional TV roles include Gotham, The Good Fight, and The Goldbergs.

As a popular voice actor, he is known for his performances in such Pixar films as A Bug’s Life, two of the films in the Cars franchise, Toy Story 3, and Inside Out. He also voices the part of Marty Glouberman in the Netflix animated series Big Mouth. He was also nominated for a Tony Award for best-featured actor in a play for his 2013 performance in The Big Knife.

There are so many aspects of the new police drama of which Richard Kind is proud. In fact, waking up to be on the set at 5 or 6 p.m. is not a chore, but a privilege. “East New York is adult, it’s not spoon-fed, you can’t turn away, you’ve got to listen. We don’t lay it out,” Kind exclusively tells Monsters and Critics. “There’s a certain poetry to what these guys are writing.”

Read on for what it was like for Richard Kind to be honored recently by his Philadelphia-area high school, why he enjoys his role in East New York and why he urges all of us to watch this riveting new CBS police drama.

Monsters & Critics: What’s it like hearing the universally positive reaction for East New York?

Richard Kind:  It’s fantastic. I’m very proud to be part of it. It’s a show that I enjoy. It’s not usually a genre that I look at, but I do find it well-written and well-acted. I believe that it’s an important show for our times. And I get to do something that I’m not known for, that I have done before on stage, but I really haven’t done on TV. I am beside myself with happiness.

M&C: How long ago did this show come to you?

Richard Kind: It was March or April. Needless to say, the part was written for me and I didn’t have to audition. The man who created the series, Bill Finkelstein, knew my work from Luck. He wrote a play that I did readings of. I did a guest pilot that he had done. So, he wrote this with me in mind. I think it’s a good bit, I think it’s a nice bit, I really enjoy it. I know what he is looking for, for humanity and wisdom, and also a little weird to boot. And just a little weird, and I think that’s what I get to bring to it.

M&C: Did you know Jimmy Smits or any of your other co-stars before this? Had you worked with any of them before? 

Richard Kind: I knew Ruben Santiago-Hudson. I knew Elizabeth Rodriguez but I didn’t know Jimmy or Amanda, but we all got to know one another and work well together, quickly.

M&C: Are you filming on location in New York?

Richard Kind: Yes, we are filming in East New York. It is shot on location.

M&C: Wow! Are there any real crimes getting in your way?

Richard Kind: Not yet. It’s a tough neighborhood, but we love it.

Amanda Warren and Richard Kind as Captain Stan Yenko. in the CBS series East New York
Amanda Warren and Richard Kind as Captain Stan Yenko. in the CBS series East New York. Pic credit: Scott McDermott Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc.

M&C: I appreciate the neighborhood programs and getting to know the community. It’s a great idea for our real lives.

Richard Kind: That’s why I say it’s a very important show. Bill Finkelstein is old school and he and his team know their way around a script and around the structure of a script with Mike Flynn, creating some great writing. Our producer, Mike Robin, has a great history in TV. And we have some great directors that are just superior. They are hiring the best there is. My game, with all of them, is increased. You play better tennis with better tennis players, and that is who I’m with.

M&C: So, what were you doing at your high school?

Richard Kind: I was inducted into the very first Hall of Fame at Pennsbury High School. I was told eight months ago I was going to be one of five who were honored. The people who were inducted… truly world-class and include Robert Costa from CBS and Hallie Jackson from NBC. Also, Troy Vincent, who is number two in the NFL, Mark Shelhamer, a NASA scientist, who is a professor at Johns Hopkins, and me.

M&C: Talking to you evokes fond memories of watching Mad About You with my late husband. We also watched the reboot years later. 

Richard Kind:  Awe, yes, that was a good cast. Paul Reiser and Helen Hunt were the Rob and Laura Petrie of that generation. They were truly great. Yes, it was very, very Neil Simon and Herb Gardeneresque. It was real cosmopolitan New York humor; it was terrific.

Yeah, I’ve been very lucky. It was pointed out to me today when they were listing the credits. One student made a compendium of clips from my career. It was wonderful and I was extremely honored to be there. I had a great time.

M&C: So, I have a pressing question for lovers of animated movies. Do you own any of the toys from Inside Out or Toy Story 3 or Cars? Which is my son’s favorite movie.

Richard Kind: I have a couple of stuffed Bing Bongs that were given to me for my kids when I was doing Inside Out. I have a maquette from Bug’s Life, my character from Bug’s Life. And a huge caterpillar from Bug’s Life that’s at my sister’s house. I have a maquette from Inside Out that’s a Joy. I don’t have Bing Bong. I have many, many drawings of Bing Bong by the creators of Inside Out. From Cars, I have my Van. 

Darien Sills-Evans, Jimmy Smits, and Amanda Warren on the CBS series East New York
Darien Sills-Evans, Jimmy Smits, and Amanda Warren on the CBS series East New York. Pic credit: CBS

M&C: So, what are the best parts and maybe the biggest challenges of this show East New York?

Richard Kind: What are the biggest challenges? I think we want to be more than just a cop show. I think we’d like to get some dirt under our fingernails. And that is very difficult when you’re doing network TV. It’s easier when you’re streaming. You don’t have advertisers or censors to answer to. I think that our writers are doing just that.

We take incendiary subjects, and I think that we are doing all that we can to be a little more than just a cop show. Not to disparage Blue Bloods, which is certainly a magnificent show of its type, it’s a cop drama. It is not procedural.

But yet, we’re not a procedural at all, we are a drama about these eight people in law enforcement who are serving the community and are not bad cops. We are good people. That’s what we are. We are good people and we want to do the best that we can for our community. I think that’s pretty important.

M&C: Initially, viewers didn’t know we needed another cop drama but quickly embraced the series. How does that feel?

Richard Kind: We start episode eight tomorrow, and I have liked every script so far. Even what we’re trying to do with music. We certainly do unique things with camera and direction, where it’s not quick cuts, it is movements that are not on the steady ground all the time. It’s a moving camera. There’s action. We’re not on the heels of our feet, we’re on the balls of our feet at all times.

M&C: What kind of technical assistance are you getting in terms of holding a weapon?

Richard Kind: It’s fantastic. We have two former police people, Joanne and Steven. Some days they’re on the set on the same day, some days, it’s one at a time. They are fantastic and train to teach us exactly how to do it. For instance, I knew how to hold a gun, but when entering a place where there’s peril, how to walk steady, not bobbing up and down, which is what I do when I walk, but almost crouched in a path where my head remains at the same level. Which is how to navigate a situation that’s in jeopardy. It’s terrific.

You’d be surprised at the hierarchy that the police force has. You’d be surprised at the way the bars have to appear on your collar. The smallest little details make us that much better an actor.

Amanda Warren, Richard Kind, and Ruben Santiago-Hudson in the CBS series East New York.
Amanda Warren, Richard Kind, and Ruben Santiago-Hudson in the CBS series East New York. Pic credit: Scott McDermott /Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc.

M&C: You talked about the high level of writing and the directing, are you able to improv at all or change a line?  

Richard Kind: Well, it’s not improvisational at all. The writers write better than I could talk. Sometimes trying to write my character, they’re a little heavy-handed. And I say, “I know what you’re going for, let’s not lay it on so thick.” But overall, I pretty much I let the scene progress and escalate the way they’ve written it. I have no complaints; this is a stellar experience.

M&C: Do you have time to go back to perform on Broadway?

Richard Kind: There is no time whatsoever. I might be able to do theater, but Broadway takes three to four to five weeks of rehearsal. Then you’ve got previews, then you’ve got to show it. I don’t have the time; I’ve got a shooting schedule now. Now, when it comes to summer theater, two and a half weeks of rehearsal, and two to three weeks of performance, that I can do. But I can’t do Broadway with this schedule. 

M&C: So how do you sum up your body of work with everything that came before East New York?

Richard Kind: I’m just very lucky at this point in my career to have a show that I’m just so proud of. Very lucky!

East New York airs on CBS on Sundays at 8 p.m. ET.

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