Mary Hanlon Stone is not to be trifled with. She's spent a quarter-century (that's 25 years) as a Deputy District Attorney. Now, the formidable prosecutor and author is one of two interrogators on ABC's new series Take The Money and Run.
Together with her close friend Detective Paul Bishop, she's trying to break ordinary people who think they can hide a quarter million dollars from real detectives for two days. Before tonight's new episode (9 PM ET/PT on ABC), Mary visited to give us her perspective on matching wits with would-be thieves.
In case you missed it, check out my interview with Mary's fellow interrogator, Paul Bishop.
For those who aren't familiar, tell our readers about your extensive professional background.
I've been a D.A. for 25 years. The majority of my career, I've prosecuted sex crimes and those who have committed domestic violence.
How did you get from that to Take The Money and Run?
Paul Bishop - he and I have done tons of cases together. When he got this gig, he called me up and asked me if I would do it with him. I just thought it sounded insane. I didn't even really quite understand it, but the part that appealed to me, is I do love cross-examining suspects. So I thought, "Oh, well, if that's what we're going to do..."
What's been your favorite part of working on the show thus far?
I love meeting the contestants. I love trying to figure out what makes them tick. That's the challenge for me. I want to figure out and learn for the next one - why certain personality types hid it a certain way. What trust issues there are. Which of the two was the one that called the shots.
What's the most common mistake that players have made when they come up against you?
That's a very good question. I think the biggest mistake that they've made is they don't realize everything they say is important to us. For us, everything that comes out of their mouth is something we can use. The challenge of this game is that it doesn't imbue the hiders with real guilt, so the tells that we're used to looking for are often absent.
Do you think gender factors into things at all? Do people perhaps underestimate you because you're a woman?
I think many people have and I think many people will. Women, especially if you're on the smaller side, appear unthreatening. But we always know who we are inside.
Is there anything that you think viewers would be surprised to know about the show, or anything they don't quite grasp?
Yes. I think one thing that they have not seemed to grasp is that it is harder than it seems. I've gotten so many emails or Tweets, "It's so easy, why do they break? Why do they ever tell you anything?" Until they're in the hot seat, they don't know what it's like to be interrogated for hours on end and then returned to an isolated cell. The line between reality and gamesmanship starts to blur. There's an intimidation factor there. It doesn't affect everybody - in the first episode, Raul [Bustamante] was not affected, but his brother was broken by it.
What do you want the audience to take away from the show?
I would like the audience to be entertained. I would like them to hopefully experience something of what it's like to be in the hot seat. I'd like them to be thinking of, what would their strategies be, or conversely, if they were the seekers. I would like them to be engaged. I think it's a game of strategy. I think it's a mental game.
After each episode, I do "insider's tips" and a psychological profile on my website [maryhanlonstone.com].
As many cop shows as there are on TV today, there's also a plethora of lawyer shows. Do you have any particular favorites?
Here's what's funny: I used to watch CSI, but my only time to watch TV is on my treadmill in the morning. Watching CSI was too much like being at work.
The CSI's have changed the way D.A.'s do jury selection. Those shows have built in an expectation with jurors that we would have all sorts of physical evidence that we don't have, so we have to ask them in jury selection, "Do you expect this to be like an episode of CSI?"
Do you have any other projects we can look forward to? I know you're also a novelist.
It stems from the same reason I wanted to be a D.A. I'm so interested in people. Everybody has a story. As a kid, I'd always think of people in other cars like, "Who are they?"
I've been writing for forever. I particularly wanted my first novel to be for the girls I take care of at work, and that became Invisible Girl. I have a second novel - ironically, it's about a girl who's a reality star and she loses all her fame in L.A.
What TV shows or books would you recommend to our readers?
I think if they like the Law & Order stuff, the CSI stuff is fantastic. If they like the fun reality, I love The Amazing Race, and I can see how you can get sucked in. I read everything. My favorite is Edith Wharton but I also read contemporary people. And I love reading teen novels because I like writing them.
My thanks to Mary Hanlon Stone for a great interview! Follow her on Twitter (@maryhanlonstone) and see Mary and Paul in action with a new episode of Take The Money and Run tonight on ABC.