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Exclusive: Eric Winter teases The Rookie season seven, where fans will find Tim and the future of Chenford

 Catch up on The Rookie on Hulu


Rebecca Lewis
Rebecca Lewis - Los Angeles
Los Angeles correspondentLos Angeles
Updated: May 21, 2024
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The Rookie season six ended with a major cliffhanger on Tuesday May 21 with Monica on the run, and Jason having escaped from prison. However, fans will have to wait until January 2025 to find out what happens next, as ABC made the decision to push the show back to a mid-season release. 

"I was very nervous at first I'll be honest, I was bummed," Eric Winter, who stars as Tim Bradford in the hit series, tells HELLO! "But then, I talked to a lot of people at the upfronts and it made perfect sense. I know how much of a priority The Rookie is to ABC and with this being an election year and a lot of time being devoted to those sorts of things, they're trying to protect us, they're really trying to put us in a lineup where we can give eight episodes in a row with no interruption and so I appreciate it for that reason." 

Eric has been on the show since the beginning, and has become a fan favorite, mostly thanks to his chemistry with colleague Lucy Chen (Melissa O'Neill). Coined Chenford by fans, the romantic pairing finally took off in season five but came to an abrupt end in season six after Tim realized he was not in a healthy mindset to give Lucy what she needed. 

Eric Winter HELLO! Spotlight cover© Ramona Rosales

In the short break between filming, Eric has been preparing to launch Palm Republic, a new rum venture which he says was inspired by his first meeting with his wife's parents, while production for season seven will begin in a few weeks, and Eric said that although he has yet to see a script, he does know that fans can expect to see Tim back in the field training rookies. 

As for Chenford? "I think we're going to see Tim and Lucy continue to learn how to navigate their feelings while being on the job. We'll see them pick up in a place where they've shown that they care about each other and now they have to figure out, 'can we give each other space to do our job and allow our feelings to stay in a safe place but not rush anything and hope one person doesn't go astray?'"

What were your thoughts on this finale?

Melissa as Lucy Chen and Eric as Tim Bradford in The Rookie© Raymond Liu
Melissa as Lucy Chen and Eric as Tim Bradford in The Rookie

Eric Winter: It was action packed and crazy, there is so much going on as always with The Rookie, it never stops! Then I saw this massive fight sequence I had to do in a moving truck and I was like, 'Wow, they're putting me through the ringer this season after fighting a giant in the 100th episode and now I'm fighting in a pickup truck again!'' 

But I love the great storytelling. Alexi [Hawley, the showrunner] does such an awesome job running the show and I feel like we hit these home runs every year with the finale; this one is full of emotion and action, it's fast-paced, there's romance, there's danger, it's high stakes – and then there was a glimmer of hope for Tim and Lucy that was interesting at the end. 

The Rookie 6x10 promo

This was a shortened season but what do you think of Tim's arc?

Eric Winter: I was thrilled with Tim's arc this season – I wasn't thrilled with the shortened season – but every season I swear I get so lucky with Bradford. They peel back layers every season, something different that we get to explore. 

Alexi said, 'You have a great arc coming up mid season, it's three, almost four, episodes, we're gonna dive into Tim's past and by the way, I wrote the longest monologue I've ever written on the show.' It was almost a full page going into a half page, it was a lot but I love the trust that they put in me to give me these amazing juicy scenes every season and to allow me to continue to peel back these layers with Tim, it makes it so exciting. 

What is your approach as an actor when you get something like that? 

Eric Winter: Some of the stuff I will look into, especially if it's military and I wasn't in the military, so I'll explore. But the good thing is being this far into a series I have an incredible handle on who Tim is and how Tim would handle things. 

But my process is pulling from some personal experience, making sure I obviously know my material and as I'm going through my material, thoughts come into my head as to how I think Tim would process, or what he's going through as a character, and then I start to sort of blend all that research and in-the-moment experience and bring them all together.

Eric Winter stars as Tim Bradford in The Rookie© Raymond Liu
Eric stars as Tim Bradford in The Rookie

Are there any Tim-centric storylines you have encouraged to come to the screen, or any that you suggested shouldn't go ahead because they're not Tim-like? 

Eric Winter: I've been pitching to Alexi for a while, I want to meet Tim's mom. Tim had such a bad relationship with his dad that in my mind. 

I feel like the relationship with his mom is probably a really solid one and she took abuse from his dad, he took a lot of abuse from his dad and I feel like Tim and his mom now have a great bond and so that's one thing I've kind of been pushing for and I think Alexi is into it. 

But story wise, I've always trusted the journey that they've taken Tim on; it started from the very first episode in the pilot, he was a super meaty character. People wanted to hate him and then you saw his ex-wife and the trauma that it brought Tim and you realize why he's so damaged and it made him likable, even a tiny bit, so people started to empathize and feel for him. And then as you keep going with him, you realize the situation with his dad and how abused he was and all these different factors with him. 

It's been great every season to be surprised. 

As season six comes to an end, what has been your favorite scene to film this season?

Eric Winter: I love the fight in the hundredth episode, that fight was epic, I was like this is the craziest fight I've ever done in my career. That was six scenes in one scene; we shot that in six different blocks to shoot that fight. It was so massive. so that was pretty fun. 

Fans saw Chenford split this season. What were their thoughts when you first saw that play out in the script? How did you and Melissa work together on that arc? 

Eric Winter: I think this kind of storytelling is authentic and real. It brought me back to Ross and Rachel and Friends, where fans want to see relationships that they can relate to, even if it hurts their feelings – and fans got really upset about it. 

But not every relationship is perfect or clean or easy, especially when you're looking at a character like Tim who's got so much baggage. 

When I was informed about it by Alexi, I thought it was a great opportunity for us to learn more about Tim and why he would even go through that or put her through that. When we got that breakup scene, it's a very atypical breakup. 

Tim broke up with Lucy in The Rookie season 6 © Disney
Tim broke up with Lucy in The Rookie season 6

It's traditional in one sense – 'it's not you it's me' – but we talked a lot about it. Melissa had her way of approaching it and I had my way, and it was very different – I wanted to let a lot of it happen in the moment. What was interesting though was that there was no good reason for the breakup; Tim was just completely lost in who he is and what he had been through. He had lied to two people that were very important in his life and at the end of the day, he just didn't think he was good enough for her. 

It's not that he didn't love her. It's not that she doesn't love him. He's so lost in his identity a bit and doesn't even love himself and if you can't love yourself, you can't really be in a relationship and treat that person with respect. I think that's what made the break up unique and I thought it actually played out really well because it was uncomfortable. 

It wasn't just emotionally sad, it was very uncomfortable to watch, almost like you're seeing two people figure out a breakup is happening as it's happening. 

What do you think Tim needs to do to feel worthy of Lucy again? 

Eric Winter: Unfortunately his therapist isn't the best therapist as a person. She's doing a great job at therapy but not a good human! But I think therapy was a great start and I think Tim has been sweeping things under the rug his whole life. 

We saw it early in the first season, with the cover-up for his ex-wife and the drugs. He definitely deals with quite a few issues when it comes to stretching the truth or protecting people, even if it's for the greater good. He justifies his actions and I think Tim needs to start forgiving himself for bad decisions, to start respecting himself more and loving himself more. 

Eric Winter has played Tim Bradford on The Rookie since season one© Raymond Liu
'Tim needs to start forgiving himself for bad decisions'

What would you like to see in the opening episode of season seven? 

Eric Winter: I do know we're gonna see Tim back in the field training rookies, which I think is what people always loved about Tim, I think people liked Metro Tim, but I think people do like training officer Tim, so we'll get him back out in the field. 

I think we're going to see Tim and Lucy continue to learn how to navigate their feelings while being on the job. 

We'll see them pick up in a place where they've shown that they care about each other and now they have to figure out, 'can we give each other space to do our job and allow our feelings to stay in a safe place but not rush anything and hope one person doesn't go astray?' 

Lucy and Tim slow dance at John and Bailey's wedding in The Rookie© Raymond Liu
Lucy and Tim slow dance at John and Bailey's wedding in The Rookie

Season seven isn't coming back until January, what was your reaction to that? 

Eric Winter: I was very nervous at first I'll be honest. I was bummed but then, I talked to a lot of people at the upfronts and it made perfect sense. I know how much of a priority The Rookie is to ABC and with this being an election year and a lot of time being devoted to those sorts of things, they're trying to protect it.

There would be too many gaps, and the fans don't love that. So they're really trying to put us in a lineup where we can give eight episodes in a row with no interruption and so I appreciate it for that reason. 

I don't know if we'll get as heavy of an order as the full 22 episodes, maybe it'll be a little less because it's mid-season in the timing of it which is unfortunate, but hopefully we'll knock it out of the park in season seven and the fans will truly show up and then we can jump into a season eight in the fall with a nice big order. 

Tim and Aaron embark on a metro ops mission in The Rookie© Raymond Liu
Tim will return to a training officer in season 7

How did Days of Our Lives impact the way that you've approached your career and acting in general? 

Eric Winter: I took so many great qualities away from that show. It's an incredible training ground for hitting your mark, finding your light, knowing your dialogue, being ready with character development immediately. 

But as I found myself wanting to branch out from the soap and take a leap of faith in doing other things, it wasn't easy for me. A lot of people were like, 'He's on Days of Our Lives, he was that soap actor,' and they wouldn't give me a shot. If they saw me audition there was already a preconceived notion. 

Eric Winter in Days Of Our Lives© ABC
Eric Winter in Days Of Our Lives

Did that impact the way you approached The Rookie? 

Eric Winter: I'd worked on a number of television shows – I was on Witches of East End for a couple seasons which also gave me a chance to play quite a different character and people saw me stretch more of my acting chops – but I remember when The Rookie came around. I had worked with a lot of the producers before in a previous pilot, and they said flat out, 'You're not Tim Bradford. you're too nice. This guy's a complete jerk. He's a hard ass.' 

The casting directors wanted me to come in because they liked me but one producer in particular, that's not involved in the show anymore, was like, 'He's not the guy, he's not Tim Bradford so he can come audition but he's not going to get this.' And I've never had a bigger chip on my shoulder and wanted to prove people wrong more than that moment. 

MEKIA COX, LISSETH CHAVEZ, TRU VALENTINO, JENNA DEWAN, RICHARD T. JONES, ALEXI HAWLEY, SHAWN ASHMORE, NATHAN FILLION, ALYSSA DIAZ, MELISSA O'NEIL, ERIC WINTER© Raymond Liu
The cast and Alexi Hawley (sixth from left) celebrate 100 episodes

I remember truly having one of these X Factor audition moments where I was overcome with so much emotion in the audition scene. I was so carried away and wrapped up in those scenes, that I didn't stay for any chit-chat and just walked out of the room with this chip on my shoulder, so much so that they came out of the room because they were concerned about me. 

I said, 'Yeah I am still acting, you don't believe I can act as this character but I can act as this character'. Alexi saw that in me and he believed in me from the beginning. 

Why did you want to fight for that role?

Eric Winter: Everybody telling me I'm not this person! I always wanted to play somebody who had a bunch of layers and that was broken and not a good guy. I wanted to play against type of everything I'd been doing in the past.

How has this show changed you as a person?

 Eric Winter: I've been so fortunate to be a part of something like this, to watch how it's affected my career and then also seeing so much love from the fans. It's an overwhelming feeling of joy and happiness. Knowing that I continued to believe in what I could do and I made it happen and it has given me a lot more confidence and trust in my journey as an actor, knowing to stick to your guns. 

What has your experience with the fandom been like? 

Eric Winter: The Rookie fans are great. I love our fandom so much and they're so passionate, and it's flattering to be stopped and people saying, 'I love your show.' My daughter's friends at school are obsessed with The Rookie and people stop me at school all the time. 

Fans are from a third grader to a 70-year-old, it is a huge demo, I don't know how our show does it because it's not typical to be that wide, and it's very flattering. 

What is your goal for Tim? 

Eric Winter: I'd like to see him happy and in a healthy relationship, I'd like to have seen him have a lot of growth as a person and acceptance of where he's at in his career and maybe get a second shot at working through the ranks in some way and achieving that high goal of overseeing a department of which he's in charge.

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