Malcolm-Jamal Warner Breaks Down His Heartbreaking ‘Accused’ Episode

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[Warning: The below contains MAJOR spoilers for Accused Episode 4 “Kendall’s Story.”]

When Kendall’s (Malcolm-Jamal Warner) 10-year-old daughter is assaulted in the latest episode of Accused, he does take matters into his own hands — but only after letting his friend Lamar (Donald Paul) get in his head and there’s much more to the story.

Lamar insists that the police won’t catch the guy, pointing out the track record of the detective (Wendell Pierce’s Trent Douglas) on the case. Furthermore, his brother David (Kobna Holdbrook-Smith) spots the guy in the park. The three men end up chasing him into a public restroom, where Lamar and David are the first to strike. Kendall does kick him, off Lamar’s encouragement, but it’s his friend who goes back and kicks him a few more times, including in the head, when the guy reaches for his phone. Kendall then struggles with what to tell the police, but by the time his wife Alisa (Karen LeBlanc) convinces him to be honest, it’s too late. Lamar and David have already put all the blame on Kendall and lie on the stand that it was all his idea. Douglas believes him, the detective reveals to Kendall at the end, and promises to do everything he can to make it right.

“I go back to how parents always say, ‘Something happens to my kid, I will go to jail for them,’ but I think there’s a really interesting component of that to explore also in that you take matters into your own hands and that puts you in jail and in that case, you can never really be much good to your kid when you’re in jail,” Warner tells TV Insider. “You can’t support your family and you definitely cannot protect your kid if you’re jail. There’s just a whole other side of beyond the big talk or the immediate emotional reaction.”

The actor breaks down the heartbreaking episode.

What was your reaction to the script?

Malcolm-Jamal Warner: When I first read it, I loved it. One of the things that we constantly talk about just growing up is, “if I ever have kids and someone touches my kid, I’m willing to go to jail for my kid.” I think it’s something that we talk about, but when you’re actually faced with it, it’s not as easy as it seems.

And especially in these circumstances.

Yeah. I dug the script also because there’s so many elements — just the feeling of being violated, obviously your kid being violated, but then as a parent, you feel violated, so there’s that emotion. And then there’s also the betrayal of friendship. That compounds what’s already an emotional journey. By the time I finished reading the script, I was heartbroken for Kendall on so many different levels, so many facets of his life.

Wendell Pierce and Malcolm-Jamal Warner in 'Accused'

Steve Wilkie/FOX


At the end, Kendall tells Douglas he should’ve taken the chance he’d given him, but that’s in hindsight. The man that Kendall is, being so loyal to his friends, could he have turned on Lamar and David without knowing they’d turn on him in time? It had taken that conversation with Alisa and Kendall didn’t seem ready to tell her the truth until then.

Yeah, that’s a hard thing, and I think that’s probably the one thing that I struggled with as an actor, finding the place — if it was me, Malcolm, there wouldn’t be much of a question — in Kendall where it was organic to him to not want to turn on his friends even though it would mean his own demise, for lack of a better word. So there was just a lot of backstory — between him and his friends growing up — that I had to create as an actor in order to make that dilemma meaningful and organic to who Kendall is.

His wife had said Lamar hadn’t been his friend in a long time, but that’s something he had been blinded to, so he was blindsided by this betrayal. He thought there was that loyalty there.

Yeah, and I think there’s part of Kendall that knew that. I don’t think it was entirely new information that Kendall’s wife was giving him, but there was that piece that he didn’t want to face himself. I think there’s a part of Kendall still needing that friendship. Even though the friendship seemed, in our eyes as viewers, a bit dysfunctional, there was something about it that Kendall felt he really needed to hold onto. A lot of that is wrapped around Kendall’s own success and whatever feelings of guilt come with being more successful than the people you grew up with and whatever kind of under the surface jealousies and animosities are present in a lot of dysfunctional friendships. I think that was really Kendall’s Achilles heel, needing that friendship and being so invested in that friendship against his own good.

There’s also that line that Lamar has about how Kendall tries to find the good in people that’s not there. That plays into it as well.

Yeah, that’s heavy and I don’t think Lamar was aware enough to see that in himself, but I think as a viewer, when we see what’s going on and we hear that come out of Lamar’s mouth, it’s like, yeah, you’re absolutely right, you’re one of those people.

Do you think Kendall’s lost that part of himself now?

Yeah, I see that level of betrayal affecting him deeply, but I think it’s also opened his eyes to really listening to his gut. I think what we see throughout the episode is him not following his gut. I think that was a huge lesson — not just the betrayal but also there is self-accountability that is not lost on Kendall.

Without Lamar in his ear telling him the police wouldn’t do anything, Kendall would’ve let Douglas’ investigation play out, right? Even if he had, say, spotted the man who assaulted his daughter by himself one night?

Yeah, definitely. It might have been a much longer, more frustrating process but I also believe in the detective enough that if Kendall was able to come to him with more information, I think the detective would’ve risen to the occasion as well because there’s his own journey and something he has to prove as well.

Does that mean Kendall believes Douglas when he tells him that he’s going to keep looking until he finds what he needs to make this right?

I don’t know. I think at that point, Kendall is so much in his own world and own torment that he feels like if he does come with something, it would be just what he needs but just the level of betrayal, it’s difficult, at the last point we see Kendall, for him to put much belief or hope into anything other than his sense of survival.

So he doesn’t think there’s any hope at all?

I think it’s too far for him to really invest much in because he’s gotta think about his day-to-day, how he’s going to survive in jail. I think the only silver lining that may protect him that he understands too is when people find out why he’s in jail. A rapist goes to jail, he’s in trouble. But if you’re in jail because of someone who has molested your child, I think there’s a level of respect that may save him during his time there. I do think that he’s aware of that, but he can’t really think too far beyond that because right now it’s about how he’s going to survive day-to-day.

Accused, Tuesdays, 9/8c, Fox

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