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Mormon convert takes interrogation skills to national audience in 'Take the Money and Run'

LOS ANGELES — The people Paul Bishop interrogates as a Los Angeles police detective are usually potential suspects. And he will ask many questions of witnesses and others to find who committed the crime.

On the ABC summer reality show "Take the Money and Run,” the people Bishop, a member of the LDS Church, is interrogating are only guilty of hiding a case of $100,000.

Bishop and his co-interrogator, Los Angeles Deputy District Attorney Mary Hanlon Stone, took a lengthy path to be on the Jerry Bruckheimer-produced show. Bishop’s crime-solving chronicles as a nationally-recognized interrogator was pitched by his agents to various studios, including the one that has brought films like “Pirates of the Caribbean” and “National Treasure” to audiences across the world. The studio executives liked what they heard — but Bishop expected it would be what the studio read that would stand out to them, as he was trying to get on as a writer.

“When the VP for Bruckheimer called after he sold the concept to Disney, saying they wanted to use me in ('Take the Money and Run'), I just wanted to know what I would be writing,” said Bishop, who's had 10 crime-thriller works published and is a 35-year veteran of the Los Angeles Police Department. “I didn’t think they were serious when he said they wanted me in front of the camera.”

Yet Bruckheimer and Bertram van Munster, one of the show’s executive producers, knew they had struck gold in landing Bishop — and Stone soon afterwards — for a series of plots that challenges two contestants to hide a case with $100,000 somewhere in various cities, including San Francisco and Miami. In the following 48 hours, Bishop and Stone are given the opportunity to interrogate each of the contestants in their cells, where the contestants are required to stay, while two seekers are in the city desperately trying to somehow locate the case.

“They bring tremendous amounts of knowledge and experience of bringing people to the truth. They’re just excellent at doing it,” van Munster said. “We’re trying to do an entertaining show and that involves great detectives, subjects and interrogators. Mary and Paul have a high standard and an amazing track record.”

Such a resume includes Bishop as twice-named Detective of the Year and as a recipient of the Quality and Productivity Commission Award from the City of Los Angeles.

But the 25-year sex crime investigator said that after more than two decades of working together, he’s grateful to have had Stone by his side on-screen as well.

Stone first met Bishop while she was a self-described “baby DA” and she is very much a writer, too. A mutual sentiment for sex crimes only added to the interest the two had in collaborating over both subjects.

Bishop’s literary instruction and his direction in how to carve out engaging characters like Fey Croaker, a female detective facing a world that Bishop said is largely best suited for a man’s psyche, played a large influence on Stone’s ability to bring forth her first published novel, "Invisible Girl," in 2010 which explores the dynamic of a young woman managing natural self-consciousness within an abusive relationship.

Not that such mentorship would get to the man’s head, Stone insists.

“Paul is very grounded, so he is the perfect partner to do the show with because there’s the unexpected at every turn,” she said. “He has a very profound spiritual core.”

Such a divine base stems from Bishop’s conversion in 2002, which began years earlier when he met his wife, Dell and later sent their son Greg on a mission. Though he didn’t always see a need for organized religion, Bishop’s personal relationship with the Savior provided the foundation for a “more serious look” at The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints once Greg began his missionary service.

When Bishop found himself sharing his testimony of the truthfulness of the gospel to a 16-year-old who was investigating the church and two Mormon missionaries who came to his home for dinner while Greg was still serving.

“There’s a thousand reasons not to join the church, but there’s only one reason to join, and that’s because it’s true," he told the young seeker. He knew that night that “it was time to get wet,” he said.

There was just one problem, according to Dell, who joined the LDS Church in her 20s.

“She said, ‘You can’t, not until Greg gets off his mission,’” Bishop said. “It was like, 'Wait a minute, she’s never pressured me, though that’s what she’s wanted, and now we’re waiting?'”

Good thing Greg stepped in. The now-mechanical engineer in Texas was quick to respond.

“'Why do you think I’m on a mission?’” Bishop remembers his son writing. “He was fine to go the temple (with me) when he got back.”

Following an initial calling in his ward’s young men presidency and a position in a young single adult bishopric one year later, Bishop now fills a current assignment with Dell as young adult mentors. The 20-somethings come to their home for family home evenings and for other activities.

“Of course, nothing starts before nine at night,” Bishop said of the visits or activities he and his wife will have with the young single adults in their ward. “It keeps us young. I’ve already said I’m not going back to our family ward when we’re released. We’re too immature for family wards anyway, so they sent us back.”

Either congregation would likely beat out the settings that Bishop is typically used to seeing — a jaunt from the British world he remembers as a young boy before his parents took him to southern California.

“My job is not to judge the individuals, but the first process on the road to redemption is confession, and it’s my job to do that,” Bishop said. “Whatever happens after that is up to them, but if I can get them to take the first step toward redemption, I’ve achieved what I can do.”

And the detective wouldn’t have it any other way.

"Take the Money and Run" airs Tuesday evenings on ABC.


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