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Elia Cantu discusses what it’s like to play a daytime cop

What were your initial thoughts on playing a cop? “It was very appealing, because I’d always wanted to play a cop or some kind of role where I could do action or stunts; kind of have a badass edge. When I found out Jada was a detective, I was like, ‘Wow. This is really awesome to be a woman playing this authoritative position, both as a woman and a person of color.’ ”

Was it the kind of role that was completely foreign to you or did you already have an edge in real life, where you could be tough when necessary? “I definitely have a tough girl in me. That’s just innate. Plus, I come from a background in sports. That also helps to keep me tough. It was foreign in other ways. I’ve never been a police officer. So it was foreign to get certain verbiage down, like the Miranda rights and things like that, and handling handcuffs.”

Did you have to memorize the Miranda rights? “I did have to memorize them, absolutely. That wasn’t too tough. Because of the arrests she’s been making lately, I’ve been having to say them full out.”

Did you do any research so you could better embody a cop? “My research was looking online. I did a lot of YouTube research on holding a gun and the proper stance when you’re holding a gun — how to hold a rescue position versus when you’re actually ready to shoot it. I also looked at a lot of TV shows, women I admired who played positions like this. Regina King played a cop, Jennifer Lopez … There’s also a new show on Fox, ALERT: MISSING PERSONS UNIT. Dania Ramirez is fantastic. I watched other detectives, studied ladies who were in similar roles. I reached out to a family member who had experience being a sheriff and a cop. I kind of picked his brain a little bit.”

As a detective, you don’t wear a uniform. What are your thoughts on that? “I like that I’m in regular clothes. It gives me and Richard [Bloore, costume designer] some wiggle room to switch up her style a little bit, have a little fun with it. She’s tough, but she’s still feminine. An inspiration is Katharine Hepburn with the clothes that she wore, the high-waisted slacks and the button-up [blouses]. It’s very sophisticated and classy. There’s sexiness in there, but it’s still professional.”

What’s been your proudest on-the-job moment? “Solving Abigail’s murder. That was a really big thing. Jada caught that the time stamp was off at the pub, that somebody changed it. That’s what led to solving that murder.”

Have you had any embarrassing moments or flubs? “I was talking to Brandon Beemer [Shawn] about the handcuffs, how you have to be able to whip them out, be ready to go, and close them up. They don’t really lock. There was a scene when I was arresting Kristen and I couldn’t get the cuffs around her wrists and time it right. That was sort of a flub. It’s funny, Jada always has cuffs on her. She arrested Kristen at [Gabi and Li’s] wedding. Some fans were like, ‘Where did she have those?’ I was wearing this elegant dress and all of a sudden I had these cuffs ready to go. Jada stays ready.”

What criminal do you think Jada most wanted to bring to justice? “I would say Li and Kristen. What they did was for selfish reasons and it affected so many people. Because of what Kristen did, Marlena died. Kayla died. Kate died. Kate was Jada’s confidante during her abortion time. All these women also meant so much to Steve, who was Jada’s father’s best friend.”

What do you like about working on the Salem PD set? “There’s always coffee. It’s real coffee, although it is decaf. There’s just something so warm and comforting and familiar about the smell of coffee. I love coffee, so just smelling it when you’re on set and having it there makes you think, ‘Okay, you’re at the station. You’re ready to go. You’re drinking coffee. You’re solving crimes.’ ”

Is there anything cool on your desk or in its drawers? “There are some masks in the drawers. Because of Covid, we still have to wear masks on set. There are some scripts there, too, and pens and Jada’s off-duty cuffs, if you know what I mean [laughs]. On the desk there are a lot of files, because Rafe gives Jada a lot of work. My penholder and name placard are always constant, too. I love my name placard.”

Does seeing that put you in instant detective mode? “You know what really puts me in the groove? As soon as I step foot on the set of the police station and smell the coffee, the prop master brings me my prop gun and my badge. It’s the badge and my gun. That makes it official. As soon as I put them on, I’m like, ‘Oh, yeah. I mean business.’ ”

What makes Jada cut out for police work? “It’s her natural ability to protect. She’s a protector and she’s very passionate. And she’s honest to a fault. She never lies.”

What’s the best case you’ve worked on so far? “The orchid case, probably because of the women involved in it and all of them passing away. Jada takes it all very seriously. Although a lot of these people are like, ‘Here we go. Orpheus, again,’ it’s all new to Jada. She takes everything seriously.”

Cops don’t always solve a lot of crimes on soaps. It tends to be the civilians a lot. Does that get joked about on set? “Like Chad DiMera, he kind of helped solve his wife’s murder. I did joke about that when I first started. We were questioning Leo Stark in the interrogation room, and Chad just busted in. I said, ‘Do people just bust in here? They shouldn’t be able to as civilians.’ We joked about that with Billy Flynn [Chad]. He was like, ‘Oh, yeah. You’ll see more of this.’ And I have. I’m like, ‘What are the cops doing in the lobby?’ Drinking coffee, I guess.”