Good Cop, Bad Cop: An Oral History of The Shield

by Jason Matloff

In the summer of 2000, the top executives in charge of the basic-cable network FX—which was mostly known for showing reruns of The X-Files and Buffy the Vampire Slayer—were eager to make a change.

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They believed that in order to be relevant, they needed to present audiences with an original, prime time scripted drama that would be so provocative it would completely alter the way the network was perceived. FX President Peter Liguori and his second-in-command, Kevin Reilly, ordered two pilots to compete to fill this slot: One was the drug-fueled drama, Dope, which followed a kilo of heroin as it came into contact with several different characters. The show starred Jason Priestley in his first series role since Beverly Hills 90210. The second was a gritty drama called The Barn, which centered on a group of police officers operating in a crime-infested, fictional Los Angeles neighborhood. Created and written by Shawn Ryan (Angel, Nash Bridges), The Barn featured an ensemble cast led by Michael Chiklis, who was best known for playing the titular character in the ABC dramedy The Commish.

From the start, Dope felt like a heavy favorite. Some executives at FX were concerned that audiences might not be interested in yet another cop show, and there were doubts about whether Chiklis was the right fit to play The Barn's lead role, Vic Mackey, a tough-as-nails, morally ambiguous antihero, even though Chiklis had shaved his head and lost more than 40 pounds. In fact, if Reilly's original choice for the role, Eric Stoltz, had accepted FX's offer to play Mackey, Chiklis would have never even gotten the chance to audition.

Despite these doubts, once the two pilots were delivered and screened—Liguori and his team chose The Barn (at that point renamed Rampart) as the key to FX's future identity. Shortly after, 9/11 happened, and the network was forced to decide whether presenting law-enforcement officers in a far-from-positive light was appropriate. As Reilly put it, the country was looking for comfort food at the time and their new original drama was far from it. Nevertheless, FX moved forward with the show—finally renamed The Shield—and was almost immediately rewarded for its gamble. On March 12, 2002, 4.8 million people tuned in to view its premiere, making it the most-watched debut of any scripted basic-cable series ever. Later that year, the show made even more history when Michael Chiklis became the first person from a basic-cable show to win the Emmy for Outstanding Lead Actor in a Drama Series. In January of 2003, The Shield won the Golden Globe for best dramatic television series, defeating the likes of The Sopranos and 24 and surprising nearly everyone (including the cast and crew themselves).

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In the same way that Vic Mackey described himself in the pilot— as a different kind of cop—The Shield was a different kind of show. Storylines included torture, gang retribution, elderly rape, underage prostitution, and even one strangled cat; it's no wonder that advertisers pulled out, and that the Parents Television Council, a watchdog group, labeled the show "filthy trash." But The Shield was more then just provocative—it delved deeply into complicated and difficult human emotions with aplomb, thanks to showrunner Shawn Ryan and his writing team's excellent work.

While ratings eventually dipped and the flow of awards and nominations ebbed, The Shield continued its strong run. Major stars such as Glenn Close, Anthony Anderson, and Forest Whitaker joined the cast at various points, and their characters' clashes with Mackey added dramatic punch. In 2006, during the filming of its sixth season, the show was dealt a major blow when executive producer and director Scott Brazil, the very first person Shawn Ryan hired on The Shield, died from complications of ALS and Lyme disease.

On November 25, 2008, the 88th and final episode of The Shield aired, and the fans who watched were rewarded with one of the greatest series wrap-ups ever (Entertainment Weekly rated it number eight in its list of best series finales). Unlike the way The Sopranos went out, The Shield left nearly no questions unanswered and delivered pure satisfaction to its diehard followers.

In the 11 years since The Shield premiered, basic cable has become a prime destination for those looking for well-written and original dramatic television. And while the show has never received the level of mainstream acceptance that Mad Men, Breaking Bad, and others that followed did, it's hard to deny its influence. If there was never a Vic Mackey, who knows if Don Draper or Walter White would have ever have found their way into people's homes. What follows are shared memories from The Shield's key players in front of and behind the camera.

“This One Is Special”

SHAWN RYAN (Creator–Executive Producer–Writer): The Rampart scandal [involving widespread police corruption] had broken in Los Angeles, and I was reading a Page One story about it in the L.A. Times. It continued on, like, page A8 and when I finished the article, I noticed that on page A9, completely unrelated to the one I just read, was a story about how crime statistics were down in Los Angeles. It went district by district, and crime was down in the Rampart area. I was, like, Wow, nobody's put these two things together—that you had these guys running Rampart, possibly violating civil rights, but it was sort of effective. Soon after, my wife and I had our first child, and when you have your first child, you often have these nightmare scenarios about all the awful things in the world that can befall them. I had always considered myself a civil libertarian, but I noticed a contradiction—how much of a civil libertarian would I be if my own child's safety were at stake? So I was kind of open to the idea of a Vic Mackey.

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LISA BERGER (Executive Vice President, Creative Affairs, Fox Television Studios Production, 1999–2003): The studio decided to look in some of the Fox libraries to see if there were any scripts to develop, and there was one called Heartland, which was by Shawn Ryan. It was a half-hour comedy and was very well written. I tracked Shawn down and said to him, "What else do you want to write?" He went off for a while and when he came back, he said, "I want to write about corrupt cops in LA." And I was like, "Go write it."

PETER LIGUORI (President, FX Networks, 1998–2005): At that point, the business model of FX was flawed, because there was nothing in primetime. The only scripted series we had was Howard Stern's Son of the Beach, and his goal was not necessarily quality. It was yuks. It was also geared to him squawking about FX all day.

KEVIN REILLY (President of Entertainment, FX Networks, 2000–2003): The idea was for FX to be the HBO of basic cable and have similar type fare. But we were really a far cry from HBO at that point. The network was running Cops on a loop, and my office had a giant stain on the carpet, mismatched chairs, and a hole punched in the wall.

LISA BERGER: Knowing what FX was trying to do as far as expanding into original scripted content, I felt that Shawn's script was a perfect fit. I gave it to Kevin and said, "You've got to read this."

KEVIN REILLY: After just five pages in, I remember thinking, "This one is special."

SHAWN RYAN: I didn't even know what FX was, so when I heard they wanted to have a meeting, I flipped on my cable and found it, and saw that it was Buffy and X-Files repeats. So I went to this meeting, thinking that they might ask some questions about the script. Within five minutes, Kevin Reilly told me he wanted to make the pilot.

PETER LIGUORI: Shawn wanted to know what he had to change to get it on the air, because it was so hard-hitting. And the answer to that was, "Nothing." We wanted to do it as is.

“A Rat Is Lower Than a Killer”

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SHAWN RYAN: I had gone to see the movie Donnie Brasco. It's very well made and well acted, and I knew it was a true story, yet a third of the way through, I found myself realizing the inevitability of the plot in a way that kind of took some satisfaction and interest away from the movie. I could tell that it was really set up for Johnny Depp to have to betray Al Pacino, so my mind started racing as I was watching, and at one point I thought, "Wouldn't it be so cool if in this scene, Pacino and Depp walk into the room and Pacino just turns around and shoots him in the head?" And that he knew the whole time Depp was a plant. So as I was working on this script I started thinking, Well, what if I set this up as a show about the undercover guy trying to take Vic Mackey and company down? But in the end [Mackey kills him]. I didn't think anyone would make it into a series, so I was not worried about episode two or anything beyond. I just thought it was a cool moment.

PETER LIGUORI: Needless to say, we knew the ending was going to be highly controversial. At one point, Kevin [Reilly] came to me and said, "Are you sure you want to end the pilot like this? Because we're going to ask an audience to go 100 episodes strong with a lead character who is going to shoot his partner in the face." My response was, "Let's film it as is, because in the Bronx neighborhood that I come from, a rat is lower than a killer." The audience won't say that Vic Mackey made the right decision, but they'll understand.

“If Nothing Else, I'm Going to  
  Make Them Afraid”

MICHAEL CHIKLIS (Detective Vic Mackey): I was at a crossroads in my career. I had just finished a sitcom called Daddio, in which, yet again, I played a sort of roly-poly affable nice guy, and there was no traction whatsoever with regard to anything that was adult, smart, or hardheaded. My wife, Michelle, said to me, "Look, it's not incumbent upon the studios or networks to reinvent you. It's incumbent upon you to reinvent yourself." That stunned me into reality, so I embarked on a six-month period of working on my body and trying to break the mold. Around that time, our second child Odessa was about a year-and-a-half old, and Michelle dragged me to a Gymboree class. And there was her friend, Cathy, who she had known since they were, like, five years, old growing up in North Miami Beach together. Cathy introduced me to her husband, this bald guy named Shawn.

CATHY CAHLIN RYAN (Corrine Mackey): I mentioned that Shawn had this pilot that he wrote, and I can't remember if I said they were looking for someone to play Vic, but I do know Michael wanted to read the script.

MICHAEL CHIKLIS: It was and still is the best pilot script I've ever read. I'll never forget that when I got to the last scene in which Vic shoots Terry [Crowley], I threw the script across the floor and shouted, "Michelle, I have to do this! I'm going to play this character!"

SHAWN RYAN: I really didn't think Michael was right for the part. I was looking for more of a classic Harrison Ford–type. But we would run into Michael and his wife occasionally, so it would have been awkward not to have given him a chance to audition.

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CLARK JOHNSON (Director, 7 episodes, including the pilot and finale): First, I thought of The Commish, then Curly [of the Three Stooges, whom Chiklis played in a 2000 TV movie]. I was advocating that Michael wasn't right for the character.

MICHAEL CHIKLIS: The people in my camp were adamantly opposed to me reading for it, because, you know, I was a television star, blah, blah, blah. And FX was a non-entity, blah, blah, blah. But I said, "Have you read it? I need this."

SHAWN RYAN: His first audition was for me, Scott Brazil, and Clark Johnson. One of the scenes he did was when Vic confronts the pedophile and ultimately comes after him with a phonebook. Michael was very, very effective. He truly frightened the casting associate who read with him.

MICHAEL CHIKLIS: Oh, the poor girl. I came out of my chair and went at her. She screamed, dropped her script, and jumped. I really freaked her out, which kind of was good because it sold the whole thing.

SHAWN RYAN: We discussed just how good he was. Still, it was like, "Are we really hiring the Commish? Is this really who we want to bring to FX as the guy for this?" We still had some concerns, but there was no doubt that Michael's read was easily the best that we had seen up to that point for the role, and by a large margin.

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PETER LIGUORI: I came upstairs to go to the conference room [for Chiklis's second audition, which was for the network and studio] and I went by a little waiting area. There was a guy who was completely buffed out and bald. I walked into the room and said, "Where's Chiklis?" And someone goes, "You just passed him."

LISA BERGER: I walked out of the audition room, looked at Michael, and said, Oh, it's the Commish. And then, for some reason we started talking, and he was so compelling. And you really didn't think of the Commish as compelling, or having heart, or frankly being hot. I walked back into the room and said, "I've got to tell you, the Commish is hot."

MICHAEL CHIKLIS: When they called me into the room, I remember becoming enraged, because I just thought to myself, "They're not going to give me this. They think they know who I am." There was no doubt in my mind that I could play the role of Vic, so the fact that someone else doubted me pissed me off. I was, like, Well, if nothing else, I'm going to make them afraid.

PETER LIGUORI: When Michael finished with his audition, he got up, didn't say goodbye to anyone, and left. Everybody then turned around and looked at me. I was like, "I don't think that guy just won the role—I think he is the role."

“We Want to Have You on the Team”

SHAWN RYAN: Once we cast Michael, I started to think I maybe needed someone who was a younger, sort of classic leading-man type to play Shane. I put forward this guy who I liked, and to Kevin Reilly's credit, he said, "Listen, the guy you've given me is a good actor, and good-looking. But you see a lot of guys like this on TV. I feel like you should be looking for someone who is more of an instant character and doesn't remind you of anyone else. Once he appears on screen, you're, like, "Oh, that guy." And I was like, "Well, I saw this guy who is very much that guy—Walton Goggins."

WALTON GOGGINS (Detective Shane Vendrell): I had no idea what FX was or who Shawn Ryan and Scott Brazil were. What I did know was that the script was un-fucking-believable. I had never read anything that raw. I was just blown away.

JAY KARNES (Detective Holland "Dutch" Wagenbach): When I read it, I didn't see myself as any of the characters, so I asked Shawn [with whom he had been friends for 12 years] if there was anything in it for me. He said, "Take a look at Dutch, and I'll do a pass with you in mind. So he sent over the [new version], and I read it, and I remember thinking, "This is how you see me?" But by the time I started working on the character for my audition, I realized Dutch was right in my wheelhouse.

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SHAWN RYAN: CCH Pounder's agent had read the script and saw that there wasn't a role that [was a fit for CCH]. So the agent asked me, "Well, why can't she play the part of Charles? Why does it have to be a man?" And I was, like, That's really interesting. Why does it have to be a man?

CCH POUNDER (Detective Claudette Wyms): When I auditioned, the character was [still] written as a man. I remember sort of changing my voice and attitude to be very, very butch. At the end of the reading, having known that that was completely the wrong way to go, I said to them, "I would love to come back after I've decided what sex I want to be." Fortunately, they let me, and this time, I took a woman's authority and worked with it.

BENITO MARTINEZ (Captain David Aceveda): David had both power and weight. He wasn't your typical flashy politician—he was cleverer than that. And I loved it about him.

KENNY JOHNSON (Detective Curtis "Lem" Lemansky): I first auditioned for the role of Terry Crowley. I was reading lines with [casting director] Deborah Aquila, and I remember that she'd say a line and then I'd say mine, and she would pause and just look at me. At one point, she said, "Have I ever met you?" And I'm, like, "No." Then she goes, "You're really interesting." When we got to the end, she said, "Do me a favor, I want you to come back and audition for the director and producers and everybody, but this time, I want you to read for the part of Lem." Later, I was, like, Thank God I didn't get fucking Terry Crowley."

CATHERINE DENT (Officer Danielle "Danny" Sofer): I had been playing a lot of moms who would cry over sick babies in hospital rooms, so I was thrilled to get an interesting role. But there was a lot of learning on my feet on how to be a real cop. I didn't want to look like Heather Locklear [in the police show T.J. Hooker]. I wanted to be believable. That said, I still wanted to be sexy in the uniform, and at first I was, like, "Oh, God, I look so butch. I hate this." But by the second or third season, I loved it.

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DAVID REES SNELL (Detective Ronnie Gardocki): I think Shawn's original idea for the Strike Team was that there was going to be, like, six or eight guys. Logistically, that wasn't possible, so it ended up being four. They needed a fourth so Scott and Shawn called and said, "Listen, we're out of budget, but we want to have you on the team. If the show gets picked up, you'll be on the team, but right now, you would just be an extra." My career wasn't doing anything at that time, and I knew Shawn and Jay [Karnes] so well, and wanted to be with them on this, but I took a day to think about it.

CATHY CAHLIN RYAN: Shawn asked me if I would want to do the part, and, of course, I said yes. I would have loved to have done the show even if I wasn't married to him. But then I asked if it would be weird, so we talked to Scott Brazil and Clark Johnson about it, and it ended up being the right thing.

“It Was Just Wild West Shit”

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CLARK JOHNSON: My take on the show was that it needed to be run and gun—street level, guerrilla-style. I wanted The Shield to feel like it was happening in the right now.

MICHAEL CHIKLIS: There were times when I would run out in the middle of a live street. A couple of those times, Bonnie [Osborne, first assistant camera operator] bailed. She said, "I'm not crossing a live street. I'm going to get killed." And I didn't blame her. It was just Wild West shit. But we were having a ball.

WALTON GOGGINS: We were always in control, but there was this feeling of abandon and lack of parenting. On the very first day, we were filming the pilot in downtown Los Angeles and we had our badges out and were kind of hanging around on the street. The cop who was down there with us said, "Hey, man, you should take that off right now." And I was, like, "What are you talking about? It's my prop, man." He said, "They're making gang membership by killing a cop right now, so take your fucking badge off." And that's when I realized this is serious.

KENNY JOHNSON: When we filmed in Tijuana, we were in sections that even the cops wouldn't go in. There was one scene where Walton and I went down an alleyway and we had to get clearance from the gang that owned that area. I got a little nervous when we were filming it, because people started coming out from everywhere, and if something happened, we were on our own.

CLARK JOHNSON: We were doing this shot of a building that was about to be assaulted, and there was this pack of wild dogs roaming around. I wanted to film them, but there was some gear in the way. So I ran over to craft service and grabbed some chunks of meat and threw them out in the direction of our shot. The dogs went for it, so I yelled, "Shoot the dog!" That became the phrase for a grab shot.

“We'd Hit It Out of the Park”

MICHAEL CHIKLIS: FX publicist John Solberg and I went on a tour together to promote the show. We did Regis & Kathie Lee and the late night shows. But we also did these little local channels. We were trying to get the word out. It was a very grass roots thing.

JOHN SOLBERG (Senior Vice President, Media Relations, FX Networks, 2002-2013): No media outlet was too small, so we didn't turn anything down. We would hit every major rock and sports radio station, visit the major newspapers, and take the major critics out to lunch as a thank you for the recognition of the show. We would start at six in the morning and go until midnight.

KEVIN REILLY: As excited as I was about what we were doing, it was like no one knew what the network was. Many, many times people would say, "Oh, I know FX, that's the special effects channel, right?" And I would be like, "No. No, it's not."

PETER LIGUORI: Before we left the office on the night that the pilot was going to have its premiere, I got everyone together and said, "Tomorrow, the measure of what we did as a company will not be in the ratings. We've already measured who we are and what we're about and should be proud of the show." So when I got up the next morning, my phone was ringing off the hook because the numbers were in. I didn't answer it. Actually, I came into work a bit late because I wanted to prove that it wasn't the numbers that mattered. When I walked into the office, the guys were waiting for me and by the looks on their faces, it was clear that we'd hit it out of the park. At that point, we went to the studio with champagne to celebrate with Shawn and those guys.

“Just Go With It”

MICHAEL CHIKLIS: The night before the Emmys, Peter Liguori called me and told me that there was no way I could win. He said, "We're really incredibly proud of you. This is an insane milestone. But you can't win." And even though I didn't believe I could either, hearing someone say it stung. So I was, like, "Well, what do you mean?" He said, "Let me put it this way." I forget what the numbers were but it roughly was like, "HBO has, like 380 voting members of the Academy. NBC has 400-something. We have 8."

PETER LIGUORI: There was no way he was going to win. I just told him, "Enjoy your night." I wanted him to know that no one was going to be disappointed if he didn't win.

KEVIN REILLY: When Kim Cattrall announced his name, Michael, who was sitting right next to me, started to get up. And I grabbed his arm, basically to say, "What are you doing? You didn't win." And then I realized, holy shit, he did win. As he was walking away, he looked me right in the eye and said, "Just go with it."

PETER LIGUORI: I was so convinced that we weren't going to win that we hadn't bought tickets to the Governors Ball. But Scott Brazil, who did have tickets, met us at the front door. I wouldn't go, because I thought it wouldn't look too good for a president of a network to get thrown out of the Governors Ball or crash the gate. But Scott was not to be denied. He literally dragged me in.

“Oh, My God, They're Going to  
  Give It to Us”

CATHERINE DENT: We weren't treated like big TV stars. There was no money. So for the Golden Globes, we had to share a limousine, and it was like the SuperShuttle Shield-mobile. We were driving around picking people up. It was hilarious.

SHAWN RYAN: At the Golden Globes, I walked in there not thinking we were going to win. I mean, that was a tough group: The Sopranos, Six Feet Under, 24, and The West Wing. But then Michael won [the Golden Globe for best actor in a dramatic television series], and I remember thinking, Oh, my God, they're going to give it to us.

MICHAEL CHIKLIS: When we won, there was a collective gasp in the room. You literally heard the taking in of air from 2,500 people at once—including us.

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“Surely, We're Not Going to Do That”

MICHELE HICKS (Mara Sewell): I would read the script and be, like, Oh, my God. Are they really going to say that? And they always did. You'd be, like, Wow, they're going to go there. That's why I always loved The Shield. They went there.

CCH POUNDER: I would be like, Oh, my God! Surely we're not going to do that! I was always highly offended by a lot of things, and I would have to calm down, and I would find a way to deal with it.

KURT SUTTER (Executive Producer–Writer): I feel like I have some of the ownership of the more dark, fucked-up, and nearly absurd things that happened on The Shield. I remember Shawn making a speech at my wedding in which he basically said that the show was this really dark, dangerous, fucked-up world, and everybody, including him, was sort of like putting their toes in to see what the temperature was. And then I came in, took off all my clothes and dove in headfirst.

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MICHAEL CHIKLIS: I remember when we did the scene where I beat Armadillo [Danny Pino] and burn his face. I asked Danny, "How do you want to do this?" And to his credit, he was just, like, "Go at me." I said, "I'm not going to do that, it's a fucking legal book, man," and he was, like, "No, no—it's made of rubber." So I just grabbed the book and popped him right in the face with it. I hit him 50 times with that book. And I hit him as hard as I could because he gave me permission. It's something I never would do— I'm a very safe actor.

I knew it was rubber, and I was hitting him mainly about the body and the shoulders. A couple of times, I whacked him in the head, but when I did that, I pulled it; I didn't drive through it. We did two takes of that, and before the second, I said, "Are you all right? I'm not going to do that again." And he said, "No, go ahead. I'm all right. If I couldn't take it, I'd tell you." He was really incredible. On my ride home from the set, Walton called, and was, like, "What did we just do? What did we just do?" He was so affected by how brutal it was.

CATHERINE DENT: We had some scary storylines. When I got the script for Cherrypoppers [a Season One episode involving underage prostitution], I was, like, What is this? I didn't know what the fuck I had gotten myself into.

JOHN SOLBERG: The first season, I spent four or five hours a day defending the show's content and our policy. But when the show was nominated for the Emmys, it all just kind of went away.

“It Was a Fake Cat”

JAY KARNES: At the beginning of each season, Shawn and the writing staff would take a different actor to lunch every day and ask us questions about our characters. During my lunch before Season Three, apropos of nothing, [writer] Scott Rosenbaum—who understood Dutch and me very well—said, "What do you think would cause Dutch to strangle a cat?" Later on that season, Shawn said to me very cryptically and with a little snarky smile, "I've got some good news, and I've got some bad news. The good news is David Mamet is going to be directing a very Dutch-heavy episode." And, I was, like, "That's fantastic. What's the bad news?" He then said, "In that episode, you are going to strangle a cat while in your underwear."

GLEN MAZZARA (Executive Producer–Writer): I don't remember if it was PETA, but some group listed us as portraying cruelty to animals after the episode aired. I was really upset about that, so I called them up and they said, "We got a lot of complaints about the killing of the cat." I said, "We didn't really kill a cat, you know. It was a fake cat." And then I asked, "Well, how many people complained? And they said, "Four." And I was like, "Oh, really, four people nationwide complained, and you had to put out a news article saying that we killed a cat?" Around that time, we were filming the Season Four premiere in which an officer shoots a dog, so I said to the guy on the phone, "I'm sorry, I have to go, because we're about to shoot a dog."

“What's Plan B?”

SHAWN RYAN: We had come up with a storyline that Aceveda was going to get beaten up. And I remember thinking, I've seen that before. So we started talking about the idea of rather than have him getting beaten, what if he gets sexually assaulted? We started writing it, and when we were committed to that story, I felt that I owed it to Benito to give him the heads up about the scene, because what often happens is, someone on the crew reads the script first and says, "Oh, my God, Benito, I can't believe you're sucking a dick in that episode!" So I asked him to come into my office and said, "Here's the script. I just want you to read it now and when you're done, come back and we'll talk."

BENITO MARTINEZ: I was stunned. I was angry. I was offended, and I was hurt. I could not believe that they would even consider this. So I went back and said to Shawn, "What's going on here?" And he said, "This is not about the Strike Team or the Barn. This is for your character and his journey. It could be really powerful." He then said, "Take the weekend and let me know your thoughts." So I spoke to my agent, my manager, my mom, and my wife. My agent and my mom shocked me the most. My agent, who was an older Jewish lady, was, like, "This sounds fascinating—I say go for it." My mom said, "It's pretty courageous, and it will be compelling television, and you've got the best writers in town." My manager, who was a guy, was like, "Hell, no! There's no way you're doing this." And my wife said, "It could be really compelling. But I do not want to see some guy's ass bobbing up and down in your face." After the weekend, I asked Shawn, “What's Plan B?” And he looked at me and said, "There really isn't one."

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SHAWN RYAN: We spent a lot of time figuring out what the stories were and how to make them right. So it wasn't, "Oh, the actor is uncomfortable with it. We'll do something else." It was a matter of how do we get Benito on board, and I had to think long and hard about how to artistically justify it, so that my actor is going to want to do it. I didn't want to make Benny do it. I wanted to convince him that it was worth doing.

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BENITO MARTINEZ: When Lorraine Bracco's character was raped on The Sopranos, they really didn't do anything with it. And I was offended. Why would you have a person go through the worst thing they could and not examine that journey and how it affects them? So I asked Shawn, "Where do you go with this, because if it is just for the one episode, I don't think viewers will be sympathetic to my character at all." And then he told me how I was going to lose myself and have to work my way back. And that David would be accepting the mayoral candidacy while living with this dark secret. And I thought, Wow. Alright.

GLEN MAZZARA: When everyone read the script, some people immediately said, "How could you do that to Benito?" And I kept saying, "We're not doing it to Benito, we're doing it to David Aceveda." But the cast and the crew at the time all took it personally. CCH Pounder was sitting next to me on set, and she turned to me and said, "You're Godless." I said, "It's not even my script." She then said, "All of you writers are Godless. There's no reason to do this." She was furious. She felt we were just doing it to be gratuitous. We said, "No, we're going to develop an entire arc out of this." But it really rattled people. I think they only came around to accept that scene because Benito very courageously embraced it and was completely professional about it.

BENITO MARTINEZ: When I saw the episode, I was shocked. But the part I hated the most was that the guy who was my stand-in [during the filming of the assault] was bobbing his head. I was, like, "Oh, no. This is not something you would enjoy, dude!"

“The New Guy Who Has to Fit In”

JOHN LANDGRAF (President and General Manager, FX Networks 2005-2013): For the fourth season, we made a list of all of the top female movie stars there were, and decided that Glenn Close was the most exciting name in terms of who we would like to see going mano a mano with Michael Chiklis.

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GLENN CLOSE (Captain Monica Rawling): I heard from my agent, Kevin Huvane that they were interested in me doing a season. I was totally not interested in doing episodic television. It wasn't on my radar screen. But he insisted that I have a meeting, so John Landgraf, Peter Liguori, and Shawn Ryan came to my apartment in New York. And they seduced me into it. All three of them are highly intelligent guys with a real vision. They gave me copies of the first three seasons, and I remember I went on vacation with my family in Wyoming. I was with my parents who were in their eighties, and we all got addicted to The Shield. I was so onboard after that. I thought it was a remarkable show.

SHAWN RYAN: My memory is that the meeting at Glenn's apartment lasted something like three hours. And the first hour was really tough. I wouldn't say she was cold, but she was definitely in "prove it to me" mode. But in the last 45 minutes of the conversation, as we kept talking about the show, she switched pronouns and started saying "I" rather than "she" when referring to the character. I thought that was a good sign.

GLENN CLOSE: It was an extraordinary set to be on, and an extraordinary ensemble of incredibly gifted actors. But it was daunting. The hardest thing for me was that I was coming in to command these guys who had been together for three years. And here I am, being given star billing and having to play a character that tells them what to do all the time. But what was great was that it wasn't until the third episode of the season that my character actually took command, so as she was checking things out, me the actress was checking things out too. So when I did take command, I was psychologically more ready.

CCH POUNDER: In the beginning, it was difficult because we thought we had done amazingly well, and then to bring in somebody to top it—that was strange. And it was difficult when the focus went off of Mackey, but he had to have people to play with. You cannot always play with just the supporting cast because it becomes sort of regular. We needed to inject the stories with other antagonists and protagonists to keep it interesting. I think once all the others understood that, then it all fell into play. And Glenn in particular was a real team player. She understood what that all meant.

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MICHAEL CHIKLIS: My only trepidation at the time was that Glenn might seem out of place in the gritty urban world of The Shield. That worry was quelled in all of about a minute.

ANTHONY ANDERSON (Antwon Mitchell): I was ready to make the transition from comedy to drama so I wouldn't be typecast as just a comedic actor. So the two main shows that I targeted were Law & Order and The Shield. I went in and auditioned for the role of Antwon Mitchell and got it. Then I get a call two days later from Shawn Ryan saying, "Anthony, I hate to do this to you, but the network wants you to come back in and read again." I could understand why. Up until then, I had done nothing but comedies, so the executives were probably thinking, "Can Kangaroo Jack guy do what we need him to do?" They had me re-audition the scene where Antwon kills a young girl. And maybe two hours later, Shawn called again and said, "Anthony, it's yours."

DAVID MARCIANO (Detective Steve Billings): It was very difficult, because it's like being drafted onto an all-star basketball team where everything is firing just fine and you're the new guy who has to fit in. And with actors of that caliber, you don't gain respect right away. You have to earn it. So I treaded very lightly at the beginning. Then I got my big episode with the car wash scene and it opened up everybody's eyes to what I could bring to the show. They embraced me and were accepting, but I was never fully accepted as a part of the original team. There's something about doing a pilot and having it picked up, then getting nominated for Emmys and Golden Globes during your first season. It's a bonding experience.

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JAY KARNES: David did something that I thought was so interesting and so instructive, especially for television. He had realized that the Dutch-Billings pairing was kind of golden, so when we were off-camera, he would [lay the foundation for] that relationship. He studied me and came up with things to do that would annoy me. And he would bring them up and they'd make no sense. I would be, like, "David, how could you think that?" So he created the Dutch-Billings relationship by altering his personality ever so slightly when the cameras weren't rolling.

DAVID MARCIANO: I would mess with him. I would be, like, "Remember that choice that you made back in that scene?" Jay would get leery and look at me and say "What about it?" And I'd be, like, "No, no, it was good, it was alright," and I'd say it in a way that made it seem like it really wasn't.

ANTHONY ANDERSON: We were doing the scene where Glenn is interrogating me, and she says that my son is gay. And because of who Antwon is, I'm thinking my son maybe got raped in jail, but she was, like, no, no, he wasn't raped. He went in there to get fucked. When she hit me with that, I turned and hit the wall, which was real concrete. We did like three or four takes. At first, I was like, Oh, shit, that hurt. But it works for the character so I'm going to keep doing it. By the last take, I kept my right hand under the table because I had split three of my fingers at the knuckle and my hand was dripping with blood. The one thing I regret as an actor is not bringing that hand up onto the table, showing that shit to Glenn Close's character, and being, like, Bitch, this could have been you.

“The Badly Trained Pit Bull”

BENITO MARTINEZ: No matter what the writers did with Mackey, audiences loved him. He's sleeping around, selling dope—but he got the bad guy. He was doing the shit that people wished they could do. One time, Forest [Whitaker] and I were sitting together and he said, "I don't get it. Why does everybody root for Mackey?" And I'm, like, "Thank you, I've been asking that question for four seasons!"

MICHAEL CHIKLIS: From a story standpoint, Forest's character and mine had been set up to despise each other. We didn't even meet until the end of the third episode. He just talked about me and I just talked about him. Then he spent a whole year wanting to get me. And on top of it, in real life, people would scream at Forest, "Leave Vic Mackey alone!" And he was, like, "He killed a guy. I'm a cop—I'm the good guy. What the fuck?" He couldn't wrap his head around it. That made him despise my character even more.

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CCH POUNDER: Women would say to me, "When are you going to get him, Claudette?" And men would say, "Hey, why don't you leave the man alone?"

GLENN CLOSE: One of my deep-subtext kind of things was that Monica fell in love with Vic a little bit. So in some of the scenes where my behavior might seem a little weird, it was because there was some part of him that she really loved.

JAY KARNES: I was doing a police charity benefit in Louisville, and five cops walked up to me and one of them said, "Hey, man, you got to leave Vic alone." And I said, "Guys, he shot another cop in the head. And then one of them sheepishly looked down and muttered, "He was a rat."

CCH POUNDER: Vic's the badly trained pit bull that every now and again, you're really delighted that he's in your yard.

“Keep the Slimeball Around.”

SHAWN RYAN: We almost killed off Shane in Season Four. Not that we didn't love Walton, but Shane was getting into some bad stuff with Antwon Mitchell, so we discussed the idea of Vic taking Shane out because he had become too much of a problem. I actually broached it with the network. But ultimately I didn't think it was the best story.

WALTON GOGGINS: I knew that there was a conversation about whether or not to kill Shane, but I didn't know it was Season Four. [They decided to] keep the slimeball around; keep that nasty motherfucker around a little bit longer.

“There Would Be No Shield  
  Without Scott Brazil”

CATHERINE DENT: One day, Scott [Brazil] was limping, and my first thought was that he twisted an ankle. So I asked him something like, "Did you hurt your ankle?" And he gave some sort of vague no. Then six months later, he was walking with a cane, and six months after that, he was in a wheelchair. It was kind of shocking, and nobody knew what he was going through because he would not talk about it.

JAY KARNES: By the middle of Season Five, he looked like one of those guys who had gotten out of a Japanese prisoner-of-war camp. He was really thin. He had a beard. And he was in a wheelchair. But it never crossed my mind that he was going to die, despite what, in retrospect, my eyes were telling me. He said he was going to be fine, and I believed him.

CATHY CAHLIN RYAN: I always think about Scott Brazil. I don't know how to even describe that experience, because it was so tragic at the end. He was somebody that Shawn and I loved. He was a wonderful, talented man.

SHAWN RYAN: Scott was my partner on the show from the very beginning. And it was terribly lonely to go on without him. It required some maturation on my part. One of the great things about Scott was he let me be the artist in the sandbox while he took care of the things that needed to get taken care of. For instance, on the day he died, I essentially had to go and tell the cast and crew, and normally, if something like that happened, it would have been Scott who would have told them. In terms of leadership of the show, what had been a two-person job now had become a one-person job. And that did weigh on me for the remaining two seasons.

WALTON GOGGINS: Despite doing all these very difficult and emotional scenes, the toughest day in the seven years of filming the show was when we found out that Scott Brazil had passed away. Without Scott, there would be no Shield. People can say that about Shawn Ryan, and that's true on the writing side, but as a director, and as the man behind the madness and the person who made it happen, there would be no Shield without Scott Brazil.

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“If You Kill One of Us,  
  You've Killed Us All”

SHAWN RYAN: A lot of the time, when a character has a surprising death on a TV show, you can bet pretty good money that that actor was a pain in the ass in some way. In the instance of Kenny Johnson, that was not the case. I don't know if there was a more beloved actor. But we had a story-first mentality in the writers' room, so if we found a story that got everyone in the room excited, we had to pursue it, even if it came at the cost of an actor like Kenny. Having said that, I was very protective of him and didn't want to commit to having Lem killed until the last minute. I kept looking for reasons not to do it. I kept looking for a better story, so we wouldn't have to do it. But it was just the best story.

GLEN MAZZARA: Kurt pitched the grenade as the weapon to kill Lem. The other writers despised that, but I was the most vocal about it, because it implied premeditation. Why would Shane possibly bring a grenade to go meet Lem unless on some subconscious level he was planning to use it to kill him? And I did not believe that a cop would kill another cop with a grenade. It was a little too Batman. I really wanted a scene in which Shane pulled out his gun and shot Lem. Kurt and I almost got into a fistfight in the writers' room over it.

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KURT SUTTER: Glen hated the fucking grenade thing. He just fucking hated it. He thought it was me just wanting to blow shit up, because I like to blow shit up. He really wanted a mano-a-mano gunshot to the head. But I felt that was overused and typical. And for me, it was really about Shane being a coward and not having the balls to shoot Lem. The grenade was the coward's way out. Then to have that moment just before Lem died, that look in his eyes, I wanted Shane to have that memory burned in his mind. And in terms of the reality of it, we did the research on soldiers that had died from grenades and it's not, unfortunately, always an instant death. So I think when Glen saw that Shawn was leaning towards the grenade, he got really pissed off. I think he left the building and took a walk around the block. But you want your writers to feel like they own a piece of the show. As a showrunner [for Sons of Anarchy], I want to walk into the writers' room and see my writers fighting over a pitch. You know what I mean?

KENNY JOHNSON: I had just gotten married in Maui. When I got back, my manager said, "You should call Shawn Ryan, because I think there's something happening that you should know about." She had heard something through the grapevine. So I called the office and Shawn wasn't there, but Glen Mazzara was. So I said to him, "Dude, is something going to happen to me?" He was, like, "Nah, everything's great." I then said, "So I'm not going to die or anything?" And he goes, "No, it's all great." So, I'm, like, Cool, and hung up. I remember getting my jacket on and Michael pounding on the trailer door and saying, "Let's go, KJ!" Then the phone rang, and it was Mazzara. He said, "Look, I feel like a schmuck. I can't fucking lie. Yes, they're planning to kill your character. Shawn wants to talk to you in person about it."

GLEN MAZZARA: I told him everything was fine, because I was uncomfortable. I didn't think that information should come from me. So I told Shawn, "I just ended up lying to the guy." And Shawn was, like, "Well, you got to call him back and tell him the truth."

KENNY JOHNSON: When I hung up, I was just like, What the fuck, dude? When I went home after work, I told my wife, and then I remember walking up, like, four steps on my way upstairs, and I just lost it. I just sobbed uncontrollably for about 40 seconds. And then this kind of calm came over me. I stood back up, and was, like, "It's going to be okay."

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SHAWN RYAN: I had planned on having a conversation with Kenny the same way I did with Benny about the sexual assault storyline. But when Glen spoke to me, I was in the middle of something that demanded my attention right then. I didn't want Kenny going to bed that night thinking all was good, and Glen had become a trusted lieutenant and had been part of all the creative conversations about why killing Lem was an important thing to do. I wish I could have told Kenny, because I believe that things like that should be not be delegated, but Kenny getting early word screwed up my plans. We spoke the next day.

KENNY JOHNSON: Shawn said something like, "Look, I didn't tell you earlier, because I didn't know how long it would take me to earn the right to kill your character." And then he explained that it would be done by Shane and that this would be a pivotal point that could be the beginning of the end. He also asked me not to tell anyone yet. Shawn was very thoughtful and I respected it a thousand percent.

MICHAEL CHIKLIS: When Shawn called to tell me, initially, I was just sick. I wanted to fight it. But by the end of that conversation, in spite of myself and all my feelings, I was, like, "That will be brilliant." It was so Macbeth.

WALTON GOGGINS: I immediately called Michael, and we said, "Fuck it. We're not going to do the show anymore. If you kill one of us, you've killed us all." It was the first time that we almost revolted. I then called Kenny and we talked. It was very emotional speaking with him about it. I was crying my eyes out, and he was crying, too. I was so angry and devastated. The next day I spoke to Glen Mazzara and said, "Can I at least say goodbye to my friend? Are you going to fucking give me something?" And Glen said, "You're going to have another scene with him, and you're going to be able to say goodbye." When they gave us the script, I was conflicted, but I was also relieved in some way that it was going to be me. If he was going to go out, I wanted to be there with him.

KENNY JOHNSON: Just days before filming the scene, FX offered me tickets to the Super Bowl in Detroit. I wasn't going to go, but Shawn said, "It's going to be a great game—go hang out with Walton, have fun." And we had a blast. We were up for almost three days straight.

WALTON GOGGINS: The night we shot the scene, I remember at one point looking into the camera and saying, "All right you motherfuckers. You want to see this? You want to fucking see this pain? You fucking wrote it. You want to see it? All right, here we go. Fucking call action." I was having a really hard time with it. But Kenny was such a gracious friend. He said to me, "It's okay. It's going to be okay. We've got to film it. Let's just do it." And we did. When it was over, everybody just gave Kenny a big standing ovation and there were hugs and tears. I'll never forget that day.

MICHAEL CHIKLIS: [While filming the scene where we charge each other] Forest and I ran at each other and had incidental contact, and unfortunately, my shoulder hit his nose. And when you get hit in the nose, you get mad. So he got pissed. It was just two intense guys, and tempers flared for a moment, but we talked, and it was over.

DAVID REES SNELL: I think [Michael colliding with Forest] really just came down to the choreography and the emotion of the night. We were mourning the loss of our friend Kenny, who we were not going to see anymore. He was dying to us in a way.

KENNY JOHNSON: During the next two seasons, I would visit the set, but it just felt a little awkward. It was almost like I was in mourning and didn't realize it. I couldn't watch the show for about a year and a half, because I was so close to it. I didn't want to know what was going on.

JOHN LANDGRAF: I just can't tell you how much everybody loved and loves Kenny Johnson. I mean, from the audience to every single member of the cast and crew to everyone at the network. My wife [actress Ally Walker, who guest-starred in the last episode of Season Five] was really angry at me. She was, like, "Why didn't you stop this?" I remember we ended up paying him for an additional season, not because we had to, but because it seemed unfair that he was the one who was going to have to bite the bullet for everyone else.

WALTON GOGGINS: It was really hard the next season, because when we went back to work, you know, Kenny wasn't there.

JAY KARNES: It was very Shield—the one character that we like a little bit, well, we kill him.

“A Twisted Place of Love”

SHAWN RYAN: We needed to know how Shane's story was going to end. And I had read about this wrestler, Chris Benoit, [who killed his wife and seven-year-old son before taking his own life]. I guess the term is family annihilator—someone who commits suicide and takes his family out with him. So I was intrigued about why that happens and tried to see how it could come from a twisted place of love. I was on the speakerphone with John Landgraf, and I pitched the idea of Shane killing himself and his family, and after I finished, there was silence, for about, say, 15 seconds. I didn't know if he was still on the other end. Then John finally said, "Wow."

WALTON GOGGINS: I'd gotten an opportunity to work with Spike Lee doing Miracle at St. Anna, and it coincided with the last two episodes of The Shield. Before I left for Italy, I get a call from Shawn saying, "I just want you to know that we're going to messenger over a script to you and it will be waiting in your hotel room." And then he said, "And it's tough. It's going to be a very tough read." When I finally read it, I was speechless. I threw the script across the room and said, "Fuck them. There's no way I'm going to kill my family." But then I cooled off and read it again and truly realized the brilliance of Shawn Ryan and the writers. This love story between Shane and Mara would have a period at the end of the sentence. I wouldn't have to think about them and what they were doing. This would be it.

MICHELE HICKS: Filming the scene where Jackson and I were dead wasn't very easy. I had to get [Miles Greenberg, who played Jackson Vendrell] not to move, so I made it a game: Okay, the other actors are going to come in the room and we're going to pretend that we're sleeping. The night the episode aired, I was pregnant and actually two weeks past my due date. I watched it, but during that part, I had to look away. It was very hard to process.

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“Send Him to Purgatory”

MICHAEL CHIKLIS: Shawn and I would debate how the show should end. Of course, the common wisdom was, you know, "Top of the world, Ma," and I would go out in a hail of bullets, or end up a sad sack behind bars. But those weren't right.

SHAWN RYAN: Obviously, Vic was involved in a lot of dirty stuff, but there were also moments where he was exactly the kind of cop that you would want: one who would put himself in between a bullet and a baby. So we discussed the idea of Vic dying while doing something heroic, and then Aceveda and the powers that be would spin it into a story of a courageous cop rather than a corrupt cop who was killed doing one courageous thing. Once we came upon the other idea, we realized that that was the better one and we devoted all our energies to it.

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KURT SUTTER: Part of the deal with how we were ending the show, quite honestly, was that we didn't want to repeat what was going to happen to Tony Soprano in The Sopranos finale. We didn't yet know how Tony was going to go out, but we wanted to be aware, at the very least, not to do a similar sequence or anything like that. I think the ending of The Shield was very satisfying for the diehard fans, knowing who Vic was and why it was an awful way for him to exist.

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MICHAEL CHIKLIS: Because the whole thing was about ambivalence and ambiguity, well, Shawn put me in a gray cubicle, in a gray suit, stripped of everything and everyone. You don't send him to heaven or hell—you send him to purgatory. What more ambivalent and ambiguous place in the world could you think of? Fucking genius.

DAVID REES SNELL: We did the scene where Ronnie gets arrested several times. During one take, as they were pulling me back, I lunged forward and my feet came out from under me and I nailed Michael right in the groin. And he deserved it!

“The Word Had Gotten Out”

KENNY JOHNSON: I remember one time we were at the Staples Center for a Lakers game soon after the episode aired in which I fucking burned the money [that the Strike Team stole from the Armenians]. Nine or ten huge drunk guys surrounded me and said, "What the fuck, man? Why did you burn that fucking money?" And I was, like, "Listen, dude. I'm an actor. Me, I would have never burned the money, but they wrote it that way." These guys were getting mad, and I was thinking, Do they realize it didn't really happen? At that point, Michael came around and sort of whisked me off, and we walked away. These guys weren't joking.

DAVID REES SNELL: I was really surprised at fans' Gardocki love. I don't completely understand it. I think to some extent it was the fact that Ronnie was someone we didn't know very much about for a long time. It's like people could project onto him whatever they wanted to and see themselves in him—if I were on the Strike Team, I'd be like that guy.

CCH POUNDER: I have played horrendous roles, like crackheads who sold their babies and all kinds of ridiculous things. And people would come up to me and say, "Girl! I saw you!" And they slap you on the butt and hit you on the shoulders. When I was playing Claudette, people would say, "Excuse me, Ms. Pounder, may I say hello?" And I did like that.

BENITO MARTINEZ: What I heard a lot was, "Dude, your character was amazing. He was an incredible asshole, just like my boss." It's the best backhanded compliment I ever got.

MICHELE HICKS: Fans of the show hated me. I was the bitch. I was coming between Vic and Shane. But thank God, I didn't take anything personally, because people said horrible things.

DAVID MARCIANO: People always mention the vending machines. Sometimes, someone will tell me what a jerk Steve Billings was, and I'll say, "Yes, he was. Thank you for the compliment."

ANTHONY ANDERSON: Fans were in shock, because all they knew me from was my comedy. Then to flip the script on them and become this dark, sinister character—I actually had people stop me on the street and tell me how scary I was as the character. My wife and I would watch the show together, and she would turn and look at me and say, "Baby, that's not you on the screen. I don't see you."

DAVID REES SNELL: People would come up to me all the time and say, "You're going to be the one that gets away." And when enough people told me that, I knew that Shawn wouldn't let that happen. Because that would be a good thing, and this was not a show in which good things happened. It's very strange how you sort of meld with your character, and how the bad things that happen to him are, in a way, happening to you. By the end of the show, I really didn't want to go to prison.

KENNY JOHNSON: Michael knew a guy whose brother-in-law was the biggest Shield fan. The brother-in-law had flown in to visit him and one night was watching an episode of the show. The back door had been left open, so Walton, Michael, and me dressed in character, grabbed our prop guns and busted in the house. We kicked the back door in, started screaming, and threw the guy on the floor and pretended to arrest him. He was, like, What's going on?!

WALTON GOGGINS: During the first season, I went out one morning to buy a newspaper and Queen Latifah comes up to me and says, "Motherfucking Shane! Oh, my God—hello, Shane!" The word had gotten out and it started to spread like wildfire very quickly for a very select group of people. The Shield wasn't meant for everyone to watch. But it was meant for those who watched it to fucking love it.

“Maybe Someday We'll Do It”

MICHAEL CHIKLIS: "When are you making the movie?" I get asked that question dozens of times a day.

SHAWN RYAN: I don't want to tease fans because if there is a movie it wouldn't be really like the show, so I think people should stop hoping for some kind of Shield reunion. But Michael and I had been talking about a movie prior to Season Seven. I said to him, "Listen, the priority has to be finding the right ending for the series. I'm not going to write a cliffhanger, hoping that we'll eventually get to make a movie. And I reserve the right to end the series in a way that prohibits a movie." After the series ended, I came up with an idea and pitched it to Jim Gianopulos and Alex Young at Fox. The idea was about a young cop who enters the drug gang culture of L.A. and becomes frustrated by his inability to take it down. He becomes obsessed with the idea of bringing some justice to the situation. He then starts hearing whispers of somebody who used to be a cop and might be of service to him. And that's Vic Mackey. So Jim Gianopulos was, like, "Well, maybe—what do you think, Alex?" And Alex, who was a big Shield fan, said, "I love it, I think we should do it." And then, before the deal-making ever got done, Alex was gone.

MICHAEL CHIKLIS: I think Shawn's story is fantastic, and if he were to write it and the studio gave us what we need to make it happen, then I would be in.

SHAWN RYAN: Maybe someday we'll do it. But I'm very comfortable with the legacy of the show and creatively where we ended up.

“On Top of All That, It Was  
  Great Entertainment”

DAVID MARCIANO: In the history of television, you have game changers. Hill Street Blues came along and broke the mold. And because of that, you had NYPD Blue. And because of that, you had The Sopranos. And because of that, you had The Shield. And because of The Shield, you have everything you see on basic-cable television right now: Breaking Bad, Mad Men, and the list will go on.

MICHAEL CHIKLIS: The show represented a tectonic shift in the entire television industry. Prior to The Shield basic-cable was a wasteland of reruns. The only things that were doing well were news and sports. But in terms of original programming, there was nothing. The night I won the Emmy, everything changed. All the basic cable nets came up with original programming, literally, the next year. And I think that there's no going back now, because people want honesty. And you can't get a lot more honest than The Shield as a scripted series.

JOHN LANDGRAF: It was frustrating that The Shield didn't get [more award recognition] because I knew that we were making a show that was at least as good as anything else on television. And there were seasons when having watched all of the nominees, I genuinely thought it was the best. But I came to understand that if you're going to burn a guy's face on a stove, you're going to alienate a certain segment of the Emmy voters. And by the way, I'm glad we burned a guy's face on a stove. That's what The Shield was.

SHAWN RYAN: I can't say that the show is not recognized enough, because we do get a lot of recognition. But I feel like there is a segment of the population who only watch HBO and AMC and don't include us in the conversation of what were the best shows of the last 15 years. That bugs me.

GLENN CLOSE: I think The Shield will stand the test of time. I think it really captured something extremely authentic. And the writing was just of the highest caliber. So, I think it's important for many reasons. And on top of all that, it was great entertainment.

“It Binds Us for Life”

CATHERINE DENT: We were a tight group that all sort of came into our own together. There was a lot of love.

JAY KARNES: I remember when I got the role, everybody said, "You're going to get to work with CCH Pounder, that's great." When we were filming the pilot, she was very personable and everything, but as far as the work, I was, like, This is it? But when I saw the episode, I was, like, "Oh, my God." What she was doing was so good, and the camera understood it in a way that I didn't, standing next to her while we were working.

CCH POUNDER: Jay and I were constantly the first ones called to do our scenes at 5:30 in the morning. While it was unfortunate for us, it was also a testament to our work together, because they would have something they were satisfied with in the can before the middle of the day.

SHAWN RYAN: Cathy was upset that because of the writers' strike, I wasn't going to be there on her final day of filming. Her last scene was inside a house in a residential neighborhood, so I was, like, I've been picketing outside all these other locations, I'll go picket outside the house. So I stood there, alone, across the street with a sign.

CATHY CAHLIN RYAN: We all went across the street and Shawn made a little speech. It was very sweet.

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DAVID REES SNELL: My only regret was that I didn't go back to the mustache for the very end of the series. At the beginning, I think I was the only actor in Los Angeles with a mustache because it wasn't 1978, you know. The beard was great, but I shaved it when Alex O'Loughlin [who played Kevin Hiatt] came on the show. They wanted him to have some scruff because he was so good-looking, and the guy who wasn't as good-looking became clean-shaven so we didn't look alike. You can almost tell what season it is of The Shield by what kind of facial hair Ronnie has.

JAY KARNES: [Dutch singing Duran Duran's Hungry Like the Wolf on surveillance footage] is the one scene—more than the cat for me—that I watch and am embarrassed by. I turn a bit red when I see it.

KENNY JOHNSON: Every day that we got to go out there and do what we did was like play. It never felt like work. Me, Michael, and Walton running around with guns, throwing guys down, busting them, stealing their heroin, selling it, killing the drug dealer—what great days.

WALTON GOGGINS: I've only seen every episode once, as it was happening. And I want to watch the whole series two more times: once with my son when he is old enough, which will be a while. And I want to watch it with Michael and Kenny, when we're all older men.

MICHAEL CHIKLIS: We all knew how great it was when it was happening. It wasn't 20/20 hindsight. And so as sad as it was for it to come to an end, we were thrilled and elated, knowing that we had seen it through to its fruition without letting [the quality] drop. And no one can take it from us. I think it binds us for life, as far as I'm concerned. I will always just look at every one of them and just go, we have that. We have The Shield.

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