The FX original series, The Shield, opened the door for new, innovative, and downright violent television shows to air on cable networks. Due to the risks the network took in producing the show, television ultimately changed, and screenwriters began to take bigger chances with their characters and stories.
The Shield follows a corrupt cop in a department at the LAPD called Strike Team, an anti-gang unit that was modeled after the real LAPD’s Rampart Divison. Here are some little known facts about the award-winning television drama series.
Some People Didn’t Think The Pilot Would Air
Some people, namely the co-creator of Lost, Damon Lindelof, didn’t think the pilot episode of The Shield was going to air. Or, at least, the writers were going to have to change the ending if they wanted the show to be on television.
The ending has the main character, Vic Mackey, taking out an Internal Affairs rat in cold blood, a scene that is a bit violent for early 2000s television. “And when I read that, I thought to myself, ‘Shawn Ryan [the director] will never get this ending on the air,'” Lindelof recalled during a 2008 interview with the Chicago Tribune.
The Main Character Was Originally Offered To Eric Stoltz
FX originally wanted the main character of Vic Mackey to be played by Eric Stoltz. A role in which he almost accepted but inevitably declined. Stoltz is known in Hollywood as the “Nearly Guy,” due to the iconic roles that he was either fired from or didn’t accept.
His biggest disappointment probably being when he was recast as Marty McFly in the critically acclaimed Back to the Future franchise. According to Christopher Lloyd, “[Stoltz] was a really good actor. Although he was doing the part well, he was not bringing that element of comedy to the screen.”
The Show Went Through A Couple Of Name Changes
The popular cop show went through a series of name changes before landing on The Shield. The original name was going to be The Farm because it was the nickname used for the fictional Farmington district that the main Strike Force was based on. They dropped the name because FX thought it would confuse potential viewers.
The second title was Rampart, mainly due to the fact that the show is based on the LAPD Rampart Division scandal that outed more than 70 dirty police officers in the 90s. The network thought it best not to directly call-out the LAPD, landing on the official title The Shield.
The LAPD Are Secret Fans
Considering the plot of the show is based on the Lose Angeles Police Department Rampart Division scandal, it’s hard to believe that anyone in the LAPD would be a fan of the series. Apparently, that’s not exactly true.
Chiklis told The Telegraph that “if you ask the rank and file [about the show], they love it — they’ll tell you it brings to life the ambiguity of the job.” It seems as though life in the LAPD is pretty close to life in general — nothing is cut and dry.
A Denzel Washington Movie Saved The Show
The official go-ahead with the show was given by FX on August 30, 2001. But after September 11, the network executives were afraid that the show might be inappropriate since it portrayed cops in a negative light. Something that they thought the American people didn’t need at that given point in time.
When the movie Training Day came out on October 5, 2001, they changed their minds. The film was met with stellar reviews and big box office numbers. Everyone involved with the television show then decided to move forward without worrying that it was going to be negatively received.
Claudette Wyms Was Originally Charles Wyms
The original script had the department captain’s name as Charles Wyms. The show’s creator, Shawn Ryan, decided to change the gender of the captain after talking to CCH Pounder’s agent who convinced him the character would be better portrayed as a woman.
Thankfully, Pounder’s only stipulation with taking the role was that none of the original dialogue was changed to accommodate a female. She wanted her character, Claudette Wyms, to be seen as a detective that could hold her own with the men of the station.
Guerrilla Filmmaking Techniques Were Used
Guerrilla filmmaking refers to an independent form of filmmaking usually characterized by low budgets, skeleton crews, and simple props. Often times, scenes are shot quickly and without much notice, using what is available and usually in real locations without a permit.
While shooting the pilot, director Clark Johnson spotted a pack of stray dogs near the set. He picked up some salami from the craft service table and threw it towards them, yelling at the cameramen to “Shoot the dogs!” as they ran for the food scrapes. Once, Chiklis even threw himself into actual L.A. traffic with a Steadicam operator on his heels!
David Rees Snell Pretty Much Did The Show For Fun
David Rees Snell is a friend of the show’s creator, Shawn Ryan, and played the role of Ronnie Gardocki. Snell agreed to play the part for a total of $85 per day, the same amount of money an extra gets paid. He only agreed because there was a promise that he would get more lines in later episodes.
Snell’s character winds up in a total of 83 out of the 89 episodes. Honestly, considering how much he was paid, it sounds like this guy participated in the show for the fun of it and to help out a friend!
The Executives Weren’t Sold On Michael Chiklis
Up until this point, Michael Chiklis was known for playing the even-tempered cuddly good guy. It’s because of this that the FX executives weren’t originally sold on him portraying the dirty cop Mackey. Kevin Reilly, FX’s then-president, told the New York Times, “When I heard his name mentioned, I thought he was wrong for the role.”
Chiklis proved them wrong. He took six months off from acting, lost 57 pounds, and shaved his head, prior to the audition. Reilly said, “He came in with this shaved head and his biceps, and he just chewed through the scene. He blew us away.”
Walton Goggins Was Almost Fired
After the pilot episode aired, FX executives weren’t sold on Walton Goggins or his character, Shane Vendrell. They weren’t sure if he was going to be irritating or not, and nobody wants to work with someone you can’t get a good reading on.
Shawn Ryan was loyal to his core, though, and had complete faith in both the actor and character. He told the executives, “No, no: This guy is my guy, this guy is very special. Just leave it to me.” It’s a good thing Ryan did because the second episode of the entire series was based around Shane’s story.
Shawn Ryan Might Not Be Finished With Vic Mackey’s Story
With TV reboots and remakes being all the rage, The Shield fans have wondered if they’d be seeing Vic Mackey gracing the screen in some new episodes. It’s no secret that Shawn Ryan has thought of the prospect ever since the last episode aired in 2008. There were even talks of a movie. A project that didn’t get off the ground.
At the 2016 ATX Television Festival, Ryan admitted to The Hollywood Reporter “I don’t know where Vic Mackey is until someone puts me in a writers’ room with a group of these people and some people that aren’t here and give us a week to sort it out.”
Glenn Close Based Her Character On A NYPD Officer
Glenn Close joined the show as Monica Rawling, the team’s new captain, in the fourth season. Close wasn’t initially up for the role, but she had some help getting into character by real-life Deputy Chief of police, Theresa J. Shortell.
Close said, “one of the coolest things Theresa told me—and I didn’t understand it till I got on set—was that the hardest thing about the job is being a woman and not letting it matter. You give somebody a command; it’s their duty to obey.” Seeing her on the screen you can’t tell that she wasn’t sure how to play her character at first!
The Writers Were Picketing During Filming Of The Season Finale
The season finale episode, “Family Meeting,” was filmed during the 2007-2008 Writers Guild of America strike. So, while the cast and crew were on set, the writers of the show were picketing with their fellow screenwriters.
Chiklis told the Los Angeles Times, “We still finished it the way we set out to, but what was missing was the familial aspect.” After working together on seven seasons of the show, it must have been difficult for the writers to miss the end of The Shield’s era.
Kurt Sutter Never Intended To Be A Writer
Originally wanting to be an actor, Kurt Sutter slimmed down from 400-pounds and moved to Los Angeles, as all actors do. Once he realized landing jobs wasn’t as easy as he thought, he started to write. He caught the attention of Shawn Ryan and was hired as a staff writer on The Shield.
Through the course of the show, Sutter was promoted from staff writer to executive producer. Once the show was over, he even found success with his own television series, Sons of Anarchy and the spin-off Mayans. Not too bad for a guy who had no intention of making a living writing for television!
The Show Paved The Way For Other FX Originals
While FX now is the home to many original series, The Shield is the show that paved the way for them to have boundary-pushing show success. The show brought FX into the “original programming” fold in a huge way, although it wasn’t the network’s first time producing an original show.
The popularity of The Shield gave the network what they needed to start writing cutting-edge television, things that pushed more boundaries than what other networks were willing to air. Shows such as Rescue Me, It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia, American Horror Story, and Fargo, are a few of the shows that came out of the woodwork!
Viewers Didn’t Know Who To Root For
When the show first aired in 2002, Shawn Ryan noticed that viewers were in a dilemma. Should they or shouldn’t they be rooting for the main character, Vic Mackey? The guy is obviously a crooked cop and he should get caught, right?
So, when Lt. Jon Kavanaugh was brought into the picture, and there was a real chance of Mackey getting caught, Ryan was surprised by the audience’s reaction. All of a sudden everyone was on the same side: they were rooting for Mackey and hated Kavanaugh. It seems like everyone loves an anti-hero.
Originally, The Strike Team Wasn’t The Show’s Main Focus
The original pitch of The Shield had the Strike Team as background characters, with the main character of Vic Mackey interacting with other people. That changed with the casting of two people, David Rees Snell and Kenny Johnson.
After those two were cast as members of the Strike Team, it was decided that the group of officers was going to be regular faces on the show. A good thing, too! Who knows how long the show would have run if it didn’t follow the team’s story.
Chiklis Is A Good Friend Of Talk Show Host ManCow
On the back of Vic Mackey’s car, a ManCow sticker is sometimes visible. The sticker is in reference to Erich “Mancow” Muller who happens to be a Chicago Radio Host and a good friend of Michael Chiklis. The nickname comes from a play he did while in college. his character was half-man and half-beast.
ManCow can be seen in a few episodes of The Shield. The talk show radio host is one of the men in the police line-ups.
Chiklis Left The Barn For Gotham
After The Shield ended, the star, Michael Chiklis, went on to join the cast of another show, Gotham. Chiklis joined the show during its second season a Captain Nathaniel Barnes. It seems as though the producers realized his talent for playing a cop!
The funny thing about Chiklis’ role is that he helps one of the main characters of the show, James Gordon, put together a team. The name of the team being none other than Strike Force! Does anyone else think that name closely resembles Strike Team?
Glenn Close Left The Show Because Of Family Time
Due to her stellar performance and critical acclaim as Captain Rawling, Glenn Close was asked to stay on the show. She ultimately declined the offer to do another season for a few different reasons. It was her daughter’s last year of high school, so she wanted to be present and not away on set all the time.
Also, Close just married her third husband (spoiler alert, they divorced in 2015) and felt like she needed to be at home. Being on the show would have cost her too much family time.