FX’s genre-bending crime thriller, “The Shield,” closes its seventh and final season in November, and the fate of Michael Chiklis’ hard-bitten Vic Mackey and his corrupt Los Angeles police strike team remain under as much cover as their typically unorthodox detective work.
“I’m loathed to really talk about the specifics of what we’re shooting,” said Chiklis, on a break from filming final scenes at the Los Angeles Times building, which was doubling for FBI offices.
The production was shrouded in secrecy so as not to offer any clues to the outcome, with great care taken to make sure no shooting scripts were left lying around — unlike a typical TV series set.
Creator Shawn Ryan would only say that “the last 13 episodes, and especially the last few, are very, very true to the show. We don’t shy away from hitting things head on and I’m thrilled with how the episodes ended ... more than happy.”
Judging from press screenings of the first eight episodes, Ryan has reason to be pleased. “The Shield,” which airs Tuesdays (10 p.m. EDT) and concludes Nov. 25, remains unpredictable, with Vic and his men each getting their due for the sins they’ve committed to enforce their warped brand of justice.
As production wound down, there was a last-day-of-school vibe on the set. A production assistant collected RSVPs for the series wrap party, while Benito Martinez, who plays David Aceveda, captured every Kodak moment.
“This journey has not been unlike reading a really great book where you get into some really great characters and you want to keep going from chapter to chapter to see where they go,” Martinez said. “But the story’s done, and if we kept going, it wouldn’t have the impact, the same resonance.”
Still, it hasn’t made the end any easier.
“This has been a really, really tough week for the cast and writers — we had the read-through of our last script,” said Chiklis, taking a slow, deep breath. “When you read the last script of a series, even if it’s had a long run, even if it wasn’t the best of circumstances, it’s a sad thing. But in the case of ‘The Shield,’ where it’s been a really remarkable, life-changing experience for all of us, it’s been difficult.”
‘We got lucky’The show was considered a long shot from the start.
“A lot of people thought I was crazy to even do this show just purely on the basis of who had written it,” Chiklis said of Ryan, who was a writer on “Nash Bridges” when he decided to create a new show, flipping the script on the old cops-as-heroes formula.
Although FX picked up the pilot, Ryan, executive producer of the series, had no prior experience running a show.
“But the thing that my wife, Michelle, and I just couldn’t reconcile was how great (the script) was,” said Chiklis, who, after five seasons on “The Commish” and nine episodes of “Daddio,” wanted to reinvent himself. “We felt like if what’s on the page is shot and anyone sees it, it could make some waves.”
“The Shield” became the first basic cable show to receive a major award — an Emmy for Chiklis — as well as Emmy nominations for writing and directing.
Besides the accolades that followed — this summer it was featured among Entertainment Weekly’s Top 100 shows of the past 25 years — the series was a groundbreaking achievement in basic cable, giving rise to gritty and complex anti-hero dramas like FX’s “Nip/Tuck,” “Rescue Me” and “Damages,” as well as AMC’s “Mad Men.”
“We got lucky,” said Jay Karnes, who plays Detective Dutch Wagenbach on the show. “FX ... had a real vested interest in not just keeping it on the air, but making it a hit ... so they pushed it. If this had been on ABC, and garnered the audience we did, it would (have gotten) killed pretty quickly.”
CCH Pounder, who plays Capt. Claudette Wyms, added: “Just in terms of drama, these writers have managed to keep the twists and turns really in left field.”
“I have all my veteran actress stripes,” continued Pounder during a break on the set of the headquarters for the imaginary LAPD Farmington division. “And you read a story and you go, ‘OK, I know where this is going.’ Then the next script comes ... and as you go through the pages, the thing completely changes. I’ve never been able to figure it out.”