“Everybody in the world wanted Michael Chiklis in their pilot this year,” says the man who managed to get him, No Ordinary Family co-creator Greg Berlanti. But going from the profane Vic Mackey on the provocative cop drama The Shield to middle-aged superhero Jim Powell in ABC’s comparatively pastel action-drama (in which perps are called evildoers rather than scumbags) has to be one of the most head-spinning segues in TV history. Chiklis explains himself to Mike Flaherty.
What made you sign on for such a drastically different sort of show?
If there had been another dark drama as smart as The Shield, I would have jumped on it. Look, No Ordinary Family is entertainment. I’m a father. What I don’t see a lot of are shows I can watch with my family where I’m not rolling my eyes.
With all the show’s action stunts, it looks like even more of a drain than your work on The Shield.
It’s essentially like shooting a 45-minute-long Marvel feature every nine days. I’m not a spring chicken anymore. I joke that my career is ass-backward: When I was in my twenties, I was playing an affable, roly-poly police commissioner [on The Commish]. Now I’m well into my forties and playing a superhero. On the very first shot of the pilot, I tore my calf muscle.
The Shield accomplished that rarity of TV rarities: a satisfying finale. Vic ends up with a desk job, working for the Feds. What’s your take on his fate?
The show was always about ambiguity—the ambiguity of law enforcement in post-9/11 America. The cliché ending would have been “Top of the world, Ma!” with Vic dying in a hail of bullets. We kept thinking, What’s the ambiguous way of doing this, where all things happen? So this guy literally winds up in a gray box, in a gray suit, in purgatory.
But in the last shot of the finale, Vic does get up and leave the office with a gun in his hand, headed for who knows where.
We wanted to give FX a satisfying conclusion, but at the same time, you have an incredible character in Vic, and [Shield creator] Shawn Ryan and I agreed that there’s a tremendous potential for him on the big screen. Down the line, I could definitely see that happening.