Behind The Shield: Michael Chiklis and Walton Goggins

Vic Mackey and Shane Vendrell get down and dirty on The Shield’s sure-to-be-violent final bow.

On Playing Vic and Shane:
Chiklis: I like playing Vic Mackey. There are certain things I really admire about him—to be able to walk into a room of bad guys and have that kind of fearlessness. Also, there are some people that you’d love to be able to tell off the way Vic does. Then there’s that other side of him where he makes some deplorable decisions and does some heinous shit. It’s much less interesting as an actor playing someone who’s purely good or purely evil.

Goggins: You know what? I love Shane Vendrell. He has grown more than any other character on the show. His evolution has been from fogginess about who he is as a person to finally clarity about who he is and being okay with it. It’s like I want to say to him, “Buddy, let me just give you a hug—you’re going to be OK.”

On Vic and Shane’s Relationship:
Goggins: Maybe a bad Starsky and Hutch on acid? Maybe there’s a little Tony Soprano–Christopher thing going on. Maybe Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, because Vic and Shane were having so much fun in the first three years of this show and they were getting away with it. But Butch and Sundance are much better looking than me and [Michael] Chikky [laughs].

Chiklis: [The relationship has] been father and son, it’s been older brother and younger brother, it’s been enemies. It’s a dysfunctional pairing. When they’re together, bad things happen.

On Their Favorite Shield Moments:
Chiklis: I remember one day we were going to kick in a door. We were in the barrio, me, Kenny [Lemonhead Lemansky], and Walt. The doors weren’t rigged, so we’d go to a guy’s apartment, kick the door in and then replace it. I looked at them and I said, “Can you believe we’re being paid for this shit? We’re playing cops and robbers.”

Goggins: There was a scene when we abducted a guy in Mexico. Me, Chikky, and Kenny were in the square in Tijuana, then Dave [Ronnie Gardocki] comes squealing around in a car and we grab the guy and throw him in. We did it in one take. People thought it was real.

On Their Favorite Shield Moments That Didn’t Involve Them:
Goggins: The moment after Jay [Dutch Wagenbach] finishes interrogating a serial killer and has to excuse himself. He walks out to his car and he begins to cry—not just for himself, but for humanity. That just killed me.

Chiklis: There were moments that freaked me out: Dutch strangling the cat to death, Benny’s [Councilman Aceveda] rape scene. CCH Pounder [Capt. Claudette Wyms], when she bears down on somebody, is so powerful. I guess I’m a fan of the show, too.

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On Life Imitating Art:
Chiklis: We did a lot of the show out on the streets, which led to some hairy moments. Sometimes there would be shots fired on the show, then we’d hear reports from guns in the neighborhood echoing back. It was gangbangers who were answering us.

Goggins: People would come up to me and yell, “You killed Lem!” They wanted to kick my ass, for sure, in the best way. It’s a TV show! Kenny Johnson is on Saving Grace now. He’s in Oklahoma. He is not dead.

On The Shield‘s Legacy:
Goggins: We went for the real. The way [creator] Shawn Ryan set up this show—he said, “Just do what this character would do. Do not act.” We spent more time on location than onstage. When you look back on shows set in Los Angeles, The Shield will be up there with its depiction and cinematic photography of this city. And that’s pretty fuckin’ cool, man.

Chiklis: Prior to The Shield, basic cable was just a wasteland of reruns and NASCAR. When we came along, I think there was a collective, “Hey, if they can do that, why can’t we?” from the basic-cable networks of the world. We ended up being the cornerstone for a network, and a great one. That doesn’t happen too often.