Emmy-winning actor Michael Chiklis joined the students of New York Film Academy (NYFA) for a discussion about techniques, reinvention, and the impact of image in the film industry. The event kicked off with a screening of the pilot of hit show The Shield, followed by a Q&A with the students.
Tova Laiter, NYFA Director of the Q&A Series, opened the talk with a comparison of two of Chiklis’ best-known projects: gritty crime drama The Shield, and Best Picture winner The French Connection. Both of the projects feature depictions of antihero cops, handheld cinematography, and a raw energy.
Such roles typify his career–Chiklis is perhaps best known for playing police officers, including LAPD detective Vic Mackey on The Shield, Commissioner Tony Scali on ABC police drama The Commish, and former police captain Nathaniel Barnes in Gotham. But it almost didn’t happen. In order to get his breakthrough role, he had to completely reinvent his image.
Chiklis had been typecast as a nice guy, a far cry from the hard-hitting cop roles he wanted to land. His wife told him, “You might be a wonderful actor but what you’re showing the community right now is a roly-poly affable guy.” He shaved his head, and began hitting the gym six days a week. By the time he auditioned for the role, he looked very different, and got the part immediately. His takeaway? “It’s not up to the studios or others to reinvent you. It’s up to you to do so.”
His time spent in roles like Detective Mackey has also given him a unique perspective on what makes a character appealing to viewers. “I knew that in order to hold onto an audience… he has to be compelling to watch but that there was going to have to be a lot about this guy that you actually like.”
Chiklis has portrayed The Thing in the Fantastic Four film series, and Jim Powell on the ABC science fiction comedy-drama No Ordinary Family. Additionally, he co-starred as Vincent Savino on the CBS crime drama, Vegas. In 2014, Chiklis joined the cast of American Horror Story for its fourth season, American Horror Story: Freak Show.
The New York Film Academy would like to thank TV & Film star Michael Chiklis for sharing his insights into acting and the entertainment industry with our students!