Eight years after the end of FX’s ground-breaking drama The Shield, the bulk of its key writers reunited at the ATX TV Festival in Austin Saturday. There was no talk of doing a revival, but creator Shawn Ryan indicated that he had ideas for a potential followup featuring The Shield‘s lead character Vic Mackey.
“I have some ideas where Vic Mackey is, but 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 who aren’t here and give us a week to sort it out,” he said, pointing to the rest of The Shield writers on stage, including Kurt Sutter, Glen Mazzara, Scott Rosenbaum and Chic Eglee.
What started as a look into the initial conception of the show (Ryan riding in a police ride along, thinking about how he would protect his newborn daughter from the world), quickly devolved into an all-out love fest between the panelists. Moderator Lynette Rice of Entertainment Weekly asked each writer to describe working with the person to their left.
Of Kurt Sutter, Ryan shared one of his first memories of the writer, saying, “I remember writing down, ‘Really good writer, wonder if he has enough edge to do the show.’ And then I met him, and I was like, ‘Yes, he’s got enough edge.’”
Of Mazzara, the always gregarious Sutter said, “As f—ed up as I am, I grew up with all women and the camaraderie was really difficult with men because it was just unfamiliar territory, and I just so desperately wanted to be Glen’s friend. And he wasn’t down with it!” Sutter says the first time the pair met, he thinks Mazzara’s immediate reaction was, “F— this guy.” When Mazzara shook his head at this, Sutter said, “It’s true!” To which Mazzara fired back, “It’s not true!” Sutter concedes that eventually the two became best friends.
The love affair also extended to the cast, though there was no mention of the actor who portrayed Julien Lowe on the show, Michael Jace, who just received a prison sentence of 40 years to life for the murder of his wife. Star Michael Chiklis was however singled out for particular praise. The crew credits Chiklis with keeping the environment fun on set. “Michael was just a can-do guy, and you know, we’d be in a crunch for time because there was never enough time and never enough money and Michael would go, ‘Okay! We can get this, people! Come on, everybody hustle!’”
In a particularly shocking anecdote, Eglee says sometimes the hustle on set was to capture scandalous moments between extras. He detailed one time when a young woman, who was supposed to simply walk in the background, actually took off in a car unplanned. “She’s walking down the street and in the middle of the take a car pulls up,” he said. “She leans into the car, starts talking to the guy and gets in the car and drives off and comes back about 15 minutes later and gets dropped off in the next shot. We had one of our extras tricking on set! And that was The Shield.”
He continued, “That same episode there were these two quite hefty Latina women who were in a brawl at the location that we were at and they were drawing blood and really pounding each other. I was standing next to [director] Clark Johnson and he goes, ‘Are these our people? Can we get a camera on this?’ And we filmed it.”
It was experiences like this that made the show feel like “a roller coaster ride where there weren’t any rules, and if there were rules they were being broken,” according to Eglee. For him, it was all worth it, a sentiment echoed by his fellow writers. “They were the best several years I spent in my career ever. I don’t know that I’ll ever be able to match the experience I had with these guys,” he said.