It's hard to believe it's been 20 years since the explosive police drama The Shield premiered in FX in 2002. Created by Shawn Ryan and starring Michael Chiklis, the series follows the lives and cases of Vic Mackey (Chiklis), a dirty Los Angeles Police Department cop, and the unit under his command. Entertainment Weekly spoke with Ryan and Chiklis as part of an oral history reflecting their time on the series, how ahead of its time it was exploring law enforcement corruption, and if a revival would ever be in the cards.
"We've discussed a reboot, and I know it will probably make a lot of people sad, but it's unlikely," the Emmy Award-winner said. "There have been ideas bandied about and maybe Shawn will wake up someday with a eureka moment. But it's so rare to have something go so well over seven years that it's hard to even contemplate. It would be a real bummer to revisit those characters and have it be subpar. I can't tell you how many fans have written me fan fiction of the way they see it. None of them know, but it's flattering that they're still questioning and guessing."
When it came to the series finale in 2008, Mackey became invaluable to ICE providing intel on criminal activity concerning gangs and their links to international cartels. In exchange for his help and promise of immunity, he confessed to all the crimes he participated in while at the LAPD including the major conspiracy that ends up costing him his strike team. The final scene of the series sees him at his desk hearing sirens in the background, but on a very short leash as any violation of his conditional employment would result in his arrest.
"It didn't feel real to me that everything would get wrapped up in a bow," Ryan shares. "Vic walks off at the end and people will get that he's a shark, he's out there, and he's going to do something. We don't know what, but that's after our date of expiration. Personally, when I wrote that, I wasn't all that interested or fascinated by the specifics of what he was going to do — thought it clearly has been important to the audience. I just knew, 'This isn't a guy who's going to give up. He's going to constantly be looking for a way out.' Whether he finds one or not, I don't know. Now, I think that's a less opaque ending than 'The Sopranos.' For my taste, it was the perfect amount of closure, and yet, this world still goes on, in some way. I have some notions of where I might go if I spent a month trying to figure it out, but I don't know definitively what I would decide on, and so, therefore, I'd argue that no one knows for sure."
Given what the series got away with at the time, FX Chairman John Landgraf doesn't think The Shield could work given current controversies against law enforcement. "I don't think you could portray the level of violence perpetrated against people of color primarily by a white set of police officers," he said. "It'd just be too triggering and traumatizing. Because it was made when it was made, if somebody chooses to watch it now, I think it holds up really, really well. But do I think you could be making episodes of 'The Shield' and putting them out original on television today? No, I don't think you can. In fact, the whole cop genre is in a bit of a crisis right now, because we just have a deeper knowledge of the complexities and racial inequities of the criminal justice system." For more on the look back at the series including comments from Ryan, Chiklis, and co-stars Reed Diamond, Kenny Johnson, Catherine Dent, Cathy Ryan, Jay Karnes, Walton Goggins, CCH Pounder, David Marciano, Benito Martinez, Glenn Close, Anthony Anderson, and more, you can go to EW.