‘The Shield’ Star Michael Chiklis Reflects on Storyline He Fought Against

by Allison Hambrick

The Shield actor Michael Chiklis opened up about the one storyline he tried unsuccessfully to ax before it aired: a season three storyline that Det. Dutch Wagenbach (Jay Karnes) saw choke a cat.

It was the only argument, if you’re going to call it that,” Chiklis told Entertainment Weekly. “I was adamantly against it. [Director David Mamet] and I got into it. I was like, ‘You can’t have Dutch choke a f—ing cat!’ It was crazy to me. And Mamet was just, ‘The cat dies.’ We called in [creator Shawn Ryan] and I was outvoted. It’s powerful, there’s no doubt. It shapes his character moving forward. They don’t really address it per se, not that you would. What would he do? It’s not like he’s going to confess.”

For his part, Karnes wasn’t thrilled with that plot either. In the same interview, the Shield actor explained: “We’d have a meeting with the writers before each season. And Scott Rosenbaum, who wrote a lot of Dutch’s stuff, turned to me and said, ‘Can I ask you a question: What would make Dutch strangle a cat while in his underwear?'” shares Karnes, the actor behind the ever-curious crime solver Det. Dutch Wagenbach. “I looked at him and said, ‘You’re joking, right?’ At a later point, Shawn says to me, ‘I have good news and bad news. The good news is, David Mamet is going to be directing a Dutch-heavy episode. The bad news is, you’re going to be strangling a cat in that episode.'”

Additionally, the episode dealt with Dutch investigating a serial killer. His encounter with the criminal then influenced him to experiment with violence.

We’d been playing around the edges of Dutch’s fascination with serial killers for a couple of years, and how far would he go?” Ryan said. “It was a really interesting topper to that story that Dutch buys into this idea that you can see the face of God in the eyes of a creature — either feline or human — that’s on the precipice of dying, and that he’s so into his work that he does this, and then realizes that there was nothing there and I’ve just done this horrible thing. We made a PETA top 10 worst list.”

The Shield Star Opens Up About Changing His Image for Role

Though the show is now remembered fondly, The Shield was a game-changer in its day. That’s precisely why Michael Chiklis wanted to star in it so badly. At the time, he played “character’ roles and wanted to shake up his perception.

“I was in a very particular place in my life and was looking to change the trajectory of my career,” Chiklis said. “I’d been relegated to playing affable, roly-poly guys. And I’d just gone through a shattering experience on Daddio, so I was, honestly, frustrated. I wanted to do something smart, hard-hitting, and adult. My wife is the one who said to me, ‘It’s not incumbent on the studios reinvent you, it’s incumbent upon you to reinvent yourself.’ She was basically saying, get in the gym, change your physique, and we’ll do whatever we need to do as a family until we either invent that role or it materializes.”

However, Chiklis headed his wife’s advice. He then made himself into exactly the kind of guy who starred in shows like The Shield.

“At the time, we were developing a feature film about a rogue cop, essentially a Vic Mackey-type,” he continued. “I worked out three hours a day, shaved my head. And all of a sudden my wife dragged me to a Gymboree class for our toddler and there was Cathy Ryan, who she went to preschool with in Miami. She introduced us to her husband, Shawn, and we started talking, and he said, ‘I have this show with FX,’ which I had no idea what FX was. He sent it to me, and I flipped out over the script.”