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Reunion: 'NYPD Blue'

David Caruso, Jimmy Smits, Ricky Schroder, and Dennis Franz reveal a lot about the 1993-2005 show… just not their backsides

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If you happened to stroll through a Manhattan Beach, Calif., studio lot on the afternoon of Sept. 21, you would’ve witnessed something unseen for almost two decades: Dennis Franz and David Caruso staking out a New York City street together. The original detective pair from ABC’s daring cop drama NYPD Blue joined forces with Franz’s second and third partners, Jimmy Smits and Ricky Schroder, for an EW photo shoot at Raleigh Studios. (Alas, Andy’s fourth badgemate, Franklin & Bash‘s Mark-Paul Gosselaar, was shooting a film in New Orleans and couldn’t attend.) The men shared stories, smiles, and a reverence for one of TV’s most provocative shows. ”When we were working, I felt something every day I went to work,” says Franz. ”And David said, ‘I can feel that same sort of thing happening again, just being here together.’ This is the first time this has happened, for all of us to be together like this. It was a wonderful moment. I felt a strength there.”

Dennis Franz (Andy Sipowicz)
For a guy who’s played cops and robbers on TV countless times, where does his Blue experience rank? ”It’s at the top,” declares Franz, 66. ”That’s the one that I feel that we got closest to doing it right. I think we squeezed every bit of entertainment out of those characters.” Indeed, his performance as the hard-bitten, prejudiced-but-trusty Detective Sipowicz earned him four Emmys. ”[Playing] such a complex character that was flawed in so many ways, yet so strong and heroic in other ways — and for him to fight his way out of being on the bottom more than five times — I feel a real pride in being a part of that growth,” he says. After 12 demanding seasons, Franz moved to Santa Barbara to spend time with his wife, Joanie, and their family. ”I’d still consider getting back into the game if that right [project] were to come along,” he says, ”but I certainly have my hands full with grandkids, golf, and cleaning my garage.” And Blue‘s legacy follows him everywhere: ”Knock on wood, it’s still doing me good when I get pulled over.”

David Caruso (John Kelly)
Long before he and his sunglasses laid down the law on CSI: Miami, Caruso crusaded for justice as Blue‘s subversive and smoldering Detective Kelly. ”It was pretty deep stuff for network television,” he says of the show. ”I can remember most of what we did, because it stays with you.” Despite his well-documented tumultuous exit just four episodes into season 2 (”I was pretty inexperienced and didn’t really understand the magnitude of the situation,” admits Caruso), he is proud to bleed Blue. ”It’s important to say, when you’ve had some perspective, how incredibly grateful you have to be to have that on your résumé,” says the 55-year-old actor, whose production company is developing several TV series and a movie. ”Regardless of what you do, it is truly a defining moment in your life, and you will always, always be from that show.”

Jimmy Smits (Bobby Simone)
”When the Smithsonian asked for our raincoats, I was like, ‘Oh my God!”’ says Smits. ”It sounds silly, but you’re a part of something that has a meaning above and beyond entertainment value. I’ve still got the second raincoat, too. It’s in the closet.” Smits keeps a fond place in his heart (and storage area) for his four-season run as the sensitive Bobby. ”I get a little humbled by the whole thing,” he says. ”When you’re in it, you tend to forget that good fortune — in terms of the writing and a great cast — is very rare.” Not so rare: fans on the street approaching him about Simone’s heartbreaking death. ”People always talk about my character’s last episodes, because [the show] dragged it out for a while,” says Smits, 56, who most recently starred on the NBC drama Outlaw. ”But [co-creator] David [Milch] was really successful in terms of the way he communicated it: ‘I want the audience to feel the loss we’re all feeling here.’ So there was emotional stuff that resonated with a lot of fans.”

Ricky Schroder (Danny Sorenson)
The former child star proved to be much more than that with his three-season turn as the troubled Detective Sorenson. ”It was the role that changed how people thought of me,” he says. ”It was the launch of the second half of my career. Without NYPD Blue, I don’t know where I would be.” Most recently, he wrote, directed, and costarred with daughter Cambrie in a modern-day Western called Wild Hearts; he’ll play a Civil War veteran opposite Luke Perry in a Hallmark movie; and he’s working with the U.S. Army to develop a reality program. ”I’ve seen peaks and valleys in the five decades that I’ve been fortunate enough to keep working,” says Schroder, 41. ”I try not to jump off the cliff when I’m too high, and I try not to fall on the ground when I’m too low. I’m in it for the long haul, and I’ll be an actor until they put me six feet under.”