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Dax Shepard: The 'CHiPs' remake is like 'Bad Boys' with tighter pants

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DAX SHEPARD
Paul Archuleta/FilmMagic

When news broke that Dax Shepard was writing, directing, and starring in a remake of CHiPs, the popular television series that ran from 1977 to 1983 and followed two California patrol officers, fans immediately wondered what a “more serious” take on the story would look like. And according to Shepard, it will add the FBI to the mix, but retain a few things from the original (namely, the tight pants).

EW caught up with Shepard to get some details on the upcoming remake.

EW: So CHiPs might have been my favorite show growing up.

DAX SHEPARD: Really? Did you have a major crush on Poncherello?

Actually, I had a major crush on Jon.

That’s so counterintuitive. Most gals were obsessed with Ponch. Your dad must’ve been a really sweet man.

He was. Well, he is.

Yeah, that explains that. I think the litmus test is, if you’re attracted to Jon, you had a really nice father, and then if you’re attracted to Ponch, your dad was probably not around as much and was maybe a little more you know risque. But I’m going to play a little bit more dangerous version of Jon. My version of Jon is a little scarier.

So it’s for people whose dad was sort of around?

My dad, who was a car salesman who spent a lot of time at the bar and drove a Corvette.

The only thing I’ve really heard is that it’s a more serious take on the series, but what can you tell me about the angle you’re going for?

Yeah, that’s exactly it. It’s not the spoof version at all, and it’s not the comedy-first version. It’s the action-first version. It’s way more tonally in keeping with Lethal Weapon or Bad Boys. I’m super, super into motorcycles. It’s something that I take absurdly seriously, so my commitment to it being a very kick-ass motorcycle movie is No. 1. And then I doubt you saw Hit and Run, but if you saw Hit and Run, my other commitment being to, you know, authentic dialogue that maybe isn’t expositional in nature but more slice-of-life in nature. So it’s not set-up jokes. The comedy I’m trying to mine is the intricacy of male relationships and how awkward those are at the beginning—and then once they take off, how kind of funny and satisfying.

Where are you in the process?

I’ve already written it. I’m really, really happy with it. I was a tiny bit intimidated. It has a legit crime plot to it, and I had never tackled that kind of a plot. I guess Hit and Run was also a crime plot, but not, “Oh, there’s clues and they’re uncovering things and they’re discovering things.” So the mechanics of that were slightly intimidating to me. I spent more time writing this than anything else I’ve written, but the end result, I was really happy with. I feel like it actually has a really good engine, a really good plot to it.

So does it have one central crime?

There’s a series of crimes happening, and it seems quite evident to the FBI that one or more people in the CHP is complicit in this or involved in it, so the movie starts with Ponch, who’s an FBI agent, getting sent to the CHP undercover.

That’s a twist.

I kind of wanted to acknowledge the funny fact that Poncherello is an Italian name and was originally, in the series, written for an Italian guy, but Erik Estrada came in and crushed an audition and they cast a Mexican lead, which was not happening a ton at that time. I think it’s really funny and cool, that you have this Mexican guy playing what was conceived of an an Italian guy, so I wanted to acknowledge that in our script—like, why is this guy playing an Italian? So the fact that he’s undercover explains that.

Anything you definitely want to keep from the original?

I will keep the pants tight. I promise to keep the pants tight from your childhood show.

Thank you. I appreciate that. Wait, wait. Are you going to be wearing different color aviators?

Why do you ask that?

That was always crucial to me. Jon had the lighter, yellow aviators and Ponch had the darker, black aviators.

Well you know what’s so bizarre, by pure coincidence, I shot a teaser for the studio of [Michael] Pena and I, and in the teaser, I’m wearing blue aviators and he’s wearing red aviators.

So they’re different but not the exact same as the original.

Right.

I like it.

And that’s a coincidence, I’m glad you just pointed that out to me. It makes me feel like I really stayed true to something that escaped me.

Now you can tell people that’s a little homage to the original.

Yes, this was a conscious choice. Yeah, but in the teaser we’re in red and blue. Which I just liked because those are police-siren colors.