What Glenn Close is doing in ''The Shield'' -- Why the Oscar nominee chose to take a part in a violent, gritty cable cop drama

By Dan Snierson
March 11, 2005 at 05:00 AM EST
Glenn Close Photograph by Sheryl Nields
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She’s boiled a bunny. Plotted to make a coat of many canines. Manipulated the hearts of 18th-century French aristocrats. But today, in an unsavory L.A. neighborhood, Glenn Close isn’t embodying another villain — she’s trying to capture one. Clad in shades and a Kevlar flak jacket, she’s staked out behind a black SUV, a gun in her holster and an even more dangerous weapon at her side: Michael Chiklis. The two are shooting an episode for the fourth season of The Shield (debuting on FX March 15 at 10 p.m.) in which Close, as new Farmington precinct captain Monica Rawling, and Chiklis, as bad-mother cop Vic Mackey, hunt for a murder suspect and a drug distribution center.

Between takes, Close boasts about how she trained for the raid.

”I did 25 laps in the pool this morning,” she says. ”I did some crunches. I did a couple push-ups, too.”

Chiklis looks impressed: ”You’re up to 25 laps now?”

”I’m up to 50,” she says.

”Wow,” marvels Chiklis. ”Check out Close!”

It’s still true: She will not be ignored. By signing on to a full season of FX’s gritty-gutty police drama, the 57-year-old actress — star of classics like Fatal Attraction, Dangerous Liaisons, and The Big Chill — is adding another bold role to her 30-year career. It’s a move that will likely boost the critically acclaimed show’s audience, which dropped from 3.3 million viewers in season 2 to 2.5 million last season, and it’s bound to raise the question: Why go from 101 Dalmatians to 101 Citations? ”I kind of like being the scrappy underdog,” she says. ”What’s the big deal?”

The big deal, of course, is that film icons rarely report for episodic duty. (Can you picture Meryl Streep moving into the Cohen guesthouse on The O.C.? If only.) But securing a Great is exactly what Shield creator Shawn Ryan had in mind when he envisioned the tough-yet-amiable captain who takes command of the fractured precinct this season. He recalls compiling a list of dream actresses that also included Susan Sarandon and Frances McDormand. ”I started setting my heart on [Glenn] while thinking, ‘Don’t get too worked up because it probably won’t happen.”’

Close was thinking the same thing. The five-time Oscar nominee and three-time Tony winner — who nabbed a Golden Globe this year for Showtime’s remake of The Lion in Winter — initially told her agents to turn down the Shield offer, but her reps persuaded her to at least take a meeting. So Ryan, FX entertainment president John Landgraf, and CEO Peter Liguori jetted to New York City for a multimedia, multi-hour pitch. Close said yes by the end of the week. ”I’m a sucker for good writing and for people who are really passionate,” she says. ”There was something very seductive about being wanted so badly, and the fact that they had come all that way and were willing to sit in my little apartment…”

What also won her over was the chance to play a female who could compete in a testosterone-teeming environment. ”I was offered Dune right after The World According to Garp,” she says. ”I turned it down [because] there was this scene where they were running away from the big worm or whatever it was and the woman fell down, and everyone had to come back to get her. I said, ‘What a cliché. I don’t want to be the woman who falls down. I want to be the woman who’s running just as fast as everyone else.”’

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