图中Matt Lauria饰演的警察Caleb Evers和Jennifer Beals饰演的局长 Teresa Colvin正在Miller’s Pub餐厅的罪案现场调查，这家餐厅确实当地一家真实存在的。
If you passed by Miller’s Pub on South Wabash a few weeks ago and were startled that a major crime might have gone down, blame your needlessly quickened heartbeat on television guru Shawn Ryan.
The Rockford native’s upcoming cop drama, Fox’s “Ride-along,” was taping its sixth episode (of 13, pilot included) in and around the venerable Loop establishment. An ambulance and squad cars were parked outside. Yellow crime scene tape kept spectators at bay. Media folks clamored for interviews.
And, perhaps most tellingly, 21 boys in blue, hired as extras but looking no less official than they do on their everyday beats, were scattered about the set.
A stickler for realism, as he was in crafting his critically acclaimed FX series “The Shield” (also a cop drama, but based in Los Angeles), Ryan relies heavily on the personal and professional experiences of Chicago’s finest — not to mention their authenticity-boosting physical presence — to imbue his fictional storylines with a strong sense of credibility.
So as to gain an even greater understanding of the town, its people and its law enforcement culture, Ryan and his principal cast members were squired by Chicago police detectives to some dangerously crime-infested locales. But the 44-year-old Ryan, who even was allowed to observe a murder scene (post-murder), is willing to witness only so much in the name of research.
“I don’t have a huge desire to see tragedy,” he says by phone from L.A., where Ryan also executive produces the fledgling FX dramedy “Terriers.” “But I’m interested in seeing enough of it to be able to portray it so that we can have something that doesn’t feel like complete B.S.”
Inside Miller’s, whose walls are adorned with lighted oil paintings and framed glossies of famous folks (including a cheesily mustachioed Dennis Farina of Chicago-shot “Crime Story” fame), fake tragedy had struck. Actors playing bloodied bodies, gunned down by thugs in ski masks, were slumped over a half-eaten entree and sprawled on the floor. Small yellow evidence markers dotted the dining area.
The expansive two-level room, with its high ceiling and brass chandeliers and sunlight-illumined stained glass, buzzed with actors, extras and crew members in various states of work and rest. Expensive equipment — cameras, lights, an audio monitoring station — was everywhere. Director Michael Offer spearheaded take after take.
“Good work, everyone,” Offer, a decisive Australian with disheveled hair, proclaimed at one point. “Nice work. It’s going good.”
Production had begun at 6 a.m. and would continue, here and on the front steps of the nearby Chicago Cultural Center, for several more hours.
Fresh from an oft-repeated scene beneath ever-rumbling L trains, star Jason Clarke (“Public Enemies,” Showtime’s “Brotherhood”) sat in a small booth and recalled his late-night adventures on our mean streets. His character’s passable Chicago accent was dropped in favor of Clarke’s own Australian one. (A Northwestern University dialect coach helps facilitate his transition from Down Under to Daleyville.)
“I’ve seen more than any time I’ve ever played a policeman,” said Clarke, aka hard-driving maverick detective Jarek Wysocki. “It’s almost like extreme sports. It’s like going shark diving or jumping off a mountain or something. I’ve really gone in and had an opportunity to see stuff I think only a few of the dudes around here would get to see. And that’s been an extraordinary experience.”
During one especially intense outing, a gunshot victim died in close proximity to Clarke and his onscreen partner Matt Lauria (eager greenhorn detective Caleb Evers). “At a certain point,” Ryan says, “it was so crazy I think [the actors] had to be dropped off back at their hotel, because there was real [police] work that had to be done.”
Standing at the back of Miller’s on a short break, Lauria talked of going under the bridges, under the L trains and to “the poorest of poor neighborhoods, from projects to the Loop to Millennium Park. We’ve seen everything.”
And, he said, the prep work has proved immensely helpful from an artistic standpoint — much more so than filming on a soundstage out West.
“It’s a gift, man. It works on you. I’d say the best analogy would be if you were shooting a scene in a swamp. If you’re actually on location, wading your way through a swamp or through a river or whatever, that’s going to inform the decisions you make, the behavior, the point of view that you have. And it automatically is going to band you together with the people that you’re working with. You’re going to be much more reliant on them. And I think that being dropped into this really unique and incredible city and getting exposure to the different neighborhoods … really stokes you emotionally and psychologically with your character. And I also think that it prepares you with an authenticity that is harder to really muster elsewhere.”
Native Chicagoan Jennifer Beals is tough-and-tender police superintendent Teresa Colvin — the youngest, fictionally speaking, in departmental history.
Born and partly brought up on the South Side at 82nd and Indiana, Beals eventually migrated north and graduated from the elite Francis W. Parker School in Lincoln Park. Her extended residency in Chicago — where her mother continues to reside and where she long ago landed her first big-screen role in the 1980 film “My Bodyguard” — has brought with it a flood of flashbacks.
“Every time I round a corner, there’s 5 million memories,” she says by phone not long after wrapping for the day. “The whole city is like my private madeleine,” she adds, casually referencing the mind-blowing tea cake from French novelist Marcel Proust’s classic Remembrance of Things Past. (She’s a Yale grad, you know.)
Beals’ former South Side stomping grounds, however, sparked no such Proustian revelry. Chicago homicide detective and “Ride-along’s” technical advisor, John Folino Jr., she says, “wouldn’t take me there.”
“I think he was a little concerned about it. Because I said I wanted to go down to the ‘Wild Hundreds’ [portions of Far South Side streets], too, and make a pit stop at the old house. And he didn’t think that was a great idea.” She laughs. “Kevlar vest or no Kevlar vest.”
Beals still got an eyeful of urban dysfunction.
“There’s such a huge disrespect for the police department based in large part on the behavior of a very small minority,” she says. “It was really shocking to see how disrespectful people were. And what was also distressful was to see how people were not forthcoming with information. … I’d also see kids at midnight, 6-year-old kids, double-dutching in the street when they should be at home asleep. And they’re half a block away from all the drug dealers who are doing their business on the street. What kids are subjected to makes it very clear how the cycle begins and ends.”
Ryan, though, is no documentarian. All of this reality steeping serves only one purpose: to enrich his scripts and characters. Ultimately, ratings-grabbing entertainment value trumps absolute truth. And Ryan needs no reminding that “Ride-along,” which is scheduled to premiere early next year, had better ooze entertainment value — or else. That’s what he gets for setting the bar so high.
“‘The Shield’ was a pretty magical show and had a lot of critical success, and I’m just trying not to be handcuffed by that,” he says. “One reason why that show worked is there were absolutely no expectations for it and we were able to do what we did outside the spotlight, at least for the first year, and were able to take some chances. And I’m just trying to remember what that’s like, to not worry about failure.”