BY: Frazier Moore
NEW YORK – The story has often been told, how Michael Chiklis reinvented himself from the schlubby suburban flatfoot of his early-1990s drama ‘The Commish’ to a ferocious rogue cop on ‘The Shield.’
Chiklis won an Emmy and a Golden Globe for his performance in ‘The Shield.’ It seemed Detective Vic Mackey was the role of his lifetime.
Returning to series TV two years after ‘The Shield’ concluded its run with shock and awe, Chiklis has transformed himself again for his new show, ‘No Ordinary Family‘ (which airs on ABC Tuesdays at 8 p.m. ET). For Chiklis, this might be another signature role.
Here, he plays Jim Powell, who, when the series began last month, was a meek family man overwhelmed by the demands of marriage and parenting two teens. He was also frustrated by his dead-end job as a police sketch artist, being sidelined from what he saw as real police work.
In short, Powell was feeling powerless. Then, by a quirk of sci-fi fate, he acquired superstrength.
Meanwhile, Stephanie, his brilliant research-scientist wife (Julie Benz, ‘Dexter’), became superfast. Their 16-year-old daughter (Kay Panabaker) could read minds. And their 14-year-old learning-disabled son (Jimmy Bennett) was suddenly a supergenius.
Since then, complications have arisen for the Powells as the family dynamic is rocked to its core. Each member of the family is struggling to grasp an altered sense of themselves. And they must deal with pitfalls as well as opportunities imposed by their amazing new abilities.
What to do with them? With her superbusy schedule, workaholic Stephanie welcomes her superspeed as a way to keep up with her hectic personal life and career.
But Jim’s desire to use his powers for the good of society causes conflicts at home.
“Just because you’ve decided to clean up the city doesn’t make crime-fighting the family business,” Stephanie snaps at him when he asks her to help on a case on this week’s episode.
The blessings and the curse of superpowers — that’s hardly a new concept in storytelling annals. But so far ‘No Ordinary Family’ has offered a fresh, layered twist with for-all-ages appeal. It’s no ordinary show.
“It’s a hybrid,” says Chiklis during a recent interview. “This is a family drama wrapped in a police procedural wrapped in a superhero show. We have familiar day-to-day problems exacerbated by extraordinary powers. We try to ground the superhero genre in reality.”
For Chiklis, it’s definitely a switch from ‘The Shield,’ a Peabody Award-winner that was raw, unsparing and morally ambiguous — the sort of grown-up drama that, aired by cable’s FX, could never have found a home on broadcast.
“Coming off seven years of doing that, I wanted to do something that had mass appeal,” says Chiklis, bullet-headed and still fit at 47.
“I imagine if another show had come my way that was dark and adult, with the sort of brilliance ‘The Shield’ had, I would have jumped on it,” he says. “But I knew that sort of project isn’t an everyday event. Someday, I might like to go back to the dark side. But right now, I was inclined to go an entirely different way.”
Back on the ABC broadcast network (where for four seasons he thrived as “The Commish”), Chiklis describes ‘No Ordinary Family’ as “substantive, soulful — and then you laugh.”
“It seemed like a fun gig for me — something I can live with for a while. And I was up for the challenges it posed on a production level — we have the sort of special effects that, as recently as two years ago, you literally couldn’t do on a weekly basis,” he says.
“I’m a little bit of a superhero geek,” says Chiklis, which must have helped him rise to the occasion as craggy-complexioned The Thing in the 2005 feature film ‘Fantastic Four’ and its sequel two years later.
Of course, as Vic Mackey on ‘The Shield,’ Chiklis was also an action hero. It seemed he was always in motion, even in rare moments at rest, his mind racing to plot his next move. But that volatile performance was nothing like Jim Powell, who must hone such newfound skills as vaulting from the sidewalk to a towering rooftop (or, for Chiklis, mastering the necessary special-effects stunts).
“It’s fun, jumping off a bridge or throwing a car down the street,” he says with a laugh. Then, when he gets home from a 16-hour shooting day, he calls for makeshift ice packs to soothe his tired muscles.
That’s his typical greeting to his loving wife: “I say to her, ‘Michelle! Frozen peas!’”
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