By Lee Alan Hill
Special to TelevisionWeek
The news last October certainly got Hollywood’s attention-five-time Academy Award-nominated actress Glenn Close would be joining the FX series “The Shield” as Capt. Monica Rawling, a newly created role, in its fourth season.
Ms. Close had done long-form TV projects in the past, even winning an Emmy in 1995 as the star of “Serving in Silence: The Margarethe Cammermeyer Story.” But she had done only a handful of episodes as a guest. Even in her early years she devoted herself to theater, not episodic TV.
Is this a sign that her feature film career is on the wane?
“She doesn’t look at work that way,” said Shawn Ryan, executive producer of “The Shield.” “We were lucky in the sense that she doesn’t have a lot of those career hang-ups. Film, theater, TV-she wants great material, and we busted our butt to live up to the promise we would give it to her.”
The character Ms. Close portrayed during the 13 episodes of the season is a police officer genuinely dedicated to cleaning up a cesspool of a precinct. As such, she found herself in conflict with not only Michael Chiklis’ roguish cop but also with the other characters, such as the other top female in the squad room, portrayed by CCH Pounder.
“We needed a powerful female character on the show who could really go head-to-head with Chiklis,” said John Landgraf, president and general manager of FX Networks. “Given the caliber of the show, I thought we had a shot at getting a bona fide movie star, and we did. We need to thank her agents at CAA, fans of the show, who told her to take us seriously when we went to New York to woo her.
“We thought it would be terrific to get an actress known for powerful performances, but most often [of] genteel characters, to be on the grittiest, dirtiest show on TV.”
The biggest adjustment for Ms. Close, according to Mr. Ryan and Mr. Landgraf, was adapting to the pace of TV, and for that reason they went a bit light on her character for the first two episodes.
“I think she’s elevated the dramatic series genre,” Mr. Ryan said. “We realized early on that we needed to write fewer words for her because she can do more with her eyes and her entire instrument than even many great actors can do with the best dialogue.”
Emmy voters should take note. This is most likely the only season they’ll be able to honor Ms. Close as outstanding lead actress in a drama series. She may return as a guest on specific episodes next year, but her deal with FX was for just one season.
Others to Consider
2004 Drama Actress Contenders
Winner: Allison Janney, The West Wing (NBC)
Other nominees: Jennifer Garner, Alias (ABC); Amber Tamblyn, Joan of Arcadia (CBS); Mariska Hargitay, Law & Order: SVU (NBC); Edie Falco, The Sopranos (HBO)