Shawn Ryan Getting Up to ‘Code’

The best new drama of the season, Fox’s “Chicago Code,” grew since it was originally titled “Ride Along,” executive producer Shawn Ryan says.

“It became much, much more than I originally intended it,” Ryan told reporters at press tour last month. “The original concept was to try to do a police show in Chicago that kind of made the viewer feel as if they were in the police car with the cops.

“That was my original, original concept. And it evolved greatly over time. It became a show that I realized I wanted to be about a lot more than just police officers. So police officers are who we use to look at the city and look at the intersection of politics and its citizenry.”

One of the unusual factors is using the star of “Flashdance” as the commissioner of police.

“I didn’t want to repeat myself on
“The Shield.” So this was a character that didn’t exist on that show. And

“I like the idea of approaching crime from the top. And I liked the idea of approaching it from the perspective of a female character,” says Ryan, who blazed some trails on cable with the series “The Shield.”  “There would obviously be some curiosity and resistance to a female superintendent being the boss of 10,000 cops. I liked the intersection and the friction of that.”

“For me, what was so interesting about the part was not only her strength, but her fragility in her position,” Beals says. “It’s a very tenuous position to be a woman with that kind of responsibility and especially to have been in the police force such a short, comparatively, amount of time as a lot of prior superintendents. What was interesting for me in this first season was to try to play that balance between what it takes to lead 10,000
men.”

His fumble with the on-season show “Terriers” for FX last year may have had low ratings because of a title many found misleading.

“It really did make me reexamine the title of ‘Ride-Along,’” he says.

Moving from the cable world to networks has been an education too, especially in terms of toning down the naturalistic language of police shows.

“It was an interesting dilemma — especially coming off ‘The Shield,’ where we had a certain amount of freedom,” Ryan says. “But I understand the difference between cable and network, and we came up with a few kind of colorful words.”

For example: “We couldn’t really use ‘jaggoff,’ and we couldn’t use ‘asshole,’ but we found a way to use ‘jaghole,’ ” Ryan says. “Which sounds so much worse. So we found creative ways. It was something that, in the pilot script, I wrote Jarek’s character, who is the main guy we follow a lot of the time — I wrote him as a character who was kind of resistant to profanity in those public situations, which was, you know, sort of a way to acknowledge ‘Oh, those words are out there, but we understand why they’re not being said in this
context.’ But, you know, this is a network show. We’re playing by network rules, and I don’t mind that at all.”

For Jason Clarke, his role on “Chicago Code” means he has to learn a regional accent, after playing an even more arcane Providence one for the Showtime series “Brotherhood.”

“This one is such a bigger, more confident one than, say, a Rhode Island accent or a Louisiana accent,” Clarke says. But he says it was easy to pick up just listening to police consultants in the city, “going out on a lot of ride-alongs with a lot of cops, even the teamster that picks you up in the morning.

It’s a discipline. “You can learn the sounds,” he says, “but then you need to learn the confidence to fill out just how full-on some of these words are that real Chicago .”

Eventually, he says, it’s “like putting on your wardrobe or your badge or whatever. It’s a great way in, that accent. And I love doing it.”

“Chicago Code,” which also stars Delroy Lindo, airs Mondays at 9 p.m. on Fox.

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