'No Ordinary Family': Michael Chiklis' Backwards Career (and Frozen Peas)
In ABC's new Tuesday superhero-family drama "No Ordinary Family," which premiered last night on ABC to very good ratings. former "The Shield" star Michael Chiklis plays police sketch-artist Jim Powell, patriarch of a clan that acquired superpowers after a plane crash dunked it in phosphorescent water in the Amazon.
Jim has super-strength and super jumping ability, but Chiklis has only ordinary human abilities, and that can be a challenge.
"You know," he says, during a break in the living room of the Powell house during filming at Walt Disney Studios in Burbank, Calif., "my career is backwards. In my late 20s, I was the roly-poly, affable hero (in 'The Commish'). Now, I'm in my 40s, and I'm playing a superhero. It's flattering, but it's completely in reverse."
While special effects can simulate a lot, sometimes you just gotta be there. On the big screen in "The Fantastic Four" and "Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer," Chiklis had to wear an elaborate costume to play comic-book hero The Thing. In "No Ordinary Family," he had to go high ... really high.
"When Jim falls in the pilot [from the skyscraper], they took me 110 feet up," says Chiklis. "On 'The Fantastic Four,' I had gone up 30, 40 feet on a cable, but never 110 feet. That was scary as hell. It was on 5th Street, downtown Los Angeles, between two buildings.
"I was up there, and they had to hold for the wind, because the wind was kicking up. If I was falling with a gust of wind, I could be pushed sideways into the fire escapes. And I'm falling at pace. When they let that thing go, you're falling at pace. Do I look like I'm kidding? It scared the crap out of me.
"I asked the guy, 'What happens if this cable breaks?' He said, 'Don't ask questions you don't want to hear the answer to.' Then my stunt double, Randy, jumps in and goes, 'The cable's rated to 220 pounds.' I'm like, 'Gees!' It's really rated to 3,000 pounds, I found out later."
While Chiklis did a lot of running and gunning and kicking in doors as rogue LAPD Detective Vic Mackey on "The Shield," a simple run and jump almost did him in while shooting the pilot for "No Ordinary Family."
"I tore my calf muscle," he says, "the very first shot of the very first day of the pilot. I shot the entire pilot injured. It was a full tear in my right calf muscle, and it happened on the roof on the first day. It was the fourth take of the first setup.
"Rip -- the calf popped. It was 7 a.m., a chilly morning. I didn't warm up; I didn't stretch out. I just started sprinting and jumping off the roof, and that fourth time I went to jump, and I torqued. I heard, 'Poom!,' my calf, and I went down.
"Between every single scene, my leg was up, frozen -- ice, compression, elevation -- and tons of anti-inflammatories. I was just walking through the pain, trying to mask any kind of limp. There's one scene, when I first star to run, I end up doing sort of a Curly run (from 'The Three Stooges'). I run and then I jump. Watch that first two steps of that run; I'm limping badly."
Luckily Chiklis had time to heal between production on the pilot and the beginning of shooting for the series itself, but the hits just keep on coming.
"Friday night," he says, "I'm having to simply jump off an apple box, but with a 160-pound guy on my shoulder. You do that six, eight, 12 times, by the time you're doing it the 12th time, it's only a hop, but you've got this guy on your shoulder.
"Your knees are going, 'Aargh!' Then I go home, and on the location days, when we do stunts, the first words I say to my wife are 'Frozen peas.' She just goes and gets four or five packs of frozen peas, and I put them on my knees, my shoulder."
On set and off, Chiklis has learned to be careful.
"I don't want to hear that sound (from my calf) again," Chiklis says. "I feel very responsible for the cast and crew that want me to go to work and don't want me laid up.
"When you're doing a superhero show, you have to think about your health. You have to think about being physically fit and staying well. It's almost like a professional athletic event."