Q & A with 'The Shield' creator Shawn Ryan

Shawnryan1Talk about a long goodbye: When the final season of The Shield premieres on FX Tuesday (Sept. 2), it will have been nearly 10 months since the final episode finished filming.

Creator Shawn Ryan wasn't there for the final day of filming, as it happened in the early days of the writers strike. After the strike ended, Ryan went back to work in the editing room, and that felt like an ending too. Now, he says, the show's premiere will be "the final, final ending."

"Although, no," he quickly adds. "They'll have us going in and doing DVD commentary the whole season."

One thing is certain: The final season of The Shield has a lot of things to resolve, chief among them whether the bad deeds Detective Vic Mackey (Michael Chiklis) will finally catch up with him. Ryan discussed what's coming with me at July's press tour. Here's what he had to say.

I gather one reason you're not airing until the fall is that FX let you go back and work on the show.
I think that's one reason. They also had an overall network strategy. The original plan was for us to be on in June, I think. Then when the strike hit -- they could've put us on in June, but they weren't sure if they'd have anything to follow up. So they decided to take the time off. We're going to premiere Sept. 2, and they've got a new series, Sons of Anarchy, that one of our showrunners Kurt Sutter that'll be on the following night. We can sort of launch en masse. We were the only drama ready to go on the air [earlier in the year], so they would have been leaving us on an island.

Was there anything, not being able to be there for the filming of the last episode, that you could work on in the editing room?
I'll say this. I usually have a writer on set during [filming], so we did miss that. But the crew and the actors knew it. They knew how important the final episode was. Clark Johnson, who directed the pilot, also directed the finale, and all the actors, especially Michael Chiklis, really took it upon themselves to make the writers proud knowing we couldn't be there. So when I got in the editing room, it was no different than any episode. Most of it's really great, there's a few things that, you know, I think needed a little work, and I worked on them. But I really think the final episode turned out to be one of our best episodes ever.

Michaelchiklis_shield_240_002Is there an overall theme for the last season?
I think the theme would be that all the things you run from eventually catch up to you. So we've seen the Strike Team do a lot of things, we've seen Dutch and Claudette have their relationship -- all the characters are running away from certain things, and this is the year we let everything catch up to them, I guess, and have a lot of fun with that.

Last season got into the situation with the developer...
Cruz Pezuela is that character's name. He's definitely a big part of this season too.

Right. That storyline seemed to take on a larger scope beyond just what goes on in Farmington.
Yeah. ... I think one of the things we hit on the end of last year and continue to hit on this year is that there are larger forces out there. We don't necessarily go outside our universe and deal with them, but it's sort of coming to bear in little Farmington, and the characters are affected by that.

It seems like you're bringing in some issues of class and gentrification.
Yeah -- it's funny. We started filming in 2001 and '02, and a lot of the neighborhoods we filmed in the first two seasons, we can't film in anymore because they look too good now [laughs]. A lot of the whole town has changed, and that's something we tried to hit on is the idea that the city is changing. It's a very different L.A. than the one in the pilot.

Will there ever be a Shield movie?
I think you've got to see if there's anyone left standing at the end of the finale to have a movie with [laughs]. You know what? The final season is all about having a final season for FX. A lot of things happen. We didn't hold anything back for a movie. So I don't know -- I never want to say yes or no to anything, but watch the season and tell me if a movie is possible.

Does Vic fully realize what he's created in Shane?
I think as the season goes on, he does more and more. Certainly the Vic-Shane relationship is really one of the central ones to this season.

I know a lot of people thought their blowout last year over Lem's death kind of felt like an ending for them.
I think it was the ending, in many ways, for those two. Yet we've all had examples in our lives where a relationship may have ended, yet both sides go on and have to deal with each other in some way. And Vic's going to learn in the first episode that a situation's been created that doesn't make it so easy for him to totally amputate Shane out of his life.

So will there be more of the Armenian thread this season?
Yeah, the Armenian thread is something that really plays in the beginning of the season and is something that kind of forces to deal with Shane in a lot of ways. You do know your Shield [laughs].

Will Franka Potente be back?
We investigated that possibility because I loved her, and I had an idea of how to bring her back. But she was filming Che with Steven Soderbergh in the jungle for our entire shoot, so we couldn't get her. She wanted to come back -- she loved the show, and we loved her. But it's one of those things where you have an idea and when it doesn't work out, you accidentally stumble on a better idea. So not having her led to some things that worked out well for us even though I wouldn't have predicted that at the beginning.