'The Bridge': It Takes a Chief From 'Battlestar' to Link Both Sides of the Badge

Today's cuppa: Breakfast blend coffee, mmmm, smooth ...

Here's the full text of my feature story from this week on the new CBS police drama ...

The_Bridge_Aaron_Douglas_1.jpgBeing a police officer may be a calling for some, but it is also a job -- a union job. And where there are unions, there are the bosses and the rank and file; there are negotiations and disputes and sometimes a strike.

 

And there is always a police officer whose extra job it is to stand in the middle of all that, to bridge the gap between the officers and the men, between the police and the people, and between the police and one another.

 

With a two-hour episode on Saturday, July 10, CBS premieres the Canadian-produced drama "The Bridge," loosely based on the life of Toronto radio personality Craig Bromell, who also used to be head of the Toronto police union from 1997 to 2003 and is an executive producer on the show.

 

"Battlestar Galactica" star Aaron Douglas plays Frank Leo, a tough and dedicated officer in a big-city police force who is voted in to head his union. To serve the 8,000 officers under his care, he must battle street criminals, corruption in the ranks and his own bosses, the so-called "brass wall."

 

Also starring are Paul Popowich, Frank Cassini, Inga Cadranel, Ona Grauer, Theresa Joy and Michael Murphy.

 

"The question is," says executive producer Alan Di Fiore ("Da Vinci's Inquest"), "the moral ambiguity of the show is, how far will he go? He ends up quite often crossing the line, dealing with a bad cop on his own terms, so it doesn't hurt the department. Because to hurt the department means that the funding is going to get cut, that they're going to have problems with the mayor, with money.

 

"I knew so many cops that when I met Craig, it wasn't a big surprise to me. I got him right away. I understood where he was coming from. The idea was to present that world differently than anybody had ever seen it before. The fact that Craig had become head of the police union -- that's where the comparison ends. He's not Frank Leo."

 

And Frank Leo is not Chief Galen Tyrol, the character Douglas played on "Battlestar," but there are similarities between the street-wise cop and the tough, resourceful chief.

 

"It's funny," Douglas says, "it's very, very similar to the chief in many respects -- blue-collar guy, he's there for the working man, he's going to do his best and is very loyal and very honest, just tries to make life a little bit better for those around him. And he will go to the wall for the people that he believes in.

 

"I like the fact that Frank's a real guy. He's flawed, just like people in life are. He's doing theThe_Bridge_Aaron_Douglas_2.JPG best he can with the tools that he has. He makes mistakes, and he owns up to them. But he does the best that he can. He leads by example, and he leads with his words. People rely on him and need him.

 

"He will do whatever he needs to do to make a better environment for the people around him, and particularly the people who don't have the ability or the power to do it for themselves."

 

For his part, Di Fiore had no doubt about his pick to play Frank.

 

"I kept telling everybody, 'Look, I don't want a traditional pretty boy. I want somebody who has some character in his face," Di Fiore says. "I want somebody who looks like a young Gandolfini - better-looking than that. I wanted somebody with some power behind them.

 

"Finally, we found Aaron, and I was just over the moon. As soon as we got him, I said, 'We have to have this guy.' He's exactly who I pictured in this part, somebody you could believe was actually a cop on the street."

 

That means Douglas is again wearing a uniform. As to whether he prefers his police blues or his "Battlestar" flight suit and orange work jumpsuit, Douglas says, "Oh, 'Battlestar Galactica,' by far. I know if the fans had their druthers, they would rather see me walking around in an orange jumpsuit than a cop's uniform."

 

He's also learning to cope with wearing a gun belt, a radio and all the other accoutrements of a street cop.

 

"They hang a lot of stuff on your belt," he says, "put it over your shoulders. It's not just getting dressed and walking on the set; you've got 10 minutes with the prop guys."

 

"The Bridge" has already started airing in Canada , and Douglas is beginning to experience what it's like to have fame beyond "Battlestar."

 

"In Canada ," he says, "when I do [get recognized], people point and wave and say, 'Hi, Frank!' It's weird. I'm so used to people yelling 'Chief!' across the street. I don't know whether to respond or whether they're talking to the guy with the beard behind me."