Michael Chiklis

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Biography

Distinct and intense, actor Michael Chiklis spent years on the cusp of stardom before finally exploding onto the cultural landscape playing corrupt LAPD detective Vic Mackey on the hardcore cop drama, "The Shield" (FX, 2002-08). Prior to his portrayal of the reprehensible, but doggedly loyal Mackey, Chiklis bounced around episodic television and small features - including his first feature film "Wired" (1989), the controversial telling of …
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Job Title

Actor, Producer, Music

Born

August 30, 1963

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Distinct and intense, actor Michael Chiklis spent years on the cusp of stardom before finally exploding onto the cultural landscape playing corrupt LAPD detective Vic Mackey on the hardcore cop drama, "The Shield" (FX, 2002-08). Prior to his portrayal of the reprehensible, but doggedly loyal Mackey, Chiklis bounced around episodic television and small features - including his first feature film "Wired" (1989), the controversial telling of comic John Belushi's tailspin into drugs up to his ultimately death. When he was only in his late twenties, Chiklis was cast as "The Commish" (ABC, 1991-95) on the likable cop drama about the chief of police in a New York state town who often solves his crimes in an unorthodox manner. While established as a bona fide, Emmy-winning television star on "The Shield," self-professed comic book fan Chiklis sought feature stardom by playing Ben Grimm/The Thing in "The Fantastic Four" (2005) and the sequel "Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer" (2007). Despite high-profile recognition in a summer popcorn movie, Chiklis was long revered for his turn as Vic Mackey, one of the most complicated and fascinating characters to have ever been created for series television.

Born on Aug. 30, 1963 in Lowell, MA, Chiklis was raised to be an entertainer almost from the start. Reared in a musical household, he was accustomed to breaking into song and entertaining his large Greek family by the time he was five years old. Chiklis also developed an impressive array of celebrity impressions - some 100 all told, including Richard Nixon, Marlon Brando and James Cagney. In junior high, a teacher encouraged him to audition for summer stock for the Town & Country Playhouse in Salem, NH. He moved on to the Merrimack Repertory Theatre in his hometown, where Chiklis earned his Equity card from the stage union at just age 13, acting in a production of "Romeo and Juliet." After graduating from Andover High School, where he played baseball, hockey and was the captain of the football team, Chiklis eschewed athletic scholarships in order to attend Boston University's prestigious School of Fine Arts drama program.

In 1985, Chiklis graduated from Boston University and moved to New York City to pursue his acting career. For the first few years, he waited tables and tended bar, while going on auditions and acting in regional theater and in off-Broadway productions. Because of his distinctive look - he played the part of a 65-year-old man in college in "You Can't Take It with You," using grease paint on his then-full head of hair that was not removed properly, killing the follicles - Chiklis was generally cast in older roles. He landed his first big break after 12 auditions to play the role of tragic comic John Belushi in "Wired" (1989), the feature adaptation of Bob Woodward's hard-hitting 1984 biography of the late comedian, which dealt extensively with Belushi's drug abuse. Controversy and litigation, however, kept the film from opening on schedule, as many industry figures and friends named in the book did not like the tone of the film as it pertained to their involvement or the memory of their friend. Particularly vocal against anyone to do with the film was Dan Aykroyd, Belushi's best friend and onscreen comedy partner, and Jim Belushi, John's younger brother. When it was released, the movie was shunned by Hollywood and overlooked by the public.

In 1989, Chiklis made his TV movie debut as an evangelist hoping to benefit from a child preacher's trust fund in "Blues for Buder," an installment of Burt Reynolds' rotating movie mystery vehicle, "B.L. Stryker" (ABC, 1989-1990). He also appeared as a sexist comedian on "Murphy Brown" (CBS, 1988-1998); a cop-turned-thief on "Miami Vice" (NBC, 1984-89); and a drunk on "Seinfeld" (NBC, 1988-1998). In 1991, Chiklis was cast in his first regular series as the titular character on "The Commish," about an unorthodox police commissioner in upstate New York dealing with the job while, at the same time, remaining a devoted husband and father. The show proved to be a middling success in its niche on Saturday nights. After its regular run ended in 1995, Chiklis came back for several two-hour movies during the 1995-96 season. He made a few sporadic film appearances, co-starring in the little-seen "The Rain Killer" (1990) and playing a television director in Oliver Stone's "Nixon" (1995). He returned to TV as the star of the NBC mid-season replacement family sitcom "Daddio" in 2000, which showed initial ratings potential but faded quickly. The actor then equated himself well in the iconic role of Jerome 'Curly' Howard in the ABC biopic "The Three Stooges" (2000).

Chiklis would go two years before his next major gig. Chaffing at his lightweight image, he bucked his previous typecast image by shaving his head, getting himself into shape and adopting a more tenacious demeanor to play Vic Mackey on "The Shield," an original drama created by Shawn Ryan for the then fledgling FX network. Chiklis was compelled by his morally compromised antihero, whose over-the-line tactics often served justice better than the law, but who also killed a fellow officer to protect his undercover Strike Team after they had enriched themselves with the ill-gotten gains from criminals they had taken down. As the show grew in popularity, Chiklis famously refused to comment on his own view of Mackey's morality, keeping the audience guessing as to any possible chance of redemption. Meanwhile, both actor and character fused perfectly; Chiklis' intense portrayal resulted in a slew of critical praise, nominations and awards, including a surprise Emmy for Outstanding Lead Actor in a Drama Series in 2002, followed shortly by a Golden Globe for Best Performance by an Actor in a Television Series Drama in 2003.

Because of his success on "The Shield," Chiklis was tapped by Marvel Productions and 20th Century Fox to star as the Marvel Comics superhero, The Thing, in the big-budget adaptation of the classic Stan Lee-Jack Kirby comic book "The Fantastic Four." Playing Ben Grimm, a shuttle pilot whose exposure to cosmic rays turns him into a hulking, super-strong, blue-eyed creature with a rocky hide, Chiklis took on the role wholeheartedly, playing the character in a full body suit and makeup, as opposed to simply voicing a CGI creation - though he did admit to requiring therapy to deal with the claustrophia-inducing costume. The actor's efforts were undermined, however, by the unconvincing Thing suit as well as the film's wildly uneven script and direction. Despite the therapy, uncomfortable suit and mediocre film, Chiklis revived The Thing in "Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer" (2007) which end result was the same as its predecessor: big box office totals and a critical drubbing. Meanwhile, in 2008, Chiklis' run as the malevolent Vic Mackey was over when "The Shield" came to an end. In one of the series' most gut-wrenching scenes, Mackey confesses his litany of crimes under the protection of full immunity, starting with the murder of officer Terry Crowley that dogged him throughout the show's seven miraculous seasons.

With cast and crew coming to grips with the end of "The Shield," Chiklis moved on to other roles, landing a supporting turn as the secretary of defense in the action thriller "Eagle Eye" (2008), starring Shia LaBeouf and Michelle Monaghan. In an effort to shake free of Mackey and tackle more lighthearted fare, Chiklis starred in the family-oriented "No Ordinary Family" (ABC, 2010-11), in which he played the patriarch of a family who develops superhero powers after they are involved in a plane crash in the Amazon. Chiklis played Jim Powell, a police sketch artist who develops super strength and becomes virtually invulnerable while being able to leap tall buildings, though his finesse and agility leave something to be desired. Co-starring Julie Benz, the show was canceled for low ratings after its first season. Following a turn as the school principal in the stoner comedy, "HIGH School" (2010), he returned to series television to play the main antagonist on "Vegas" (CBS, 2012- ), a Western-like drama depicting the famed gambling town during its 1960s heyday. Chiklis was Chicago mobster Vincent Savino - a character based on real-life crime boss Marcello Caifano - who butts heads with a small town sheriff (Dennis Quaid).