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Michael Chiklis: Hollywood Survivor

After a controversial film and five Years as TV's "Commish," Michael Chiklis's next challenge Is Convincing Producers He's younger than his roles
Susan Karlin
From the Print Edition:
Vince McMahon, Nov/Dec 99

(continued from page 5)

His strategy is partially the result of his frustration with TV's increasingly formulaic approach, the high mortality rate for new shows, and Hollywood provincialism. "The 'All in the Familys' weren't just setup, setup, joke, which just gets tiring and boring," he says. "That's why the mortality rate for new TV series has gone up from probably 50 to 98 percent. The Hollywood attitude is to throw enough shit against the wall and see what sticks. Last season, one show kept going. One. It was 'Ally McBeal.' And look at it. There's thought and content behind it. I think a common mistake by Hollywood is that [they think] the people between New York and Los Angeles are ignorant. As an actor, you always have to assume that your audience is as smart or smarter than you," Chiklis says.  

"Whatever I do on TV, I want it to be something hopeful. It's one thing to see a movie that's dark and sinister. But if you're going to tune in every week, with very few exceptions, I don't think people want to be made to feel nervous and upset about the world."  

By now, most of the terrace tables at the Grand Havana Room have emptied, with the few remaining members retiring inside to the dimly lit lounge, richly adorned with blue, burgundy and green velvet couches and green drapes soaring to the 30-foot-high ceiling. A soothing aroma of wood and tobacco wafts through the club. Off to the side, a glass-encased room houses cedar humidors bearing such names as Arnold Schwarzenegger, Mel Gibson and Robert De Niro, among other stars. Not bad company. Chiklis lights the Opus and takes a few quick puffs.  

"It's a particularly fine smoke, the blend of tobacco, the way they wrap it," he says. He turns the lit portion toward him and watches the smoke curl upward into the evening. "The idea of a cigar right now begins to relax me. Cigars help to keep me sane. After a day like today, where I just spent eight hours doing the narrative of a movie, the idea of sitting and having a nice dinner and a cigar is one of the peaceful pleasures in life."  

Another peaceful pleasure is simply being peaceful--a hard-won victory given the volatility of his career. "With me, after Wired, it's impossible not to keep my head," he says. "I enjoy success better now, because I know how fleeting it can be. I learned a long time ago that life is not a meritocracy. Things aren't based on merit and what people deserve. There are people who become very powerful who are the last people in the world you want to see become that, or who get the job you're after that aren't as good as you. One thing that's kept me mentally well in this business is not wanting other people's stuff. That's a tremendous amount of energy expended on a negative. I've always felt there was plenty of room for me. That everyone around me can be successful and I can, too."  

Eventually, Chiklis grinds the cigar tip into the ashtray, blows the last of the Opus into the night air, and watches it disappear. It's a look of sheer contentment. At last.  

Los Angeles-based Susan Karlin is an award-winning journalist who has written for the London, Los Angeles and New York Times, Playboy, Newsweek, TV Guide and Entertainment Weekly.

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