Shawn Ryan on ‘The Chicago Code’

The creator of 'The Shield' talks about his new series.

Fred Topelby Fred Topel

Shawn Ryan on 'The Chicago Code'

Shawn Ryan’s latest cop show premieres on Fox. Even though The Chicago Code cops can’t be quite as hardcore as Vic Mackey on FX, he’s finding ways to bring the hammer down on Windy City corruption. Det. Wysocki (Jason Clarke) and Superintendent Colvin (Jennifer Beals) team up to find some evidence on Alderman Gibbons (Delroy Lindo). On stage after his Television Critics Association panel, Ryan answered more questions about the new Fox drama.


CraveOnline: Obviously having Wysocki lecture anyone who swears effectively removes sweaing from prime time. But isn’t it even more badass that he hates swearing than if he just swore a lot himself? 

Shawn Ryan: Yeah, he’s a guy who likes things a certain way and occasionally can bully people a little bit into getting those things. So what started off as a way to realistically avoid a lot of profanity, because cops do tend to swear a lot, was that. But the way he kind of puts his thumb on his partners about speak this way, don’t speak this way, reveals something about his character as well.


CraveOnline: Do you shoot in Chicago? 

Shawn Ryan: Oh yeah, we shoot entirely in Chicago. Unlike some of those shows that people were mentioning, “The Good Wife” maybe picks up some stuff in Chicago. They film in New York. “Shameless” mostly films in L.A. I went to – – before I ever pitched the show to anyone creative, I went to the head of production, Jim Sharp at 20th, and said, “I have an idea for the show but the only way I will do the show is if we can film it entirely in Chicago. Not only that, this is a show that needs to be 6 days out, 2 days in.” most shows are reverse. They’re six days in, two days out or a little more. “If you tell me that we can’t do this, I’m not even going to pitch it.” He went away and came back and said, “We can pull this off. We had a good experience shooting ‘Prison Break’ in Chicago and we have some relationships there with the Illinois Film Commission. So I got that promise locked down before I ever pitched the show. This is the kind of the show that if I’d just gone forward with the idea, they very well may have tried to move it to Vancouver or Toronto or somewhere and done what a lot of these shows do. To me, it felt completely crucial to be there, to have the cast living there, to do the whole thing. So I was able to pull that off, got lucky that way. I think as you watch the episodes, it really pays off that we’re filming in Chicago.


CraveOnline: Are there week to week episodes of cases in addition to the long haul of bringing down Alderman Gibbons? 

Shawn Ryan: There are a couple episodes that will feel a little bit more standalone police-y but every episode has something that carries through either personally or on the corruption storyline. Like a lot of shows, you must hear this all the time, we’re trying to balance that line between having a serialized thing that makes it worth coming back to every week but also having something that you can cling onto every episode. It’s just kind of frightening when you read the data from the networks. Even the people that describe themselves as fans of your show only show up for one out of every four episodes. So you have to make each episode in such a way, and this is where I think the voiceovers really help us because we’re able to use voiceovers in a way in future episodes to remind people of certain things that came before, certain situations that people are in. This show has been designed to be a serialized story and yet every episode is designed that if you just drop in you can enjoy beginning to end.


CraveOnline: Even like The Shield did it with busting gang bangers or Dutch’s cases. 

Shawn Ryan: Well, The Shield got pretty deep in the mythology pretty quickly. In the first couple seasons there were some episodes that were a little bit more standalone on The Shield. We eventually just dove right into that serialized rabbit hole and never came out.