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15 Incorruptible Facts About The Shield

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Opening up the doors for original, innovative, violent shows to live on basic cable networks, FX's The Shield—which premiered 15 years ago today—helped to change the TV landscape in the first decade of the 21st century. Starring Michael Chiklis as corrupt cop Vic Mackey, the show followed the Los Angeles Police Department’s "Strike Team," an anti-gang unit modeled after the real LAPD Rampart Division's CRASH unit. In 2003, it became the first ad-supported cable series to win a Golden Globe for Best Drama Series. Here are some facts about The Shield that are a different kind of cop.

1. THE CO-CREATOR OF LOST THOUGHT THE NETWORK WOULD CHANGE THE PILOT.

Damon Lindelof, co-creator of Lost and The Leftovers, remembered reading Shawn Ryan's pilot script for The Shield and always waiting for Vic Mackey to become an Andy Sipowicz-type, or “a good guy despite his gruff exterior.” Instead, he read the ending where Mackey murdered an Internal Affairs rat in cold blood. “And when I read that, I thought to myself, ‘Shawn Ryan will never get this ending on the air,'” Lindelof recalled to the Chicago Tribune in 2008. (Spoiler alert: Lindelof was wrong.)

2. IT WAS ORIGINALLY TITLED THE FARM, THEN RAMPART.

"The Farm" was the nickname for the fictional Farmington district, where the Strike Team was based. FX thought the title would confuse potential viewers. Rampart was named after the inspiration of the series—the LAPD’s Rampart Division, which became embroiled in a scandal when more than 70 police officers were implicated for murder, framing suspects, drug thefts, bank robberies, and planting evidence.

3. THE SUCCESS OF TRAINING DAY SAVED THE SHOW.

FX officially greenlit The Shield on August 30, 2001. But following 9/11, network executives worried that the series might now seem inappropriate, given the political climate. But when Training Day, which came out on October 5, 2001, was met with great reviews and strong box office numbers, everyone involved with The Shield decided to proceed without fear of a backlash for portraying cops in a negative light.

4. ERIC STOLTZ WAS OFFERED THE LEAD.

Eric Stoltz was offered the lead role and—and almost took it.

5. FX EXECUTIVES WERE NOT SOLD ON MICHAEL CHIKLIS.

The network knew Chiklis for his even-tempered roles in The Commish (1991-1995) and Daddio (2000). Against his agents’ advice, Chiklis took six months off from acting and lost 57 pounds. For his The Shield audition, he shaved his head. "When I heard his name mentioned, I thought he was wrong for the role," Kevin Reilly, FX's then-president of entertainment told The New York Times. “I knew him as a soft, cuddly guy physically and emotionally. He came in with this shaved head and his biceps, and he just chewed through the scene. He blew us away.''

6. CLAUDETTE WYMS WAS ORIGINALLY WRITTEN AS A MAN.

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Claudette Wyms was Charles Wyms in the original script. Creator Shawn Ryan changed his mind on the gender of the department captain after talking with CCH Pounder's agent. Pounder asked that Wyms' masculine dialogue not be changed at all.

7. THEY USED SOME GUERILLA FILMMAKING TECHNIQUES.

While shooting the pilot, director Clark Johnson spotted a pack of stray dogs; he grabbed some salami from the craft services table, threw it into the frame, and yelled “Shoot the dog!” as the dogs ran to the food. In a season three episode, Chiklis threw himself into actual East L.A. traffic, with a Steadicam operator following him.

8. DAVID REES SNELL WAS PAID THE SAME AS AN EXTRA.

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Snell was a friend of Shawn Ryan’s, and agreed to play Detective Ronnie Gardocki for $85 per day (the amount paid to an extra) with the promise that he would get more lines in later episodes. Gardocki ended up in all but six of the series’ 89 installments.

9. FAMILY MEMBERS HELPED IN ROUNDING OUT THE CAST.

Ryan’s wife, Cathy Cahlin Ryan, portrayed Vic's wife Corrine. Vic and Corrine’s oldest daughter was played by Autumn Chiklis, Michael’s daughter.

10. RYAN USED SAN FRANCISCO COP STORIES THAT WERE TOO DARK FOR NASH BRIDGES.

Shawn Ryan rode along with San Francisco cops and put together a collection of “dark, twisted” stories he could never use for the Don Johnson-starring CBS series he was employed on. Ryan used them for The Shield, along with the Los Angeles Rampart police scandal plots. Ryan said that, structurally speaking, Nash Bridges and The Shield were "pretty similar."

11. THERE WAS A POSSIBLE NOD TO DRAGNET.

Detective Shane Vendrell (Walton Goggins) had the same badge number as Detective Joe Friday on Dragnet, number 714.

12. GLENN CLOSE BASED MONICA RAWLING ON A COMMANDING OFFICER IN THE NYPD.

Glenn Close accepted the role of Monica Rawling, the team's new captain, in season four—much to the surprise of the show’s staff. She based the character on Theresa J. Shortell. “As a woman, I felt that you have to be soft, you don’t want to order people around,” said Close. “But one of the coolest things Theresa told me—and I didn’t understand it till I got on set—was that the hardest thing about the job is being a woman and not letting it matter. You give somebody a command, it’s their duty to obey.”

Close also reported that her mother said everyone on the show should “wash their mouths out with soap.”

13. RYAN HAD THE IDEA FOR SERIES' END FOR A COUPLE OF YEARS.

“I've actually had in my head for a couple of years, the idea of Vic in a suit, in an office somewhere, consigned to Hell," Ryan admitted in a post-mortem interview. "I knew that, but I had no idea how to get there." Ryan also knew he wanted to end the series on the Concrete Blonde song "...Long Time Ago." Vendrell’s ultimate fate was decided “around episode three or four” of the final season.

14. THE WRITERS WERE PICKETING WHEN THE SERIES FINALE WAS FILMED.

While The Shield's cast and crew were filming "Family Meeting," the series' finale, the show's writers were picketing in support of the 2007-08 Writers Guild of America strike. "We still finished it the way we set out to, but what was missing was the familial aspect," Chiklis told the Los Angeles Times. "We weren't together to do it, and that was disappointing because we've been such a great team during the entire run of the series." Ryan was able to see his wife’s final scene by being the lone member of a one-person picket at the same place where Vic was checking in on Corrine and his kids for the last time.

15. THE LAPD WERE SECRETLY FANS.

“If you asked the LAPD formally even now, they would still have to denounce the show to some degree," Chiklis told The Telegraph in 2009. “But if you ask the rank and file, they love it—they’ll tell you it brings to life the ambiguity of the job. Things aren’t as cut and dried as people like to think—sometimes things get dodgy."

This post originally appeared in 2016.

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Peter Elliott
Authorities Have Cracked a Bizarre Cold Case That Could Have Ties to the Zodiac Killer
Peter Elliott
Peter Elliott

One of the strangest cold cases in Ohio, if not the United States, has now been solved—but pieces of the puzzle remain.

In 2002, a man known as Joseph Newton Chandler III fatally shot himself in the bathroom of his tiny apartment in Eastlake, Ohio. His body wasn't found for a week, by which point it was badly decomposed, and police were unable to obtain fingerprints. He hadn't left a note, and police found more than $80,000 in his bank account. A private investigator, hired by a probate judge to find surviving family members, soon discovered that the man known as Chandler wasn't Chandler at all—he'd stolen the identity of an 8-year-old boy from Tulsa, Oklahoma, who died in a car crash in Texas in 1945.

Since then, rumors have been building. Police felt the man was most likely a fugitive on the run—who else leaves $80,000 in a bank account and hides behind a stolen identity? Some said he might have been a Nazi war criminal. Others thought that he could be the Zodiac Killer, based on his likeness to a police sketch of the infamous murderer who left a trail of terror through Northern California in the 1960s and 1970s. (And, in fact, Chandler was in California at the time of the crimes.) But after the initial round of research following the suicide, the case went cold.

Today, U.S. Marshal Peter Elliott announced that his office and a team of forensic genealogists had cracked the case. Yet they've only solved the first part of the mystery‚ and are appealing to the public for help connecting the rest of the dots.

Their research shows that the man known as Chandler was actually Robert Ivan Nichols of New Albany, Indiana. A Purple Heart Navy veteran who served in World War II, Nichols had disappeared from his family in 1965. He had left his wife and sons the year prior, telling her, "In due time, you'll know why," according to Elliott. In March 1965, he wrote to his parents, saying he was "well and happy" and asking them not to worry about him. The same month, he mailed an envelope to his son Phillip, which contained only a penny. There was no note. It was the last his family would ever hear of him.

According to family lore, the war had taken a heavy toll on Nichols, and he burned his uniforms in the backyard after returning from service. He had no criminal history. Associates who worked with him as "Chandler" described him as a loner, someone who refused to let others get close. Co-workers said he would frequently disappear for days, and even weeks, at a time. He kept a bag packed and ready in his apartment at all times.

After disappearing from his family, he traveled to Dearborn, Michigan, and then to the San Francisco and Richmond, California areas. He assumed the Chandler identity in Rapid City, South Dakota, in 1978, when he applied for a Social Security card using personal information (including the birthdate) of the boy who died in 1945. At the time, such frauds were easier to pull off, since Social Security cards were rarely given to children, and so the real Joseph Newton Chandler III had never been given a Social Security number.

Robert Ivan Nichols circa 1992
Robert Ivan Nichols circa 1992
Peter Elliott

The break in the case came only after painstaking detective work that involved both sophisticated DNA techniques and pounding the pavement. When Elliott took on the case in 2014 at the request of the Eastlake police, he discovered Chandler had had colon cancer surgery in 2000. He sent tissue samples taken at that time to the local medical examiner, who obtained a DNA profile. Unfortunately, there were no matches between the profile and various national criminal databases.

Stumped, in 2016 Elliott turned to forensic genealogists Dr. Colleen Fitzpatrick and Dr. Margaret Press of California-based IdentiFinders and the DNA Doe Project, a non-profit humanitarian initiative created to help identify Jane and John Does and return them to their families. (Fitzpatrick also helped crack the case of identity thief Lori Erica Ruff in 2016.) Despite a badly degraded sample, they used Y chromosome genealogy to trace a family line that indicated the dead man's last name was likely Nichols or some variation. In March 2018, authorities tracked down a Phillip Nichols in Ohio, who provided a DNA sample. The sample matched with that of the dead man, indicating the pair were father and son. Phillip said at a news conference today that he instantly recognized photos of "Chandler" as his father.

Although the cold case has been solved, mystery remains. Why did Nichols abandon his family? Why did he end his life? What accounts for the rest of his odd behavior? Although it's clear he wasn't a Nazi war criminal, there's still a chance—however slight—that he could be connected to crimes in California, given his residence at the time of the Zodiac Killer's activities. "There has to be a reason he assumed the name of a deceased 8-year-old boy and went into hiding for so many years," Elliott says. When asked about the potential Zodiac Killer connection, Elliott responded, "I can't say for sure that he is, and I cannot say for sure that he's not [the killer]. We have been working with San Francisco, [and the] Department of Justice, but that's a question for them, that's their investigation."

Elliott says he is appealing for the public's help in tracing the rest of Nichols' life and mystery. Tips can be sent to the U.S. Marshals at 216-522-4482.

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What’s the Difference Between Prison and Jail?
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iStock

Many people use the terms jail and prison interchangeably, and while both terms refer to areas where people are held, there's a substantial difference between the two methods of incarceration. Where a person who is accused of a crime is held, and for how long, is a factor in determining the difference between the two—and whether a person is held in a jail or a prison is largely determined by the severity of the crime they have committed.

A jail (or, for our British friends, a gaol) refers to a small, temporary holding facility—run by local governments and supervised by county sheriff departments—that is designed to detain recently arrested people who have committed a minor offense or misdemeanor. A person can also be held in jail for an extended period of time if the sentence for their offense is less than a year. There are currently 3163 local jail facilities in the United States.

A jail is different from the similarly temporary “lockup”—sort of like “pre-jail”—which is located in local police departments and holds offenders unable to post bail, people arrested for public drunkenness who are kept until they are sober, or, most importantly, offenders waiting to be processed into the jail system.

A prison, on the other hand, is usually a large state- or federal-run facility meant to house people convicted of a serious crime or felony, and whose sentences for those crimes surpass 365 days. A prison could also be called a “penitentiary,” among other names.

To be put in a state prison, a person must be convicted of breaking a state law. To be put in a federal prison, a person must be convicted of breaking federal law. Basic amenities in a prison are more extensive than in a jail because, obviously, an inmate is likely to spend more than a year of his or her life confined inside a prison. As of 2012, there were 4575 operating prisons in the U.S.—the most in the world. The country with the second highest number of operating prisons is Russia, which has just 1029 facilities.

Have you got a Big Question you'd like us to answer? If so, let us know by emailing us at bigquestions@mentalfloss.com.

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