CBS’ new reality series Armed & Famous, premiering tonight (at 8 pm/ET) and airing a second episode tomorrow, trains such celebrities as Jack Osbourne, La Toya Jackson and — naturally — CHiPs’ Erik Estrada to be real-life cops serving and protecting the people of Muncie, Ind. We talked to Estrada about upholding the law.
TV Guide: Why’d you do this?
Erik Estrada: It helped fulfill my childhood dream. From the age of 7 to 17, I wanted to be a New York City cop, but I got bit by the acting bug. Then CHiPs came along, and I got to be known around the world as a cop on a bike with tight pants... and big white teeth. [Laughs]
TV Guide: What's it like when you show up on a call?
Estrada: Right away, they want an autograph — and I’m happy to oblige — but I have to do my job first. I’m doing a lot of Dr. Phil work out here, especially with young moms who have three kids and are still on crack. What’s that about?
TV Guide: As part of the training, you get Tasered. How’d that feel?
Estrada: It sucked! You don’t ever want to get Tasered. Ever. Just stick your finger in an outlet. Oh, my god.
TV Guide: Who’s your partner on the show?
Estrada: They gave me a veteran officer named Jamie Brown. I call us “Ponch and Judy.” [Laughs] She’s absolutely gorgeous! We patrol the streets from 6 am to about 3 in the morning. She’s always on my case, testing me on my codes and signals. But I make her blush.
TV Guide: You became a sex symbol because of CHiPs....
Estrada: That’s because I designed my own outfit. [Laughs] Women like men in uniform. The flashiness of the motorcycle — it’s attractive. And being Puerto Rican helps. [Laughs]
TV Guide: That uniform was the template for the Village People guy.
Estrada: [Laughs] Yeah, I know! I don’t have a problem with that. I met them when we were filming CHiPs.
TV Guide: They’re making a movie version of CHiPs.
Estrada: Yes, they are! And I think Wilmer Valderrama [as Ponch] is going to be terrific.
TV Guide: Did they ask you to cameo?
Estrada: There was talk about this or that, but it’s not a big deal if I’m in it or not, because I’m the original. Though wouldn’t it be cool if I was his father? Ponch Sr. passing the torch to Ponch Jr.!
TV Guide: How much progress do you think TV has made in the ethnic-blind casting of Hispanics?
Estrada: I think it’s come a long way. I was able to break the mold in a network show, as far as a Hispanic in a law-enforcement capacity. [Now] Jimmy Smits has come in as a cop [on NYPD Blue], Eddie Olmos as a captain [on Miami Vice] and Hector Elizondo as director of a hospital [Chicago Hope]. We've made some strides.
TV Guide: So, if I'm ever in Muncie and you pull me over, will you give me a break?
Estrada: Most likely. But it would depend on your attitude toward the uniform. If you show me respect, I will respect you.
Reality-TV fans can find scoop on such shows as American Idol, I Love New York and The Amazing Race: All-Stars in the "2007 Preview" issue of TV Guide, now on newsstands.
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