As FX's taut cop series The Shield returns for its sixth season (tonight at 10 pm/ET), it does so with arguably the cleanest cop in Farmington promoted to captain of the Barn — CCH Pounder's Det. Claudette Wyms. The Emmy-nominated actress, who excels in bringing gravitas to her roles, offered her take on last season's series-changing finale.
TV Guide: What did you think of the decision to kill off Lem [played by Kenneth Johnson]?
CCH Pounder: Oh, it was horrific. We were [all] mortified when we read it, [because] you do become this sort of intimate team. [Johnson] was the one who took it with the most grace. I was really proud of him.
TV Guide: Claudette has investigated some rather heinous crimes. As an actress, are you ever conflicted over the subject matter?
Pounder: Not ever, often. I'm the most verbal when we sit around the table to read the new script. "You writers are out of your minds! Where do you come up with this? You live in Beverly Hills!" [Laughs] It's wonderful to remove myself from it and have Claudette take over. We're very different people.
TV Guide: But there are similarities between Claudette and Dr. Angela Hicks, the recurring character you played on ER from 1994 to '97.
Pounder: Certainly in terms of a woman of strength and authority. That really doesn't go away. When they write the obit, it's going to [read], "She played women of great strength and authority." [Laughs]
TV Guide: Do you gravitate toward those roles?
Pounder: Not gravitate, but in the very beginning I played lots of crying, sniveling women, always victimized. I decided I had to change that and went after all those judges and lawyers and other roles written for men.
TV Guide: The Shield is set to end next season. How do you feel about that?
Pounder: I [am in favor of] leaving people wanting more. Sometimes when television has a good thing, we see how far we can run with it, and you start to invent stuff that is so far removed from what the original tale was about. And to me, this is a tale that should come to an end.
TV Guide: You have a strong scene with Forest Whitaker this season. How was it working with him?
Pounder: I had pined to [work with him]. I know him off stage, too. Actually, I think I know every black actor who comes to work with me! [Laughs] The community is not that large. But Forest came in at the tail end of playing [Idi Amin in The Last King of Scotland]. He was large and decided that this was not the character [of Kavanaugh], so he went on a diet, carving himself down to this very slender man with this very careful hairstyle and very specific facial hair. It was amazing how he immersed himself.
TV Guide: How do you think TV is doing in its blind racial casting of lead characters?
Pounder: I cannot say that it's not making strides. I'm seeing a difference, [but] where it misses is in the writing, directing and producing. You can have the person [on camera], but you don't necessarily get tales of African-ness, tales of Hispanic-ness. You get a Hispanic character written by the regular team.
TV Guide: CCH stands for Carol Christine Hilaria. Why did you opt to use your initials?
Pounder: I'm named after my godmother and my grandmother, and I wanted to have their names represented. For me to say CCH, I conjure up two women standing behind me, women who have made their way and did all right.
Meet The Shield's new strike team in this video preview.