Michael Chiklis, <EM>The Shield</EM> Michael Chiklis, The Shield

It's been 12 long months since Shane killed his buddy Lem with a grenade in The Shield's explosive season finale. Although FX won't bring back the dirty cop drama until April 3, fans can finally get their fix by watching a 15-minute webisode (at BudTV.com), which flashes back to the Strike Team two years prior to Lem's shocking death. TVGuide.com caught up with Shield creator/executive producer Shawn Ryan to get the scoop about tapping into the Internet, Lem's demise, and what's in store for Season 6.

TVGuide.com: What inspired you to do a webisode?
Shawn Ryan: It was actually a suggestion from the powers-that-be at FX. They were looking for an unconventional way to promote the show. We knew that there would be a long hiatus between Season 5 and 6, so this gave us a good opportunity to use the Internet to build word-of-mouth about the upcoming season.

TVGuide.com: What appealed to you most about using the Internet as a promotional tool?
Ryan: It allowed us to try some things that we don't normally try. We were able to mess with time a little bit and flash back to things, which is something we never really do on our show. It's very straightforward, so this allowed us to break a few rules, which was fun. We all love Kenny Johnson, who plays Lem, so to get to spend a day filming flashback scenes with him was a great way to end.

TVGuide.com: So Lem won't appear in any future flashbacks?
Ryan: I can't say definitely, because we just started the writing process [for Season 7]. But he just had another show called Grace, with Holly Hunter, picked up by TNT, so this will probably be your last shot to see him on The Shield.

TVGuide.com: Last year's finale led us to believe that Vic would spend this season trying to find Lem's killer. How far will he be willing to go?
Ryan: I think there are very few boundaries that would contain Vic from that hunt. Really, the only boundaries are, how do you hunt for a ghost? He certainly doesn't suspect that Shane did this. But I don't think he's going to be happy until he hears somebody say, "I did it!" and he's able to exact some sort of revenge.

TVGuide.com: Will Shane eventually fall apart during Vic's investigation?
Ryan: Shane's got a very narrow tightrope to walk. He needs to be supportive of what Vic's trying to do, but at the same time, he needs to divert him away from the truth. What makes that especially hard for Shane is that he's going through his own grieving process. He realizes that what he did may have been noble in his own mind, but he miscalculated. He's got to live with that reality.

TVGuide.com: How will Shane cope with his guilt?
Ryan: It's hard. Shane is a guy whose emotions often come to the surface. There's a point where all of this — in one form or another — will come to a head. That's my promise to you.

TVGuide.com: Can you tell us whether any more people will die this season?
Ryan: Nobody is ever truly safe on The Shield. It's not so much about the number of bodies as it is the political intrigue. I don't want to give too much away, but it's a dangerous parcel of land to police.

TVGuide.com: Do you think that Claudette's appointment as captain will help lower their body count?
Ryan: She's someone who's had ideas about how to do better, but her ideals are going to clash with certain realities. We're going to see her struggle through those realities. We've had a carousel of captains, from David Aceveda to Monica Rawling to Billings. Now it's her turn. We'll see how long it lasts.

TVGuide.com: The Shield has a history of big stars, such as Glenn Close and Forest Whitaker, doing story arcs. Will anybody new join the force this spring?
Franka Potente, who was in The Bourne Identity, joins us for the final three episodes. In my opinion, she was fantastic. I can quite honestly say she's among the best we've ever had on the show. She plays the daughter of a local Armenian crime boss who's very ill. She's keeping her father's illness a secret and trying to carry on what he does. Then we have a new character played by an Australian actor named Alex O'Loughlin, who American audiences don't know yet. He does multiple episodes playing a guy who has a very interesting push-pull relationship with Vic. He joins the Strike Team after Lem's death.

TVGuide.com: Will Oscar winner Forest Whitaker return as Vic's nemesis, Lieutenant Kavanaugh?
Ryan: Forest is back, but not for the whole season. I don't want to say for how long, but when you tune in to the premiere, he's there for a little while.

TVGuide.com: Will we finally see a Mackey-Kavanaugh smackdown?
Ryan: [Laughs] Kavanaugh is a slow fuse to burn, but he goes off loud. I just saw Forest on Friday for the first time since the Oscars. I'm so happy for him and selfishly excited that we still have him on the show. He's just an amazing actor. Last season was some of the best work we've ever done. I think he was a big reason for it.

TVGuide.com: During Season 5, there was talk of ending the series. Have you put that on hold for now?
Ryan: This is not the last season. Ten episodes are going to air. I'm working with the writers now to write the final 13 episodes.

TVGuide.com: Why call it quits while the show is still doing well?
Ryan: I kind of feel that the story has played itself out. FX has proven they can launch really great shows with Rescue Me, Nip/Tuck, Dirt and The Riches, but I want to help them prove they can also end them properly. The only way you can do that is to plan it. At some point you have to say, "Let's end here." I think that's really important.

TVGuide.com: What will you do when Season 7 wraps this fall?
Ryan: I'm helping a couple of ex-Shield writers produce a pilot for ABC called Women's Murder Club. Angie Harmon is in it. It's based on a series of James Patterson novels. It's really more their thing than mine, but when The Shield winds down, I'll turn my attention more to development at that point.

TVGuide.com: Ever think about taking a vacation?
Ryan: I'd like to do that, yes!

For Matt Roush's take on FX's The Riches, pick up the  March 12 issue of TV Guide.

Send your comments on this Q&A to online_insider@tvguide.com