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?
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?
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?
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?
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....
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.
[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.
Yes, they are! And I think Wilmer Valderrama [as Ponch] is going to be terrific.
TV Guide: Did they ask you to cameo?
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?
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?
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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