Michael Chiklis courtesy FX Michael Chiklis courtesy FX

Det. Mackey may've survived the writers' strike, but will he live through The Shield's finale? That's the question plaguing fans now that FX's blistering cop drama has wrapped production on its 13-episode swan song (to air in '08). Not surprisingly, the show's top cop, Michael Chiklis, offered a few clues about his alter ego's ultimate fate when I ran into him last week in New York. He did, however, open up about saying goodbye to Mackey, why the final episodes rank among the drama's best ever, and what it was like to replace Shawn Ryan as The Shield's interim captain.

Was it emotional shooting these final episodes?
Michael Chiklis:
Extremely so. I've said it over and over again from the beginning of the show: It was singularly the best experience of my life on all levels. The only thing that was really hard about it was I was sort of the last producer standing [in the wake of the writers' strike]. I had to take on those responsibilities as well as [acting on] the show. It's not how I envisioned the show going out, without Shawn Ryan and all of the other writers by my side. That was really difficult.

Were you in touch with Shawn while you were in production on the finale?
Shawn has a lot of integrity. And although we spoke, we did not speak at all about anything that would entail productorial decision-making with regard to the show. He called me the day of the walkout and said, "Listen, we're striking. So it's in your hands. I'm not going to cross the line in any way. I'm not going to talk at all about the show until we're not striking anymore." I said, "Shawn, I've got the ball. I hope cooler heads prevail and you guys get this resolved as quickly as possible. But in the event you don't, don't worry about it." And unfortunately, it hasn't gotten any better. FX has been incredibly supportive in that they've left the shows open for a producer cut. They had asked, "How do you feel about doing the producer cut?" And I said, "Well, I'm prepared to do it, but this is Shawn's baby. I'd rather he get the final pass particularly of the final show." And they agreed. So they've left it open. I didn't expect things to end this way. Circumstances beyond all of our control, obviously. It is what it is. We'll deal.

Were you satisfied with the ending?
On an artistic level? I don't think I could be happier.

Does it end on a good note?
I wouldn't say good. But I'd say incredibly satisfying. I did something interesting this year. Normally, I have input at the beginning of the season, but, as a game, I told Shawn that I didn't want to know anything that happened. But then privately at home I wrote down what I believed was going to happen to Mackey [in the end]. And it's uncanny how exactly spot-on right I was. And it's funny because I doubt anyone out there will be able to predict what happens. I think the only reason I was able to [figure it out is because] I'm the guy who plays him. It's almost this feeling of what must happen. It's so satisfying on an artistic level.

Can you at least promise us that you won't pull a Sopranos and cut to black when it starts getting good?
That won't be happening.

Any possibility of a TV-movie franchise?
If there was potential for a movie, that would mean that Mackey lives. And we don't know if he does or not.

Curses, foiled again. Any famous faces returning?
None of the high-profile folks like Glenn or Anthony or Forrest, but a lot of faces throughout the history of the show - including some faces we haven't seen for a while - will be back. We really wanted to make it about the core group. The material is stunning - particularly with Episode 6 until the end. It's like a freight train. You won't have a nail left on your fingers.