Forest Whitaker and "The Shield" are finding it difficult to say goodbye.
Whitaker, who scored a best actor Oscar this year for "The Last King of Scotland," was supposed to make his final appearance in the role he began last season on the acclaimed FX police drama, in which he plays the obsessed internal affairs detective determined to bring down corrupt Det. Vic Mackey (Michael Chiklis).
But during a conference call this week to publicize Whitaker's "farewell" episode, both the actor and the show's creator, Shawn Ryan -- who is currently meeting with his writing staff to map out the final season, which begins filming in June -- left the door open for the actor to return.
"The possibility is there," said Whitaker, who is involved with several projects, and prefers complex character roles. Praising the series and its writing, Whitaker hinted, "It's a matter of timing." Taking a bit more cautious approach, Ryan quipped, "Well, Forest might be a little popular these days. But nothing is ever impossible."
Many critics felt that Whitaker should have been nominated for an Emmy last year for his work on "The Shield." Whitaker also appeared in several episodes of "ER" this season as a patient who feels that an emergency doctor misdiagnosed him and ruined his life.
Other cast members on "The Shield," particularly Chiklis, said they enjoyed working with Whitaker, and that though he was very intense, he blended well with the existing ensemble.
"Forest is an interesting cat," Chiklis said in an interview last week. "He's very, very committed. He's got these eccentricities that play well. He's gentle and easygoing, but when we faced off, he was right there. We innately liked and admired each other, but we didn't want for that to translate to the screen, so we maintained a distance."
When Whitaker first started his "Shield" stint as Det. Jon Kavanaugh, the character was heavy and disheveled. But as Kavanaugh became more focused on nailing Mackey, he became leaner and cleaner. "Physically he became a totally different person," Chiklis said.
After a string of dark and dramatic roles, Whitaker said he might want to go in the opposite direction and do more comedy. His lighter side was on display earlier this year when he hosted "Saturday Night Live" and appeared in several skits, including one as a waiter who couldn't stop singing.
Whitaker said that hosting the show "was a frightening experience. That's why I did it."