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LAPD takes on a different type of shooting for 'Southland'

Chief Charlie Beck and other LAPD officials film a cameo for the season finale of TNT's L.A.-based police drama, 'Southland.' The show is popular with law enforcement.

March 15, 2013|By Andrew Blankstein and Kate Mather, Los Angeles Times
  • Katey Wheelhouse, left, second assistant diector of the TNT police drama "Southland," is shown with LAPD Chief Charlie Beck during filming of the show's season finale in front of Parker Center in Los Angeles.
Katey Wheelhouse, left, second assistant diector of the TNT police drama… (Irfan Khan / Los Angeles…)

LAPD's 'Southland' cameo is a different police shooting

Los Angeles police Chief Charlie Beck took his place behind the lectern. Cameras flashed. Reporters stood at the ready.

But Beck's news conference in front of Parker Center, the old LAPD headquarters, wasn't a typical meeting with the media. For one, it wasn't real.

The chief and other officials with the Los Angeles Police Department filmed a cameo Friday for the season finale of TNT's L.A.-based police drama, "Southland." Beck declined to discuss details but said the episode will relate to the "Onion Field" killers, who in 1963 kidnapped two LAPD officers and killed one of them outside Bakersfield.

"They asked me to play the chief of police, and I figured I could do that," Beck said.

The shoot took five takes to wrap and lasted about 20 minutes, said Cmdr. Andrew Smith.

"It worked out great and the chief was a natural," Smith said.

Smith said the real LAPD officers would probably have just a few quick spots in the finale, but that it would be a "very powerful and moving scene and very powerful and moving episode."

As is often the case, reality intruded somewhat. The scene was supposed to be filmed at the new police headquarters on 1st Street downtown, but an unscripted anti-police protest required it be moved to Parker Center a few blocks away. Smith said a permit for the demonstration indicated 500 people would be there, but only four showed up, causing no problems for the TV crews.

The LAPD officials involved had the day off, Smith said. Beck said he planned to donate his check from the show to Homeboy Industries, a job placement program for former gang members.

"Southland" has drawn praise from critics — and law enforcement — for its gritty portrayal of L.A.'s streets. Both Beck and Smith said they were fans.

"A lot of what I like about the show and what a lot of other cops like about the show is that they weave real events and real issues into the story line," Smith said.

Hollywood's attraction to the LAPD took off with "Dragnet" in the 1950s, when former Chief William H. Parker — for whom Parker Center is named — consulted closely with the show's creators, offering real cases as material and lending authentic badges for shoots.

A few LAPD chiefs would go on to appear on screen.

Daryl F. Gates, who led the LAPD from 1978 to 1992, played himself several times in the series "Hunter." Bernard C. Parks, chief from 1997 to 2002, had a guest spot on the sitcom "Girlfriends," also playing himself.

Beck's predecessor, William J. Bratton, made a brief appearance as a politician in "People I Know," a film that made its debut at the Sundance Film Festival three months after Bratton took over the LAPD in 2002.

Beck acknowledged that the LAPD and its officials have long drawn the eye of the entertainment industry — and it wasn't the first time he had. Some have said the chief looks like actor Tom Selleck, who plays a police commissioner in the cop drama "Blue Bloods."

"My only complaint on the 'Blue Bloods' Beck family is that the actors aren't as good-looking as my own children," the chief joked. "I actually think Tom Selleck plays a better Charlie Beck than I do."

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