Shawn Ryan on 'The Shield': We Got Away With 'Something Criminal'

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As FX turns 20, fifteen of TV's top scribes -- from Rescue Me's Denis Leary to Louie's Louis C.K. -- reveal what it's like to write for a network that encourages smart TV (almost) without rules as part of a series that The Hollywood Reporter is rolling out this week. This story first appeared in the May 23 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine.

My earliest memory working on The Shield was feeling like we were getting away with something criminal -- not a felony, but a misdemeanor at least. [Former FX execs] Peter Liguori and Kevin Reilly seemed to be figuring things out at the same time I was. There weren't rules -- rather, conversations. Were we going to use all the profanity I'd written in my script as we were trying to sell ads? Were we going to cast the best actors and not big names? Were we going to have Vic Mackey kill Terry Crowley at the end of the pilot? Yes, yes and yes, so long as it led to something better. The feeling of daring and calculated recklessness extended from the pilot into the series. My partners, Scott Brazil and Clark Johnson, pushed us to not hold anything back; that this pleased the network and the audience has never been lost on me. Watching The Shield now, it feels like we stole something valuable and got off scot-free.

Shawn Ryan was the creator of and an executive producer on The Shield, which aired from 2002 to 2008.

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