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Gang boss adds twist to ‘Shield’

Kate O'Hare

In the first three seasons of FX’s police drama “The Shield,” LAPD Detective Vic Mackey (Michael Chiklis) put away some of L.A.’s toughest gangbangers and drug dealers.

But until season four, which ends tonight, he never had an opponent quite like gang lord Antwon Mitchell (Anthony Anderson).

“For the most part,” Anderson says, “when they’ve had a villain on the show, the cops have worked through what they needed to for the first 45 minutes of that hour, then they’re like, ‘Let’s go get him.’ It’s normally wrapped up at the end of the hour, or maybe a two-parter.

“This is the first time that they’ve actually had someone that was just as smart, if not smarter, than they were at doing what they did and controlling people and the situation, just be the complete villain to Vic. This is the first time they’ve had somebody they couldn’t figure out.”

Although he’s just out of jail and is posing as a community activist – “He is very much active in the community,” Anderson quips – Antwon runs his operation and his territory with an iron fist.

“He also had the support of his community,” Anderson says. “This was something the cops had never been faced with before, so it wasn’t going to be a quick solution.

“This had to play out. This had to be a game of chess.

“This wasn’t checkers. We’re playing it down to the very last scene in the show this season.”

Star of such comedy movies as “Barbershop” and “Big Momma’s House,” Anderson was last seen on television in “All About the Andersons,” a short-lived sitcom on The WB.

Despite his talent for humor, Anderson radiates menace as Antwon. But he’s not a method actor.

“The director yells ‘Action’; I become Antwon,” he says. “He yells ‘Cut,’ and I become Anthony Anderson. I know how to separate the two.”

It’s a skill he shares with Chiklis, whose sunny demeanor between takes is in sharp contrast to Vic’s bristling intensity.

“It’s wild,” Anderson says, “what we do between takes. It can be a highly emotional scene or a charged scene, and Chiklis, myself and Glenn Close” – who plays police Capt. Monica Rawling – “we’re cracking jokes on one another.”

In one episode, all three characters were in an interrogation-room scene, with Antwon and Rawling face-to-face across the table. Anderson says he got a lot of calls after that.

“My buddies back home in Compton and all across the United States, my buddies from the street that I based Antwon on, they’re like, ‘You should have hit (her) for me! I was waiting for you to choke her across the table,’ ” he says. “I was like, ‘I know, man. I know you were.’

“I knew guys (like Antwon) in the neighborhoods that I grew up in and lived in, even as an adult. They were just like Antwon, to what degree, I don’t know.

“They kept it to themselves, but I knew dealers who dealt. I don’t know if they were as ruthless as Antwon is on this show, but they probably kept it a secret.”

There seem to be few limits on what Antwon will do to preserve his drug empire, including murdering a teenage girl who informed on him.

“That hurt him, to do that,” Anderson says, “but it was something that needed to be done. It was just the cost of doing business for him. That was my intent behind the character.

“He didn’t want to kill the little girl.

“There was something that didn’t make it into the show,” he adds. “I actually turned my back to everyone that was in the room, and as I was walking off for close-up, I had to take a beat and register what had just happened, what I had done.

“I wanted to make him human. Even though people may perceive him as an animal, he doesn’t see that. I wanted to make that register with him, and I did.”

Close will not be returning for next season on “The Shield,” but what about Antwon?

“I would love to come back,” Anderson says. “They’ve come and asked me. It would be interesting to see how they’d bring the character back, seeing how this season is ending for me. …

“It’s just up to them whether they’re going to do it or not. I told them I’d be interested; it’s just a matter of working it all out and making it happen.”

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