Jason Clarke has been so good at playing conflicted Rhode Island politician Tommy Caffee on three seasons of Showtime’s crime drama BROTHERHOOD, and now Chicago-born police detective Jarek Wysocki on Fox’s THE CHICAGO CODE, which has its series finale tonight at 9 PM, that people may be surprised to learn the actor is actually Australian (this may come as less of a surprise to viewers who know Clarke as Jenek from FARSCAPE.)
In a soft, lilting accent very unlike Wysocki’s tough tones, Clarke talks about his time filming CODE in Chicago, including some startling incidents that he observed while doing research, accompanying real Chicago cops on their rounds. [Editor’s Note: This interview took place before the recent announcement of the show’s cancellation].
ASSIGNMENT X: In BROTHERHOOD, your character Tommy Caffee was a politician who had a brother in the local mob. In CHICAGO CODE, your Chicago Police Detective Wysocki is trying to bring down a politician with ties to organized crime. Did you have any thoughts about ways in which the two shows share some of the same themes?
JASON CLARKE: Yeah. I mean, I didn’t really sit down and think about it – you think about other things in terms of whether you’re going to commit to a series, but this is action-based, whereas with Tommy Caffee, he was totally aware of his moral problems, and that was part of who he was. With Wysocki, his moral problem is somebody else’s decision. He reminded me of Gary Cooper in HIGH NOON – the bad guy was coming to town and he was just going to go out and meet him on his own and that’s why I love the character. I think it’s almost a throwback to the classic Gary Cooper/John Wayne, let’s just move [and fight] and may the best man win and then everything else that comes into it is your opinion. It’s the audience [coming to moral conclusions], rather than the character.
AX: Do you feel like Delroy Lindo’s Alderman Gibbons character is at all similar to your Tommy?
CLARKE: [Lindo] is playing a politician. [Gibbons] is not as morally troubled by [his own actions as Tommy was]. I guess he’s a better politician into older age, because he’s made a decision and he still knows that he does do good. But it’s funny, because Rhode Island was such a small town that everybody knew everybody, everybody knows everybody. So you get access, then, to everybody within that state. And you’ve got to give everybody access, otherwise, they won’t vote for you. In Chicago, even though it’s a massive city, it’s still open enough for us to shoot wherever we want to shoot, even with the politicians that are there, and [Gibbons has] set up camp there, he knows his constituents. The police are much more open, and friendly, but you can see how it has become this city that works. It works, but it works as [Gibbons] says in a number of different ways.
AX: The people on SOUTHLAND have said that one of the differences between L.A. and New York is, in Los Angeles, there are ten thousand cops for a city of six million, whereas in New York, they’ve got forty thousand cops and fewer people. Does Chicago fall somewhere within those ratios?
CLARKE: Yes, but it’s also a difference in the attitudes of the cops, I think, as well. New York’s so massive – it’s New York, it’s one of the biggest cities in the world. In L.A. I find the police much more distant here as well, whereas I guess in Chicago, I’ve found them much more open, much more [does Chicago accent], “Yo, buddy, what’s goin’ on, huh?” [back to Australian accent] That’s their style. There’s a style in policing, I think and the Chicago style is a much more in your face, open style.
AX: What are Australian cops like?
CLARKE: A mix between New York and L.A. They’re very distant [laughs]. They’re busy handing out speeding fines. In Chicago, they’ve got their hands full dealing with crime. They really do. There isn’t as much booking people for the wrong speed on the road, because they’ve got proper things to solve.
AX: What are some of the questions you had for CHICAGO CODE’s police advisor John Folino?
CLARKE: You go through your basics, you know, where you were and how’d you get here, just your graph of [things] like, what are your hours? And we talked a lot, but basically, John showed me. I mean, I went on thirty ride-alongs. There were people [at the police officers] on our ride-alongs. It’s the same thing with them taking me out and putting me on a search warrant. I went on a search warrant and that would lead to see it and experience it, rather than just kind of hear it. I mean, I’d ask John how do you hold a gun, how do you do this, how do you clear a room? It’s the big things, but it’s also the small things, it’s always the small things. You just hang out with the dudes.
AX: Was there anything that really surprised you in the ride-alongs?
CLARKE: Always. Always. In any crisis situation – I mean, I saw people shot, I saw people dying. We were in a house with guns everywhere. But I’m always surprised at the police officers’ ability to deal with pressure and how they react to it and how they’re generous within it. I spent a lot of time hanging out with John.
AX: Anything else you’d like to say about THE CHICAGO CODE?
CLARKE: We [the cast and crew] had a lot of fun and I had a lot of fun. Cops that I know have a lot of fun in their job, and if you don’t, you get out of the way, and. I think you’ll see that in the show, that they really enjoy kicking the door in.
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