Michael Chiklis enjoys calling the shots.
He does that to a certain degree as a star and co-executive producer of the CBS drama series “Vegas,” which has just moved to Fridays. However, he does it much more with in this week’s (April 12) episode, since he also directed it.
“It was a blast,” Chiklis tells Zap2it. “This is a big show, and the production value is so high-end, I had a great time getting behind the camera on it.
“When I started the series, I knew I was going to want to direct, so we talked about it right from the outset. It was agreed that I would direct at least one episode every season, and this year, I agreed to wait until the back nine. We wanted to get the show up and running and established first, and it worked out perfectly.”
Though Chiklis oversaw all the other actors in the newest “Vegas” tale, he didn’t take a back seat in his regular role as mob-connected hotel manager Vincent Savino. With his phone tapped — the secret reason for an unfriendly visit Deputy Jack Lamb (Jason O’Mara) paid him in the preceding story — Savino unwittingly tips off Jack’s sheriff brother Ralph (Dennis Quaid) to a courier identified only as “The Avocado.”
The attitude of Chiklis’ “Vegas” co-stars toward his directing was “what I was happiest about,” he says. “When you’re the director and you’re also part of the cast, you have a little bit of apprehension about the way your cast-mates will respond … but all of them were incredible. They were beyond ‘responsive.’ And frankly, they seemed to be really hungry to get some direction
“I think what happens is that a lot of television directors come in and are very respectful. They walk into this grinding wheel that is a television series, and they feel like, ‘Well, these actors know their characters better than I do, so I’m not going to impose myself on them. I’ll focus on capturing the story visually.’ and they end up leaving the actors alone. But actors crave direction. They want that objective eye.”
As a result, Chiklis says his “Vegas” comrades “made the whole process go incredibly smoothly” for him. “It was a collaborative effort, really wonderful.”
One aspect of the hour gives Chiklis, who also leads the music group MCB (for Michael Chiklis Band), particular pride: “I directed a music video within the context of the episode. We did a version of ‘Besame Mucho,’ and it really turned out phenomenally. About 20 seconds of it appears in the actual episode. We were in this beautiful location, so I took a couple of extra minutes and covered the song completely. I sent it over to the folks at CBS, and they really responded to it.”
Chiklis isn’t a newcomer to directing episodes of his own shows. He previously did it four times on “The Shield,” the police drama that earned him an Emmy Award for changing up his television image from cuddly (“The Commish,” “Daddio”) to explosive as renegade detective Vic Mackey.
“Vegas” actually has had a number of directors-who-act-too this season, also including Paul McCrane (“ER”) and Roxann Dawson (“Star Trek: Voyager”). “Actors often make really, really good directors because we’ve been standing in front of the camera so long,” Chiklis reasons. “We know how to tell stories, and a lot of us think editorially.
“With any actor who’s been on a set for a long time, you kind of have to wonder if they don’t know more about the camera. I always have asked directors of photography, all through the years, ‘Why are you doing this? Why are you doing that?’ I have a level of confidence when someone like Paul McCrane comes in, because I know they have that experience.”