Vegas is the outstanding CBS drama returning to Friday nights on CBS. The stars say they are at home in the 1960s, surrounded by showgirls and one-arm bandits (aka slot machines) on the show. “What’s not to love,” says Michael Chiklis. He especially loves the classic cars that line up outside the Savoy Casino, the gambling joint he runs for the mob bosses.
Having classic cars around to invoke the era gives him fond memories of his childhood. Chiklis says, “I can’t claim that I ever was a car aficionado, but I love vintage cars. There are certain cars I really respond to. I remember my dad had an old Cadillac convertible with the wing tips. That was my favorite car of my childhood, because we didn’t bother with seat belts back then, and my brother and I used to rumble in the back seat.”
Chiklis explains, “I was born in ’63, so when I think of this period, I think of my earliest memories and I look at these cars, and there are certain tactile memories that come along with it of my grandfather and grandmother, and certain smells that just make me reminisce about some of the people I love the most in my life.”
The rest of the cast, Dennis Quaid, Jason O’Mara, Carrie Anne Moss, Taylor Handley, and Sarah Jones, also express a fondness for embracing the era. The show has great characters and storytelling, focusing on Las Vegas in 1961. It follows a replanted Chicago gangster (Chiklis) who finds himself at odds with the local Sheriff Ralph Lamb (Quaid). It’s based on real people who were part of Sin City’s early days.
Althought Chiklis has played cops before, he’s at home on the other side of the law as wise guy “Vincent Savino.” Earlier in his career Chiklis was the good guy in the titled role on The Commish, and after that the rogue police detective “Vic Mackey” on the FX series The Shield.
It would be easy for Chiklis to play his mob guy role in a stereotypical way, but instead he says, “We want this to be entertainment, but we also want it to be impactful, and to tell really great stories. So that’s what our focus is on. We are not interested in overblown clichés and playing cartoons. We want to ground all these characters in reality. It’s very easy to get into clichéd archetypes, but we are keenly aware of that, and so are the writers. I know for my part, we’ve all been really focused on playing it for the real and different situations.”
He says his Savino character was bound to clash with Dennis’ Sheriff, but there is some admiration between them as well. “I remember the scene in the pilot when I’m coming out of the plane and I see him for the first time. And you can imagine what a guy from Chicago is thinking when he comes off the plane and sees someone like Roy Rogers. There’s that sort of grudging admiration for each other.”
Vegas gives depths and layers to the characters that inhabited the early days of the gambling oasis in the Nevada desert. Chiklis notes that it was a great time of growth, “It was a relatively small town, then really exploded thanks to the mob.”
Chiklis, 49, directed an episode of Vegas, as he has did several times with The Shield. He’s also a classically trained actor, who earned his Equity card at age 13 appearing in off-Broadway theater productions. He attended Boston University’s School of Performing Arts, and after graduating he auditioned for the role of John Belushi in the controversial film Wired.
Chiklis guest starred on a variety of series, from LA Law to Seinfeld. Then along came The Commish, which ran from 1991 to 1996. He also starred on Broadway in the one-man show Defending the Caveman. Some of his film credits include the Fantastic 4 film franchise, The Tax Man, Do Not Disturb, and Soldier. He also starred in the No Ordinary Family series, and had fun playing “Curly” in the ABC movie The Three Stooges. Now Chiklis is back as wise guy Savino in sizzling Sin City. #