The Salina Journal from Salina, Kansas on October 6, 1996 · Page 42
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The Salina Journal from Salina, Kansas · Page 42

Salina, Kansas
Issue Date:
Sunday, October 6, 1996
Page 42
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Dennis Franz starts the new season ofNYPD Blue next week with his second Emmy in hand. Here's a rare on-set profile of an Everyman for the downsized decade. D ENNIS FRANZ IS inside his trailer, stripping down to his briefs so he can change out of sweaty clothes. He must graciously but firmly close the trailer door on a huge pack of New York fans, the kind who see other celebrities on the street and couldn't care less. But these working-class New Yorkers feel as if they know Franz, or at least they know police detective Andy Sipowicz, his character on the hit series NYPD Blue, now entering its fourth season. Franz is out of breath, whipped. "Jimmy's got legs, doesn't he?" Franz says of his co-star Jimmy Smits. "It's like racing a giraffe. I'm peddling my little things as fast as possible." Moments earlier, the two had wrapped a chase scene that required them to race several hundred feet down Avenue A on Manhattan's Lower East Side in pursuit of a "perp." Two takes is plenty, especially coming after three earlier sprints in a different New York scene they're shooting for the Oct. 15 season premiere. Except for a few days of exterior scenes, the TV NYPD is L.A. all the way. With a second Emmy now under his ample belt, Franz is a happy guy, with "the greatest job going," a rosy-looking film career, a strong marriage and a lot fewer Maalox moments than his Sipowicz. "One of the differences between me and Sipowicz is that I look for the good in people," he says, and no one who knows him disagrees. His colleagues keep calling him "sweet." But if Franz, who turns 52 on Oct. 28, isn't Sipowicz, millions of Americans are. This character has become an Franz encountered black-white hostility growing up and while serving in Vietnam. Now it helps shape his TV character. Everyman for the downsized '90s. "Each generation, as it ages, begins to encounter its own mortality," says David Milch, who created the show under the aegis of Steven Bochco and writes many of the scripts. "These people are no longer in the center; they're being edged to the margins. There's an indomitability to [Sipowicz], and something unapologetic in how he faces adversity. He's confounded by modernity, but he's educable — he has a resiliency and elasticity." B OTH PRESIDENT CLINTON and Bob Dole are working overtime appealing to the "forgotten" middle class. A quarter- century ago, this was sometimes called the "Archie Bunker vote." Now it's the Sipowicz segment of the electorate. They respect older values but respond to newer ones. For example, Sipowicz's wife on the show, a district attorney with strong ideas of her own, is no Edith Bunker, and he admires her for it. On some days, he resists the new world with bitterness and bias; on others, he reluctantly adapts to it and to what is "appropriate" in 1996. The viewers are redefining the mainstream, too. In its first season, advertisers and local affiliates were skittish about NYPD Blue's "adult" language and subject matter; one-fourth of ABC stations refused to air the show. Now only 1 percent reject it. Sipowicz's history of substance abuse is a particular draw. "I get a lot of comments from people hi recovery. This character means a lot to : them," Franz says, still breathing hard. BY JONATHAN ALTER 4 USA WEEKEND • Oct. 4-6. IV96 COVER AND COVER STORY PHOTOGRAPHS BY GREGORY HEISLER

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