Franz Not Blue About Tragedy-Laced NYPD Role Dennis Franz and his NYPD Blue character are two very popular guys. Find out what's behind the success in our exclusive interview.
by David Martindale about the author >>
That's all Dennis Franz can say when fans interrogate him about Detective Andy Sipowicz, the character he plays so superbly on NYPD Blue. The acclaimed pants-dropping police drama, which currently airs on TNT, is now in its tenth season on ABC.
"I was talking to some people who expressed dissatisfaction about my character," says Franz, a four-time Emmy winner. "They were saying, 'Why do they keep giving you tragedy after tragedy? How much can they expect one character to be able to handle?' And I said, 'Well, you cannot have your cake and eat it too. Do you want the character to be happy? Or do you want him to be interesting?'"
If those are the choices, by all means, may another agonizingly intriguing season await.
Consider Sipowicz's past: The gruff detective with a soft center has had to battle alcoholism and prostate cancer. He's coped with the deaths of loved ones at home and on the job, suffered relationship woes and endured his son's struggle with a life-threatening bone-marrow disease.
"The truth is everybody likes it when my character gets dumped on," Franz says. "I enjoy playing Andy when he's on the edge. That's when the character is most interesting. Without it, we have no drama."
Building on past roles
Through the years, Franz has been the backbone of the show's revolving-door ensemble cast. "I could continue with this for quite a few years to come," Franz says happily. "I wish I would have found this my first day as an actor."
But would the character be as layered had Franz begun his career with Sipowicz? Although much of the credit goes to brilliant writing, Franz allows that his compelling portrayal is also the result of years of fine-tuning as an actor.
"I've played 28 cops," he says. "I look back at some of the past police officers I've played and I see an evolution in 'cophood' to get to Andy Sipowicz and where he is now. There are bits and pieces that I've taken from the first 27 cops -- and, without them, Andy might not be what he is today.
"But quite honestly, I don't know where to go from here, if I were to play Number 29. I would have to go in a totally different direction -- and what that direction would be, I have no idea."
David Martindale is a columnist and contributing editor for Biography magazine.