(There be spoilers and mature content here…)
If you could describe Shawn Ryan’s The Shield in one word, it would probably be intense. At the time of its airing, scant shows about police officers dove into the depths of corruption as swimmingly as this FX series. In the first episode alone, Vic Mackey shoots a team member point blank in the face. Then, there’s the episode where Vic watches his prostitute informant — who he had a soft spot for — get killed right before his eyes. There’s the murder-suicide shocker that punctuated the end of the series, Vic’s confession to the Feds, Lem’s murder, and so much more. The Shield pushed all the right buttons, and each turn held such gravitas, that it was hard not to watch with jaw agape at some of the insane moments that each season packed. It’s truly one of the best TV shows of all-time, but also one of the most brutal.
One shocking moment occurred when Benito Martinez’s character, Captain David Aceveda, tracks down two thugs only to become alone and outnumbered by them. At gunpoint, Aceveda is forced to perform a sex act on one of the criminals. The scene is so dastardly and disgusting — a lot is shown… almost too much — that it remains one of the most shocking scenes in the annals of TV. Martinez was recently on Fresh Air, and Terry Gross approached the actor — he can be seen on American Crime — about that particular scene, and his response to Shawn Ryan’s initial discussion about it.
“What’s Plan B?” Martinez asked Ryan, in reference to other routes they could write the show’s arc.
Eventually, the actor said he would think about it, and he contemplated with his mother, wife, manager, and agent as to whether or not he should participate in the scene. Getting mixed opinions from his team and family, he wanted Ryan’s assurance that the scene would ultimately lead to something: a change in the character, or a branching arc that would take Aceveda down a different path that made the rape scene valuable. In other words, he wanted to make sure it wasn’t just for shock value.
I was like, well, where does this take me? And (Shawn Ryan) goes, it takes you to a very dark place. And we’re going to take you on this whole route. Well, then I realized that this was the writing staff that would do it. And it was a good time. And I got the full understanding of it all. And then I would – I went to rape counseling centers, and they talked about this, and learned a lot more than I realized about male rape and how often it happens.
Ryan gave Martinez his word that the payoff stemming from the rape would be worth it. If you’ve seen the darkness to which Aceveda subscribes to as the show progresses, you know that Ryan held true to his word. You can read a transcript of the entire interview with Terry Gross here.