You know I had to slip one of my own scenes in here, right?
I wrote ten “NYPD Blue” scripts between 1995 and 1997. One of my favorites was a Season 3 episode titled “Head Case,” which begins with detectives Simone and Sipowicz at a gruesome crime scene: A middle-aged white man has been murdered in his apartment, with his decapitated head left in his lap.
The facts of the crime were drawn from a real-life case; Bill Clark told me about it. He even showed me the videotaped interrogation of the mentally ill murderer.
The interrogation scene I wrote for “Head Case” is one that I recall most fondly... for a peculiar reason. It’s seven pages long. “NYPD Blue” interrogation scenes usually topped out at three pages.
Earlier that season, boss David Milch had written a very long interrogation scene, and it worked like gangbusters. I wanted to see if I could stretch out like that.
I was also pleased to make use of some newspaper reporting from 1986. While covering Hands Across America for the Washington Times, I interviewed a homeless man who tried to convince me that he was God, and that he had unlocked the secrets of “omnipotent pyrotechnics.”
I never forgot this guy, especially the “omnipotent pyrotechnics” stuff. I had that interview on audiotape, and I drew from it.
The role of the psychotic killer (“Rodney Wellstone”) was difficult to cast. We auditioned a whole lot of young black actors, including Terrence Howard. I had written it with Roger Guenveur Smith in mind. But none of the L.A. actors rocked the audition... not even Mr. Smith.
You see, with a scene that damn long, it was crucial to find an actor who could drive it. Mount that dialogue and ride it to the finish line. Otherwise, the scene seemed endless; it didn’t work at all.
Our New York casting director found the right guy: Monti Sharp.
I’m streaming audio of that 7-minute scene. Click here to hear it. (Original air date: February 27, 1996.)
David Milch’s palmprints are all over the finished scene. (He decided to have the Assistant District Attorney videotape the interrogation. And he crazied up Rodney Wellstone a bit by having him vow “four years and seven months” of silence.) So I won’t pretend every word is mine.
But I am quite proud of lines like “I give you consciousness of self...”
By the way, since it’s all about me today, I’ll let you know: I co-wrote tonight’s episode of “The Wire” with David Simon. (I know, right? Super Bowl night. Maybe y’all can catch it on a rerun.) Don’t forget to check EbonyJet.com in a few days for DeAngelo Starnes’s episode analysis.