The Shield cast was shocked to learn Close would be their running mate. ''I spent the first five minutes on the phone getting upset with Shawn Ryan because I thought he was messing with me,'' says Chiklis, 41, who uses terms like ''national treasure'' and ''hot s---'' to describe his new costar. ''I remember saying, 'Why would you do that?' and he's like, 'No, I mean it!' She's one of maybe three actresses in my fantasy world that I'd get. There was this great exhilaration: 'Wow. Glenn Close. Holy s---. This is gonna raise everything up a notch.'''
After devouring 41 Shield episodes and brain-picking one of the few high-ranking female police officers in New York City for authenticity purposes, the actress spent her first days on set trying to keep up with the run-and-gun pace. ''She was very weary,'' recalls Chiklis. ''I put a hand on her shoulder and asked if she was all right and she's like, 'Yeah, I gotta buckle up.''' Adds Close: ''I didn't know where I was for a while. It's literally like jumping off a cliff.'' Her character also treads on unfamiliar turf, warily trusting dirty cop Vic to help clean up the hood with some controversial policies. But be warned: Monica isn't the battle-ax you'd expect her to be. ''Because Glenn is so capable of being strong, the easiest thing we could've done is to turn her character into this really forceful, charismatic bitch, but we weren't interested in that,'' says Ryan.
''It was important that this is a character we like.'' Then again, don't call her gun-shy. ''I think I kick major ass, and it's already controversial in my mind,'' Close says of Monica. ''I kick a grandmother and her kids out of a house. It's pretty rough. But my feeling is she's looking at the big picture.''
Speaking of the big picture, Close isn't ready to retire from the multiplex just yet. She's viewing her Shield gig as a 13-episode treat, before resuming that whole celebrated film career thing. (''I haven't won an Oscar yet,'' she says. ''Put that in your article.'') In the meantime, her big-screen workload hasn't dwindled. Close unveiled three movies at Sundance: Heights, a Merchant Ivory production in which she plays a Broadway actress; The Chumscrubber, a dramedy in which she plays a bewildered suburbanite; and the vignette-driven Nine Lives, which features Close as a young girl's mother. ''I'm too old to do a lot of parts, so what's left to do?'' she says, pondering for a moment. ''Queens. Eccentric grandmothers. Women with hats.'' For now, woman with a badge seems like a killer choice.