Add Richard Dreyfuss to the list of Hollywood movie greats who are now finding their best roles on television.
Dreyfuss, 70, shot to stardom with seminal 1970s blockbusters American Graffiti, Jaws, Close Encounters of the Third Kind and The Goodbye Girl, for which he won the Best Actor Oscar. The 1980s included hits Tin Men and Stakeout. 1995’s Mr Holland’s Opus was another standout.
And now Dreyfuss is playing real estate mogul Arlen Cox in Shots Fired, a 10-episode crime series about a white college student who is killed by an African-American sheriff’s deputy. Investigator Ashe Akino (Sanaa Lathan) and prosecutor Preston Terry (Stephan James), both AfricanAmerican, lead the inquiry into the killing.
Shots Fired feels like it has been ripped from the headlines in the wake of Black Lives Matter. This show has a remarkable impact that makes it very different from other procedural or cop shows. This is about as current as you’re ever going to get. When I first met co-creator Reggie Rock Bythewood, he said he wanted to do a show with no heroes or villains.
But Shots Fired flips things so that it is a white student killed by an African-American policeman. The character of the black cop is for me the most interesting of all. He is a black man, a cop, and a family man. He has got loyalties to all sides and you can see him being ripped apart in different directions.
When we first see Arlen Cox he is spruiking a new prison facility. What else can you tell me about him? I’m constrained. Whether or not the character is central to what goes on just has to unfold (on air). I took a risk (signing on for the role) and I only took it on the understanding if the show goes into a second season so does my character who becomes more important. I didn’t sign up to be the third spear carrier from the left. I have too much ego to do that.
It’s said TV, rather than movies, is where the great dramas are being made now. Do you agree? I definitely do — especially cable television where you go for creativity and stories without limits. The 1970s seemed a golden era for you. What was it really like? It was a situation where the corporate people said “give the creative people free rein”. They should have kept on with it but instead they said “we won’t do that again”.
You had an amazing run of hits in the 1980s as well. One day [co-star] Sanaa said to me in the car, when we were returning (from filming), ‘I have to confess I really don’t know much of your work’ and I turned to her and said ‘the 80s were mine’.
WATCH SHOTS FIRED, SHOWCASE, MONDAY, 8.30PM