Richard Dreyfuss


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’.


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