Michael Peña thrilled to play Ponch, cruise around on mo­tor­cy­cle for ‘ CHIPS’ re­make

Chicago Sun-Times - - LIFE - bzwecker@sun­ @ bil­lzwecker BILL ZWECKER’ S CHICAGO

Michael Peña had a chance to show off his home­town when he and his “CHIPS” co- star Dax Shep­ard came to Chicago to pro­mote the film. Un­for­tu­nately, “I was a bad host,” said a sheep­ish Peña. “We re­ally didn’t have much time …”

But Shep­ard came to his de­fense. “It wasn’t his fault,” said Shep­ard. “He had fam­ily duty while here. He was en­ter­tain­ing like 10 fam­ily mem­bers yes­ter­day. So he’s ex­cused.”

The funny part for Peña was how he had to de­prive him­self of some fa­vorite Chicago treats. “I’m on like a crazy diet that al­lows me to eat 1,000 calo­ries a day. It’s both for my role in [ up­com­ing film] ‘ Ex­tinc­tion’— and be­cause my doc­tor re­cently strongly hinted that I needed to lose a lit­tle weight,” Peña said with a chuckle.

“So, if you can imag­ine, I did go to Gior­dano’s yes­ter­day, and I had like half a skin­less chicken breast! Ev­ery­one with me said, ‘ What are you do­ing!’ This is Gior­dano’s!’ ”

Rid­ing a mo­tor­cy­cle as a Cal­i­for­nia High­way Pa­trol of­fi­cer came nat­u­rally for Shep­ard, known as a huge lover of all things au­to­mo­tive. As for the co- star tak­ing over for Erik Estrada as Frank “Ponch” Poncherello in the big- screen take on the 1977- 83 TV show, Peña ad­mit­ted, “To be hon­est, I didn’t re­ally grow up with that kind of pas­sion that Dax has. But it was some­thing that did in­trigue me. … I came to love watch­ing mo­tocross on TV when I was a kid, but where I grew up in Chicago, that seemed like a dis­tant dream.

“I never, ever would have thought that not only would I be re- cre­at­ing one of my fa­vorite TV char­ac­ters but that I’d get to have so much fun on a bike in a movie about those guys!”

The ac­tor said that in re­cent years, he has come to own his own mo­tor­cy­cle, and “I re­ally love to go up and back to my golf course from my house in L. A. … The way I go takes me up and down a pretty va­cant high­way. I can re­ally open it up. It’s like a dream.”

As for Shep­ard, the op­por­tu­nity to write a screen­play— and then star in and di­rect this R- rated, up­dated ver­sion of the vin­tage TV show— was long on his wish list.

“Lis­ten. My all- time hero is [ writer and di­rec­tor] HalNeed­ham. All I ever wanted to dowas re­make [ his] ‘ Hooper’ or ‘ Smokey and the Ban­dit.’ Mak­ing ‘ CHIPS’ is right up there for me. … All I’m ever try­ing to do is to find a ve­hi­cle that will in­clude both ac­tion and com­edy— with mo­tor sports thrown into it.

“So, we’re run­ning around South­ern Cal­i­for­nia, with two odd char­ac­ters be­ing paired. It made it per­fect right out of the gate,” said Shep­ard.

An added plus for Shep­ard was get­ting to have some fun with his wife, ac­tress Kris­ten Bell, who plays his un­bear­able ex- wife in “CHIPS.”

“It was fun to see her as a dirt­bag. She’s not cast as a jerk very of­ten. So it was up to me to do that,” he said, lead­ing Peña to laugh very loudly.

Oswalt to tackle heartache in his two Chicago shows

Co­me­dian and ac­tor Pat­ton Oswalt has posted a very per­sonal note, re­veal­ing­more in­for­ma­tion about his up­com­ing June 2 shows at the Athenaeum The­atre.

Writ­ing on his Face­book page Sun­day, Oswalt ex­plained that at the 7 and 10 p. m. shows, he’ll share his feel­ings about “the most hor­rific 12months I’ve had to wade through inmy 48 years on the planet,” clearly re­fer­ring to the death last April, at age 46, of his wife, crime writer Michelle McNa­mara— caused by a com­bi­na­tion of pre­scrip­tion medicine and an artery block­age.

The con­certs will be filmed for a Net­flix spe­cial that “will prob­a­bly air in the fall.”

Oswalt wrote that the deeply in­tense ma­te­rial he ex­pects to dis­cuss in his shows will mean, “I don’t think I’ll be able to just do [ it] again on the road for yuks and money.”

The end re­sult: Peo­ple at the two Chicago shows will be the “last LIVE au­di­ences to see any of this ma­te­rial per­formed in per­son, ever. The spe­cial will be out in the fall, but, start­ing June 3 [ the day after his Chicago ap­pear­ances], I’m go­ing to dis­ap­pear from any paid stages for a while. … I’ll start tour­ing again in late 2018, but this new hour? And com­mit­ting it to film? That’s go­ing to take a LOT out of me.”

BJ the Chicago Kid penned ti­tle track for ‘ Shots Fired’

There’s quite the lineup of mu­si­cal tal­ent that will be heard as Fox’s new “Shots Fired” show de­but­sWed­nes­day ( 7 p. m., WFLD- Chan­nel 32). In a high­pro­file po­si­tion­ing, three- time Grammy nom­i­nee BJ the Chicago Kid is fea­tured on the new se­ries’ ti­tle track.

Along with the home­town R& B singer, other artists be­ing show­cased on “Shots Fired” are Swizz Beatz, Aloe Blacc, DaHonor­able C- Note, Leon Bridges, An­tonique Smith, NAS, An­tho­nyHamil­ton, Mal­iMu­sic, Sun­shine An­der­son, Ro James, Heather Vic­to­ria, De­tail, Emeli Sande, E- 40, Scar­face, Ruff Endz, Big Bil­lMor­gan­field, Dionne Far­ris, Mar­qus Clae and Shire.

Star­ring Sanaa Lathan, Stephen James, He­lenHunt and Richard Drey­fuss, “Shots Fired” will ex­am­ine po­lice shoot­ings in racially charged en­vi­ron­ments.


Michael Peña ( left) and Dax Shep­ard star in “CHIPS.”

Pat­ton Oswalt

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