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January 31, 2017
Online Originals

High Tech Cops

Justin Kirk brings high tech to a Chicago precinct on Fox's APB.

Melissa Byers

Suppose you could buy your own police precinct.

And further suppose that you’re a tech genius with all the up-to-the-second equipment any police force could ever dream of having. That’s the basic premise of the new Fox series APB, starring Justin Kirk.

Kirk plays Gideon Reed, a tech billionaire who witnesses his best friend’s murder and, frustrated by the lack of response from the police department, petitions to take over the precinct where the crime occurred. When his petition is granted, he puts all his technical genius into making the precinct the best equipped, most technologically advanced precinct in Chicago.

According to Kirk’s take on the character, “I’m a tech genius/benevolent billionaire, and decide to throw my genius and a few bucks into the precinct in my neighborhood in Chicago and see where that takes us.

"It’s loosely based on an article in the New York Times about a guy in New Orleans who did this, but very loosely, I think just a jump-off point of what would happen in this scenario. And that’s where we get started and go forward.”

Kirk’s own experience with technology is not quite so broad, “This is how old I am. I could probably put the VCR together, but I don’t think that’s even a thing anymore.

"The tech is all real, the stuff that we do, it’s not sci-fi. It’s all stuff that we could really conceivably use. It’s taken up by a few points, but it’s all stuff that could happen. So, I would just sort of get a general sense of each of the things, a surface understanding of it, and then use my ‘acting genius’ to make it appear as though I know all about it.

"The guys who supplied it ostensibly know what they’re talking about, and then our props guys were very helpful in the world of helping me negotiate through options and things.

"This is my favorite thing about my job. Each gig holds something that you never could have predicted and new things that you’re going to explore and learn about. And that’s certainly one that I didn’t have knowledge about before, so that’s cool.“

Aside from the technology, the series is also part police procedural and part character-driven drama. Kirk says, “I think it is [a procedural] in the sense that we are going after individual guys and situations, but there is a narrative throughout and character stuff throughout. So, it is a procedural in its loosest form, but it’s also hopefully new and thoughtful and character driven, as well.”

What drives Kirk to choose roles varies. “It’s funny what draws you to something. I guess mostly the thing I can say is that you read the thing and and you think, 'oh, I can fit into this pocket. I grasp this.' And that doesn’t happen with everything, so when it does, it leads you to go in that direction.

"And also, I was intrigued by the possibilities of where this scenario could go. It seems like it might have some interesting directions and pitfalls, some possibilities, and it seemed like something that could be cool.

"There are many different reasons for taking a job, the people involved, the script. Maybe most important is the sort of unspoken, something you can’t articulate about how you feel about how you can wear that skin, and maybe you can be of service to the project.

"And I will say that I felt that on this and I felt that as we went forward, as well. You walk on set and it gets easier and easier to say, 'oh, here’s this guy.'”

Another perk was the opportunity to shoot in Chicago. “We did the whole thing in Chicago. It’s the new hot spot for television production. There’s a place called Cinespace, which is almost like this mini studio lot, and there were eight television shows working when we were there. So it’s a really cool thing with all these stages and the crews bounce around from show to show. It’s like a little community. 

"And then there’s a great history of theater in Chicago, so there’s a pool of actors to dip into, as well.  Of course, there are good actors everywhere. America’s lousy with them. But Chicago was great.”

Kirk is looking forward to seeing the result of what he and his cast mates have produced.

“I’m as excited as anybody is to see what this show is, because even though I’m ostensibly the hero or whatever, there’s so much that I didn’t see. A lot of action stuff that I wasn’t around for. And the show has a very specific and unique look to it, as well. It’s sort of blue and smoky.

"In this job, a lot of the work, and even more than usual in this particular case, is done after I leave, so I’m looking forward to seeing how they put it all together. So, we shall see.”

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