'Chicago Code's' Delroy Lindo talks Windy City politics, his new show

Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, February 4, 2011; 11:43 AM

'The Chicago Code," a new cop drama on Fox, premieres on Monday, two weeks before Chicago's much-talked-about mayoral election. In a happy coincidence, a major part of the series just so happens to focus on political drama in the Windy City.

But one of the stars of the show believes that the series would capture people's attention regardless, because of the "intrigue" that Chicago's fabled machine politics tend to generate at any given time.

"I think the show's very timely, but interesting in terms of what's been happening around the Rahm Emanuel candidacy or not," said Delroy Lindo, who plays the city's mysterious alderman, during an interview last week at the Renaissance Hotel in Washington. "I certainly get the sense, and I think this is very indicative of Chicago politics, that there's a whole drama playing out behind the scenes. And that's partially what intrigued me about doing this work."

Lindo, 58, known for his parts in movies including "Malcolm X" and "The Cider House Rules," emerges in early episodes as one of the series' pivotal characters: Alderman Ronin Gibbons, a former building magnate who's now a powerful politician. Having ruled his ward for three decades, Gibbons clashes with the city's cops (played by Jason Clarke and Jennifer Beals), who are determined he's hiding many dirty, illegal secrets.

But is Lindo's character corrupt? The early episodes of the series seem intent an on creating an "Is he good? Is he bad? Is he good? Wait . . . he seems pretty bad" reaction from the audience, which delights the actor to no end.

"It's to the benefit of the overall narrative that there be this question about what it is I'm doing or not doing," said Lindo, who plays the role with an impressive poker face to never show what he's thinking. "So for me, that's a positive."

Lindo (along with Fox) is hoping that the series, created by Shawn Ryan of "The Shield" fame, stands out from the myriad of other cop shows with a mix of both the standard procedural aspects and unique investigations and stories about big-city political machinations.

Shot on location in Chicago, the show embraces the city, and all its history, as a central part of the story - as Lindo said, "To quote an oft-quoted cliche, it's true, the city is a character."

Lindo had not been in Chicago for many years before heading there to film, but he said he recalls being in the city in 1983 when Harold Washington - the city's first black mayor - was elected.

"That, for better or worse over the years, shaped my opinion about the city of Chicago," said Lindo, calling it a "very, very vitriolic time," when the city faced racial and political fissures. "So it was interesting to go back there after all those years and observe how some of those things have changed, and some things have not changed."

The Chicago Code (one hour) premieres Monday at 9 p.m. on Fox.

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