Making Blue Magic

by Liz Martinez DeFranco

Bill Clark is the man with the best job in the world. A retired NYPD detective, Clark is the co-executive producer of one of the most popular TV shows ever: NYPD Blue. “Every cop wants this job,” Clark says immodestly.

And who wouldn’t? Over the past eight years, Clark has parlayed his experience with undercover work, homicide and the general detective bureau into a cushy Hollywood job. He was referred to Steven Bochco and David Milch, who conceived the idea for the show, by a newspaper reporter who was a close friend. The reporter suggested that the producers retain Clark to do research for the show, and his involvement took off from there, spiraling into the position he holds today.

“I fly guys in from New York for long weekends to discuss old cases,” Clark says, with his Brooklyn “neighborhood” accent. In terms of presentation, Clark can out-Sipowicz Dennis Franz. Halfway through his discourse, you almost expect him to start “tuning somebody up” the way Sipowicz does it on the show.

But he is nothing if not realistic about making it in Tinseltown. “I really feel bad because I know a lot of guys who spend years trying to break into this business,” he says. “It’s tremendously difficult to break into. I was just in the right place at the right time.”

Like many cops who have found fame and fortune cashing in on their police experience in the entertainment field, Clark’s attitude is that he’s not going to give the next guy a break, although he won’t come right out and say so. What leaks through this bluster is an insecurity: despite his success with NYPD Blue and a shelf full of awards, is there a fear that he might be back pounding a beat in Staten Island if he gives another guy a chance to hit?

Actions speak louder than words, so if you’re an old pal of Clark’s, don’t bother to send him your screenplay. “If I read it, I might remember it later on as something that I heard in a bar, or somewhere,” he says frankly. “Then I might use it and not give the guy credit for copyrighted material.”

So if you address your envelope to Clark, it might get passed on to the guys low enough on the show’s totem pole to have to take at least a cursory look at it.

“I like to come up with stories of actual cases that affected the principals in some way—the detective working the case, the victim or even the perp,” he says. “I sit down with the writers and help them with dialog and interrogation techniques. Steven Bochco and I come up with the stories, and the writers write them.”

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Liz Martinez DeFranco is the editor of the exciting new book “Cop Tales 2000” available at www.38SpecialPress.com. Liz is also a regular security columnist for “Security Technology and Design Magazine.”

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