If you’re familiar with Ray Liotta’s career, you might have seen the commercials for his latest project Shades of Blue, and thought it was familiar ground for Liotta. The actor, who is known for cult projects like Goodfellas, Field of Dreams, Cop Land, and Narc, has played his fair share of dirty cops and intimidating characters over the years, but Shades of Blue stood out.
Liotta found an interesting arc that made him say yes to NBC’s newest show, which just so happened to be the network’s best debut in seven years. On Shades of Blue, the New Jersey native plays a controlling and corrupt boss named Lt. “Woz” Wozniak. While the show is mainly about Jennifer Lopez, Liotta’s talent shines in a way that makes the actor an important part of the show, without taking away from its main star.
Ray Liotta sat down at the AOL studio to speak about what made him return to television, and what it’s like to work with Jennifer Lopez.
On why he took on television with Shades of Blue:
I was looking to do a 13 episode type thing just to have some consistency with work, and to help with the movies. It’s changed a lot — when I first started in the 70s and 80s, if you were doing television, you were going out to pasture. Now movie people are looking towards these cable shows. I read this and I really liked it. Jennifer, I didn’t know — in terms of her doing edgy stuff, I hadn’t seen anything, so that was a question, but when they had Barry Levinson directing the pilot and the second episode, I thought I would give it a shot.
On how Shades of Blue was pitched to him:
The character is extremely different and it will unfold itself as the time goes on. It was just the script. I didn’t want to be in “the J.Lo show.” I didn’t want to be the guy behind the desk, telling everybody else to do something. The script had some really interesting things that shocked me. Then I met the show runner and he showed me what direction they were going in. I saw that the character was really involved, and intricate. So, I decided to do it.
On his dynamic with Jennifer Lopez:
You just play make believe. You do what you’re supposed to do. We didn’t have a lot of rehearsal time, but I’ve been doing this for a long time. Some of it, what’s in the script, gave us an idea of what was going to happen in the future. You just go with that. Jennifer is great — she’s a real pro.
On consulting real cops for various roles:
A couple of episodes they did [consult], which is helpful to talk to them, because it’s fascinating what a cop does. I’m just so pro-cop. I know there’s been some incidents, but most cops are good and it’s a really tough job. Early on in my career, I would do ride alongs with actual cops in LA. It was fascinating, dangerous and scary. You have to thank them for what they do.
On his experience with Goodfellas:
I’ve only seen it twice. I don’t like watching myself. I remember I watched it with Pesci, and I felt like I wasn’t even in it. I was still new to it all. I think because there’s an expression — sometimes you’re the glitter and sometimes you’re the glue. It’s kind of like this. Jennifer is more the glue, and I’m the glitter. The part is always changing. Goodfellas didn’t open like some big huge box office, but it was a different time then. It wasn’t like going after that $100 million dollars, like it is now with all of the tent pole projects. It opened okay and it kept going.
On not getting bit by the acting bug:
I never really wanted to act. When it came time to go to college, I said, I didn’t want to go to college. I was very involved in sports and I wasn’t a very avid movie goer. I got into the University of Miami — at that time you just needed a pulse to get in there. I was going to take liberal arts because I had no idea what I wanted to do, but right next to it was Drama. It was an easier class to take. There was an acting teacher who was a guy’s guy, and thank God he was a really good teacher. The acting came slowly.
On being determined to stay in the business:
I said I’m going to make it and there’s no two ways about it. You have to kind of have that, because it’s a great way to make a living but it’s a horrible business. It’s just a horrible business.
Shades of Blue airs on NBC on Thursdays at 9/8c.
[Image via NBC]