Featured player

For the past two decades, CCH Pounder has built an impressive oeuvre studded with roles befitting a worldly thesp, one who received an education in London and helped set up a cultural museum in Senegal.

The Guyana-born actress has turned heads portraying smart, confident women such as judges and doctors, and she’s at it again with her latest turn as seasoned detective Claudette Wyms on FX’s “The Shield.”

“Claudette very quickly establishes this one-of-the-boys kind of attitude,” Pounder says. “She can hang with them at any rate, as opposed to being a woman fighting for her space in a man’s world. She’s already done the fight, and seeing where it goes from there can get very interesting.”

Indeed, she’s one of the few people who can rattle Vic Mackey, the brawny, morally challenged detective played by Michael Chiklis. Her role has grown considerably meatier since the series debuted two years ago, with Claudette moving from a weary veteran inching toward retirement to a major force threatening to expose Vic’s corrupt ways.

“She takes it on like a cowboy and I can’t be more thrilled,” says Pounder, who has earned two Emmy nominations, one for supporting actress as Dr. Angela Hicks on “ER” and another for a guest spot on “The X-Files.”

Pounder made her television debut more than 20 years ago on “Hill Street Blues” and has since appeared in scores of shows including “L.A. Law” and “The West Wing.” But she says her role on “Shield” is perhaps the best she’s ever had (save for the eccentric motel owner she played in the feature “Bagdad Cafe”).

Which makes it all the more surprising that her part in the series was originally meant for a man. But Pounder fought hard for it because she became enamored of the work of Clark Johnson, director of the pilot episode, after having just finished a TV film with him (“Boycott”).

“I said to Clark, ‘I don’t care what you’re doing next, I want to work with you again,’” she says. “So it was very unexpected the way it worked out, but this just turned out to be the one for me.”

Filed Under:

Follow @Variety on Twitter for breaking news, reviews and more