After Emmy winner, executive producer and Hollywood star Michael Chiklis’s new show “Coyote” premiered on CBS, the actor virtually “came back” to his roots.
A 1985 alumnus of Boston University’s College of Fine Arts, Chiklis joined the college’s dean, Harvey Young, for a webinar Jan. 21 titled “A Conversation with “Coyote” Star Michael Chiklis: From Comm Ave to Hollywood.” There, he discussed his career path and provided insight into his newly released CBS All Access drama, in which he stars in and produced.
The event was sponsored by Boston University Alumni and Friends but open to the entire BU community.
Chiklis was an executive producer, along with his long-time friend, Michelle MacLaren of “Breaking Bad,” who also directed the first two episodes of “Coyote.” The six-episode drama is about a border patrol agent forced to work for people he is supposed to keep out.
Chiklis said he wants this show to allow the audience to take a “deep-dive” into questions surrounding the Mexican-American border and its politicization, which he said aren’t often found in popular culture.
“People have been trying to do shows about the Mexican-American border for over a decade now,” Chiklis said. “This was just an incredibly interesting way to get into this story.”
While the conversation centered around “Coyote,” Chiklis also discussed how other productions have affected his career, particularly his first “big break” — the controversial 1989 “Wired” in which he stars as the late comedian John Belushi. He said “the forces of Hollywood” were against the film’s production.
“Blacklisted” from the industry in his early 20s and receiving constant death threats because of the film, he said he couldn’t land an audition for almost a year, which he describes as a “dark, dark period.”
“They were damning us,” Chiklis said. “I’m like, ‘Oh my god … my film and television career is over and it didn’t even start.’”
He credits his comeback to none other than western action star Burt Reynolds, who offered him a job on the TV show “B.L. Stryker.” Now, not only does Chiklis lead his own TV show, as “Coyote”’s main character Ben Clemens, but he also works behind-the-scenes.
“I love producing and I love directing, and I’m going to definitely direct more and more in my age,” he said, “because then you get to tell the story on your terms.”
Chiklis added that throughout his career, the values he gained during his time at BU remain important to him.
“I learned at Boston University School of Fine Arts that you should always treat your audience as if they are as smart or smarter than you,” he said. “I really took that to heart.”
While “Coyote” is out now, Chiklis said the pandemic did impact the show greatly — the original 10-episode drama was cut to six after work was halted due to COVID-19.
Despite the conversation being completely virtual, Harvey said in an interview that Chiklis’ dedication to BU and CFA likely would have compelled him to speak anyway.
“I think that we could have had a similar sort of event if not for COVID,” Harvey said. “He’s a person who’s always willing to give up his time to be in conversation with us.”
Harvey added Chiklis’ dedication and passion makes him the epitome of a true BU Terrier.
“He’s a true BU alum,” he said. “He’s a person who believes in our University and believes in fine arts.”