Twenty-three years after NYPD Blue made its television debut, showrunner Steven Bochco is opening up about the drama that went on behind the scenes of the ABC hit, including star David Caruso‘s “volatile” behavior and the hurdles he faced to get profanity and nudity on the small screen.
Before the cop drama made its premiere on television screens in 1993, 72-year-old Bochco reveals on The Hollywood Reporter in an exclusive excerpt of his new memoir Truth Is a Total Defense that he and ABC CEO Bob Iger sat down to brainstorm ideas of how to get nudity in front of audiences.
“Knowing how adamant I was about content, the two of us sat in his office for more than an hour, with scratch pads and pencils drawing ‘dirty’ pictures like two 9-year-old schoolboys: breasts, buttocks and torsos,” Bochco pens of sitting with Iger.
“Neither of us could draw worth a s—, but we finally agreed on how much nudity ABC would be willing to tolerate, and it pretty much conformed to my own thinking. I wasn’t trying to make porno films. I just wanted to depict adult sexual relationships more realistically than broadcast TV ever had,” he continued.
“After a year and a half of stubbornly holding out,” Bochco states, “I had gotten about 95 percent of everything I wanted” before he reached out to Caruso about the leading role in the drama.
Despite his “reputation as a malcontent,” Bochco went ahead and hired him for his acting capabilities. “Caruso was a big-time malcontent, but he was also terrific in the role,” he states.
After only one season, the showrunner alleges that Caruso, now 60, was already causing issues on set, including “his clashes with David Milch” on a daily basis.
“Caruso’s behavior was, simply put, cancerous. He was emotionally unavailable to everyone, and he was volatile, moody or sullen, depending on the day,” he pens of the former leading man. “Most people don’t function well in a dysfunctional environment, but Caruso loved it because he was the source of all the discontent, and it empowered him.”
Prior to filming the second season, Bochco alleges that, “Caruso wanted to be let out of his contract.” After Bochco declined and threatened to sue, Caruso’s agent presented a list of demands in a proposed restructuring of his deal, which initially included “One, $100,000 per episode. Two, Fridays off. Three, a 38-ft. trailer. Four, an office suite on the lot, replete with his own development executive, for whom we had to foot the bill to the tune of $1,000 a week. Five, two hotel suites in New York when the company went there on location, plus a dozen first-class plane tickets. And lastly, Caruso had to have additional security to shield him from his adoring public.”
Bochco declined, and the agent presented a revised list of requests, which included, “the last seven weeks of the season off, so that his window for doing feature films would be larger.”
The showrunner had finally “had it” and opted to let Caruso go from the series once he had filmed the first four episodes of the second season.
“When he had shot his last scene of the fourth episode, he turned without a word and left the set, the stage and the lot,” Bochco says of Caruso’s last day on set. “He didn’t say a single word of thanks or a goodbye to his cast mates – nothing.”