Steven Seagal makes most of the fights in his movies appear effortless. Bad guy approaches, fists flailing, only to walk into the calm aikido master’s grip and limp away with a bloody nose and newly deformed limb. It’s all over in a flash, and afterward Seagal appears to have barely broken a sweat or changed his expression.
The man himself will tell you it’s taken a lot more blood, sweat and tears than that to have forged the career he’s made for himself in nearly 40 movies over the past 24 years — starting with 1988’s Above the Law, reaching its zenith in 1992’s Under Siege, and transforming into a more recent string of highly successful direct-to-video titles. But one arena he has yet to conquer is television. Seagal takes up that challenge with True Justice, which premieres Friday at 9pm ET/PT on REELZCHANNEL.
“I just wanted to try to make a realistic police show, try to do something that hasn’t been done,” Seagal says. “I feel like I did that in the sense that a lot of the stuff that’s in there is based on stuff that is actually happening. I felt that was going to make it more realistic.”
So while the wall-to-wall mayhem will satisfy action junkies, the issues that Seagal’s character, Elijah Kane, and his squad of elite undercover Seattle cops will deal with are going to be pulled from real life. They will tackle cases involving everything from human smuggling to organ trafficking to international terrorism to murder and narcotics trafficking. In that way, it follows in the action star’s tradition of inserting his favorite social causes into entertainment, just as he did with conservation in On Deadly Ground and Fire Down Below. The first episode of True Justice concerns a community of Cajun fisherman displaced by the BP oil spill on the Gulf Coast, along with a lengthy explanation by Kane of their plight, mixed in with a plotline of dirty cops and a badass Russian gangster.
After playing so many characters, Seagal is particularly keen on Kane, since the two may have a lot in common. Part of the mystique Seagal has built around himself include his vague references in the media to having worked for the CIA, and Kane shares this background, as well as Seagal’s own maverick spirit. “He bends the rules a little bit when he has to,” he says, “and figures out a way to get things done that isn’t necessarily conventional.”
In addition to starring, Seagal also is credited as creator and producer. He was also heavily involved in selecting the cast, which includes Warren Christie (Apollo 18), Megan Ory (Once Upon a Time) and Sarah Lind. There’s a chance he could even expand those efforts, having expressed an interest to perhaps return to the director’s chair for the first time since 1994’s On Deadly Ground.
A scripted TV series isn’t just new territory for Seagal (who tried his hand at reality TV with two season of A&E’s Lawman), but it’s a new venture for REELZCHANNEL, as well. After having made a splash with the controversial miniseries The Kennedys last year, the upstart network is taking the same approach with True Justice, offering piles of supplemental programming to surround it. This includes behind-the-scenes specials, as well as themed episodes of the network’s regular shows that incorporate Seagal’s career.
Stan Hubbard, CEO of REELZCHANNEL, a man Seagal has called “a visionary,” says the decision to nab True Justice was a no-brainer. “He’s one of the world’s biggest movie stars. … All of his movies have been big, they always do well, and you know what to expect when you say Steven Seagal. True Justice is going to deliver on that promise. It’s made to broadcast network quality, it’s a big, big production. It’s got a really accomplished cast, and we’re excited.”
Photo: © 2010 Sojo Productions