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Columns : Guest Editorial

What I've Learned Playing You Guys

In my career, I've played many cops, and it's been my privilege to do so.

April 01, 2009  |  by Dean Norris


My name is Dean Norris. I'm not a cop, but I play one on TV. (OK, I couldn't resist). Right now I'm playing a DEA agent, Hank Schrader, on AMC's "Breaking Bad."

Over my 20 years as an actor, I've played literally dozens of law enforcement characters. I call myself the "alphabet actor," you know, FBI, LAPD, CIA, and now DEA.

In the course of researching these roles, I've met hundreds of law enforcement personnel over the years, both on the set and off, and I'm proud to count many as friends today. To prepare for the role of Hank in "Breaking Bad," I had the pleasure and honor to train with some of the DEA's finest out of the Albuquerque office. We spent days not only learning the basic techniques of shooting, surveillance, entering a building, etc., but also just talking about the stress and mental demands of the job.

I've only experienced a tiny fraction of what it is like to do your job. Acting the role of a cop vs. actually pinning on a badge and strapping on a gun is sort of like the difference between being a pilot of a simulator vs. landing a 737 with 200 lives at stake. But my work has led me to appreciate on a deeper level the tremendous challenges of law enforcement. I appreciate the dedication, the judgment, the discipline, and the sheer guts of you, the men and women who choose to stand between civilization and chaos, who protect our way of life and preserve the peace, who go to work every day not always sure that you are coming back home.

While we too often hear about the mistakes that our officers make, we don't hear about the hundreds of thousands of actions that you take every day to keep ourselves or our wives or our kids from getting beaten up, or robbed, or much worse. While we too often hear what went wrong, we don't hear about the split-second decision made under grave danger that saved a life.

Well, I want you to know this actor appreciates, respects, and honors what you do. And as a citizen of this great country I thank you. I thank you for your service. Most of all I thank you for this: When I put my four young children to bed at night and one of them is concerned about the boogeyman or an ill-defined monster lurking somewhere, I offer a confident and reassuring smile and say, "Don't worry, kiddies. We have the good guys out there chasing the bad guys. And the good guys are going to kick their butts."

Dean Norris stars in the AMC drama "Breaking Bad," as DEA agent Hank Schrader. Season 2 of "Breaking Bad" is currently in progress.

Tags: TV Cops, DEA


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