In the movies, Steven Seagal always gets his way. But a recent TV project from the action star ran into some trouble that not even his steely-eyed gaze and aikido expertise could counter. The third season of his reality show, Steven Seagal Lawman, proved to be a bit too controversial for A&E to air so it has remained unseen … until now.
Seagal’s exploits as a deputy sheriff in Maricopa County, Ariz., under the auspices of notorious Sheriff Joe Arpaio, will finally make their way to audiences as ReelzChannel begins airing “The Lost Season” Jan. 2. While Arpaio and Seagal are able to generate plenty of headlines on their own, a particular incident arose that put these Lawman episodes under greater scrutiny. A raid on a suspected cockfighting ringleader’s house — during which Seagal rode in a tank — led to a lawsuit on behalf of the arrested suspect, who claimed the arrest was overkill and that his 11-month-old puppy was shot to death during the ordeal. (Note: The raid will be included in one of the episodes airing on ReelzChannel.) Clouds also hung over the show because of its messy departure from Louisiana, where it had spent its first two seasons. A former model accused Seagal of sexual harassment after she was hired to be his assistant, leading the Jefferson Parish sheriff to halt production. That lawsuit was later dismissed.
Seagal talked to us about his feelings now that the show will see the light of day, and talked frankly about what he believes led to the controversy in the first place:
Channel Guide Magazine: How are you feeling now that this lost season of Steven Seagal Lawman will finally get to be seen?
Steven Seagal: I’m happy about that. It’s a pity when politics gets into TV and shows like that because I really was kind of given the clear impression that it was politics out of Washington that made A&E not want to do this anymore. I think it was really our president’s opinion of my sheriff that was also an issue with certain people.
CGM: Sheriff Joe is obviously a notorious figure. How do you two get along?
SS: He’s like an older brother to me. I think he’s a great man. He was very high up in the DEA, a very hardworking cop for a long time. It’s not like he’s some guy who’s making it up as he goes along, you know what I mean?
CGM: This season of Lawman moves from Jefferson Parish, La., to Arizona. Other than geography, how does that change in setting affect the show?
SS: I think the border makes a huge difference. I don’t know if we’ll continue to do this with someone else or what, but the narco cartels and all that they got going on is a lot. There’s all kinds of kidnapping, murder, narco trafficking, there’s narco terrorism, smuggling and bringing in terrorists from other countries across the border, the issues of open border, the issues of politicians wanting open borders, the billions of dollars of narcotics that are traveling across the borders. There’s a lot of violence, a lot of drugs, a lot of politics. They range from actual terrorism to kidnapping to murder, narco trafficking, human trafficking to human slavery. It’s a big subject.
CGM: You had been in Louisiana for more than 20 years. What was the adjustment like joining a new force?
SS: Once they ride with me, see how I shoot, see how I fight, see how I interpret the law, see how I interact with the community and the good guys and bad guys, they know right away that I’m a cop, and that I know how to do it. After that, it doesn’t take long to just sort of become one big family. I think that it’s also very hilarious how there’s this group of people who are not all but primarily paid people who are paid to pick at Joe Arpaio and say discouraging things about him, particularly that he’s a racist. That’s just hilarious to me. I mean, 90 percent of my team are Mexican-Americans. (laughs)
CGM: Take me back to when all the controversy over the season was going on. What were you thinking about it all?
SS: I could see that A&E was strongly influenced by Washington. I don’t have any animosity toward A&E at all, I just think that they have their understanding of things that may be a little different from mine. Everybody has their own vision of how they want to accomplish their dreams and what they believe in. I respect everybody. I even respect the people I disagree with. I respect the people in Washington that I disagree with primarily. Not always, but primarily. The great thing about America is we’re supposed to be able to live together and still disagree.
CGM: Are you still doing your police work?
SS: Absolutely. It’s all the same. All the same.
CGM: Between this and True Justice, you seem to have really found a home with ReelzChannel.
SS: Yeah, I think that even when it comes to The Kennedys, my understanding is — and I could be wrong — that A&E owned that and they were influenced and pressured from Washington and wanted to drop it like a hot potato. Stanley [Reelz CEO Stan Hubbard] is a visionary, as I’ve always said, and he’s not afraid of the pitiful antics of these manipulating politicians. He bought The Kennedys, aired it, and it was tremendously successful for him, and I think it’s going to be the same with this. The only sad thing is I need to edit this stuff, and there’s a lot of great footage that’s all been destroyed … for some mysterious reason. So we kind of just have what we have, which is unfortunate.
CGM: Speaking of True Justice, will there be more episodes of that produced?
SS: If we get the right amount of money so that we can do it in a fashion that is respectable and good, I would be happy to do it.
Steven Seagal Lawman airs at 10pm Thursdays beginning Jan. 2 on ReelzChannel.
Photo: Courtesy of ReelzChannel