If someone were to create the greatest police drama ever, casting would probably start with Dennis Franz.
Identifiable as longtime Det. Andy Sipowicz on "NYPD Blue," Franz was a mainstay as the cop on television. But Franz was initially reluctant to take the role because this was the 27th or 28th cop on his resume (never an accurate count). In addition to his "NYPD" role, the actor played Lt. Norman Buntz on "Hill Street Blues" for a few seasons, and was also cast as a cop in "Chicago Story," "Nasty Boys," "Die Hard 2" and "Disney's Mighty Ducks," among many other roles.
But Franz took the job and shined in a role that was meant to be secondary to the series' star, David Caruso. Despite, or because of, the character's obvious flaws, Sipowicz became a hero of sorts. Franz's multiple Emmys for his role as the sarcastic, whiskey-schooled detective were victories for the ordinary-looking guys of America.
Show creator Stephen Bochco recognized that he was a well-respected actor. "I called Dennis before there was a script, before there was Sipowicz," Bochco said. "I just wanted Dennis in the show."
Director Robert Altman is credited with having discovered Franz at an audition, and with telling him to go to Los Angeles and pursue acting as part of Altman's resident company. Franz, who had been a member of the 82nd Airborne Division in Vietnam, worked steadily after, but he has not been in the spotlight since "NYPD" ended in 2005.