Treat Williams has the police on his mind a lot these days.
The “Everwood” veteran returns to series work in Lifetime’s “Against the Wall,” premiering Sunday, July 31. He plays the patriarch of a Chicago family of cops, and he’s also about to revisit one of his career milestones: the true, police-corruption-themed 1981 drama “Prince of the City.” Williams will participate in a screening of the movie Sunday, July 24, as part of a tribute to the late director Sidney Lumet at New York’s Lincoln Center.
“Against the Wall” revolves around a police detective (Australian-born Rachael Carpani) whose new job as an Internal Affairs investigator doesn’t please her longtime-cop father (Williams). Her mother (“Picket Fences” Emmy winner Kathy Baker) tries to keep peace within the family, which also includes a trio of policeman sons.
“I think it was George C. Scott who said, years ago, that it’s more interesting to play a character who seems incredibly unforgiving and tough,” Williams tells Zap2it, “then begins to show pockets of humanity and vulnerability. It takes six episodes for them to come to terms with this and regain the father-daughter relationship that was lost the moment she said, ‘I’m going to IA (Internal Affairs).'”
Williams says he’s unfamiliar with “Blue Bloods,” CBS’ Tom Selleck-starring series that also centers on a police family: “I’ve never seen the show, but ironically, Kathy works with Tom in the ‘Jesse Stone’ movies. I find some kind of six degrees of separation in that.”
Not being the main focus of “Against the Wall” is fine with Williams. “What’s been wonderful is that it’s given me an opportunity to go back into film the way I want to. In the last two years, I’ve done everything from ‘127 Hours’ to an upcoming film I’m excited about called ‘Blackbird,’ with an incredible cast that includes my old buddy Kris Kristofferson and Sissy Spacek.
“This series is almost like making a movie,” Williams reasons. “I work from April until the first of September, then I’m free not to work or to pursue the kind of stuff I want to do.”
Experience has shown Williams the types of films he wants to be involved in now, and a prime example is “Prince of the City,” which earned him a Golden Globe Award nomination. “It’s a thrill,” he notes of the upcoming New York showing, “but I’m a little anxious. I’m going to be watching myself when I knew a lot less, and I’m going to think I would have done a few things differently.
“I was so thrilled when Martin Scorsese wrote a piece in which he said he thought it was Sidney’s best film,” Williams adds. “I think that if it’s not his best, it’s certainly one of his three or four best. I mean, ‘Dog Day Afternoon,’ ‘Serpico’ … even ’12 Angry Men,’ his first film, still jumps out.
“That night, I can put out there how grateful I am to Sidney Lumet for launching my career, and what an honor it was to work with such a great filmmaker. Basically, my entire way of working comes off of that film. I have approached every role I’ve had since then with the work ethic Sidney Lumet taught me.”
Williams has remained friends with ex-narcotics detective Robert Leuci, his “Prince of the City” character’s inspiration, who also will be present for the screening. With that movie and “Against the Wall” as thematic bookends, Williams concludes, “The most important thing to me is that 30 years later, I’m still doing what I love to do, and somebody’s still hiring me. Which is, to me, quite a miracle.”