Women in Prison Envisioned as being akin to the edgy Aussie series Prisoner: Cell Block H, this late-’80s Fox sitcom “ended up being more like Eight Is Enough” or The Love Boat, Pounder laughs, with a new guest star showing up every week to declare, “I’m even more scary!” than the one before. “It was not quite what it was billed to be, but we had a lot of fun doing it.” Giving Pounder her first series lead (as an inmate who’d offed her husband), Women in Prison was one of Fox’s very first series — just as The Shield 14 years later would mark cable cousin FX’s first big step into original programming.
Quantum Leap If you’re reading this, Scottt Bakula, avert your eyes now. Because “I don’t remember our actual first meeting,” Pounder admits of her Season 3 visit to the NBC drama, on which her oneday NCIS: New Orleans castmate starred as a time-traveling body swapper. The actress chalks that up in part to being one of “what seemed like 5,000” guest stars on an episode set during the 1965 Watts riots. “It was a particularly riveting episode, and I was lucky to be in it,” she recalls. “But it’s lots of water under the bridge in terms of one episode many moons ago!”
L.A. Law After two years “spent weeping and moaning” as “women of unfortunate means — poverty-stricken, whoring, selling kids for crack,” Pounder told her agent, “I’m done” with such roles, in large part because she recognized “the influence of television is huge, and people think that what they see is how the world is.” So when NBC’s L.A. Law offered her the role of “another unfortunate woman,” Pounder perused the script and countered, “I’d like to play the judge. And after a lot of back-and-forth and negotiation, they finally said, ‘OK, we’ll let her read.'” Holding firm and landing the recurring role of Judge Roseann Robin, Pounder avows, “was a game changer” in her career.
ER From the start of her stint as Dr. Angela Hicks (which began midway through Season 1), Pounder “certainly did feel that [ER] was going to be an institution, that it would keep going” for many years. But come Season 4, she decided it was time for herself to scrub out, “because it somehow moved from an ensemble to all the boys getting a certain kind of narrative.” (On-screen, doctors John Carter and Peter Benton left Hicks’ ER team to pursue their respective specialties.) Fun fact: Though she didn’t share many scenes with George Clooney on the NBC drama, Pounder had worked with him before, on the Sela Ward sudser Sisters.
Millennium Pounder’s role on this late-’90s Fox drama — which was created by X-Files auteur Chris Carter and revolved around an FBI consultant (played by Lance Henriksen) who can “see” inside criminal minds — “is the one that I hated,” she confesses. As Millennium Group pathologist Cheryl Andrews, “I tried my damndest but I would go to Chris and say, ‘It can’t get any darker than this,’ and then the next week it would be even more wretched, with fried-up bodies and all that kind of stuff. It was so dark.”
Amanda Waller Pounder’s voice work famously includes many turns as DC Comics antihero Amanda Waller. “Amanda is a lot of fun to do,” Pounder effuses — especially because the animated role hasn’t been farmed out to multiple voice actors. “There have been several times where I’m talking and somebody comes up and goes, ‘Excuse me, are you Amanda Waller?’ And that is really amazing,” the actress reports. As for the casting of Waller in the upcoming Suicide Squad film, Pounder says, “I do approve, in the sense that it’s Viola Davis — though I think there should have been a call made this way! But I don’t really mind; it can be other people.”
The Shield Mention to Pounder the acclaimed FX drama, on which she for all seven seasons played Captain Claudette Wyms, and what first comes to mind? “Besides that bald-headed [Michael] Chiklis boy…?” she quips. Turning serious, she hails The Shield as “the pioneer in gray shows, in the sense that it was not black-and-white, not everything got wrapped up in a little bow, the good guy didn't always win at the end of 45 minutes.” In fact, the cops at the heart of the series weren’t always the good guys, “and there were moments of deep goodness in really horrible people,” Pounder recalls. “It looked at the gray area of life that had hardly ever been explored in the forum of television.”
Brothers Did this one-and-done Fox sitcom not get a fair shake? “I know it didn’t. And I don’t think it had to do with us,” offers Pounder, who starred alongside former “Apollo Creed” Carl Weathers, future talk-show host Michael Strahan and oneday NCIS: New Orleans castmate Daryl “Chill” Mitchell. “I think it had to do with something going on in [Fox] management, where somebody was mad at somebody…. It was about ego, this whole show going on outside of what you’re trying to create.” Nonetheless, it introduced Pounder to Mitchell, who as New Orleans‘ Patton Plame delivers “the wonderful juxtaposition of a man who is chair-bound but whose brain is swift and moving forward.”
Warehouse 13 Recurring on the Syfy series as Mrs. (Irene) Frederic, the director and caretaker of the titular warehouse (aka “the scary lady with the beehive”), Pounder had more fun than she ever imagined. “I didn't expect it to be that much fun, but I really did have a good time,” she warmly recalls. “The character they created… was kind of a living Amanda Waller, as if that [DC Comics] character had come up off the page.”
Sons of Anarchy Joining the FX hit in Season 6 as San Joaquin County District Attorney Tyne Patterson, Pounder says she had to wonder, “What am I doing here?” amid all the “leather and motorcycles.” Well for one, the DA was there to give SAMCRO a hard time. But more importantly, Pounder was part of former Shield scribe Kurt Sutter’s plan to cast as many pals from that earlier FX drama as possible. “Once Kurt got that ball rolling and decided he wanted to go through the entire cast, somehow or another Patterson got cast,” she says with a laugh. “Sometimes it would even be a one-time thing, like when Chickie (Michael Chiklis) was a truck driver at the very end.”
NCIS: New Orleans Pounder observes that, shooting on location as it does, the sophomore CBS drama is able to offer up a uniquely flavored twist on the typical procedural. “I had this with The Shield as well, where even though there are basic, formulaic things that happen, it’s all about how you infuse it with something original or interesting. And what the actual city [of New Orleans] does is give us undeniable backgrounds — like, ‘Oh, this not L.A., this is not Seattle,’ she says. “And that is really good, to give [viewers] an absolutely concrete place to visually see and be.”