Eric Estrada fulfilling his lifelong dream in 'Armed & Famous'
By Christopher Rocchio, 01/05/2007
Eric Estrada said his childhood dream was to be a member of the New York City Police Department. Now the 57-year-old The Surreal Life 2 roommate and former CHiPs freeway patrolman is getting his best opportunity to fulfill that dream by working as a reserve police officer in Muncie, IN for the new CBS reality seriesArmed & Famous.
"I'm proud to be a part of the show," Estrada told reporters during a January 4 conference call. "It was my lifelong dream to be a cop, but I was bit by the acting bug and ended up playing a cop on television. Now I'm a cop working it for real."
The seven-episode television series, which premieres on CBS on Wednesday, January 10 at 8PM ET/PT, will follow Estrada, professional skateboarder and Jackass star Jason "Wee Man" Acuna, The Osbournes star Jack Osbourne, former WWE wrestling champion Trish Stratus and singer La Toya Jackson as they work their way through police training and find themselves on patrol in Muncie, a city of nearly 70,000 residents located 60 miles northeast of Indianapolis.
"I was fond of being able to show that men and women in uniform are compassionate, loving, caring and generous people that want to help their fellow man," said Estrada.
Filming for the series will wrap-up on January 11, and Estrada and his fellow celebrity cops have been patrolling the streets of Muncie with veteran officers from 6PM to 2AM for the past several weeks after undergoing some serious training, which included firearm procedure.
"The job does change you as you go along," said Estrada. "You want to execute the law quickly and put the bad guys away as quickly as possible. You want to give them due process without stepping on their rights."
Estrada said his partner for the series, a detective in the Muncie Police Department, mostly handles rapes and domestic disputes. "I've learned quite a bit," said Estrada. "He's an awesome officer."
Despite playing freeway patrolman Francis Llewellyn "Ponch" Poncherello in more than 100 CHiPs episodes that aired from 1977-1983, Estrada said his role in Armed and Famous as a real reserve police officer was quite different.
"I enjoyed CHiPs because I was living my fantasy, but I never had a gun in my hand during the six years we filmed the series," he said. "[Armed and Famous] is like day and night with CHiPs, where we taught children respect for law enforcement and never drew our guns. It's not that way in the real world."
Muncie Police Department Chief Joseph Winkle described Estrada as a people person.
"He's somebody that doesn't know a stranger," said Winkle of Estrada. "He's good verbally, which helps tremendously."
Since CHiPs has been running in syndication for the past 25 years, Estrada said many of the people he approached as a Muncie officer recognized him.
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"Most people made it easier for me to arrest them if I had to," said Estrada. "It was a blessing, but also a hindrance. You want to get the job done properly."
Estrada said it did take him one or two calls before he was in the groove of narrating what was taking place while also still doing the job as an officer.
"I was having some difficulty, but I remembered to explain the situation for the sole purpose of showing what really takes place," he said.
Estrada said he has spent the last six year buying and selling real estate, and also promotes child safety across the country through numerous law enforcement agencies. He's also been shooting trap, skeet and clay for the past 15 years, so he knows a thing or two about handing a firearm.
"A gun is a tool to be respected, and if you're trained with it, it's like a fork," said Estrada. "It can be dangerous if it's in the wrong hands."
Estrada concluded by saying that just putting on the uniform has opened his eyes to the amount of people officers help on a regular basis.
"Talking to people and finding what position they're in and why helps get them to see further down the tunnel of life," he said.
After a special Thursday, January 11 at 8PM ET/PT broadcast of the show's second episode, Armed & Famous' five additional episodes will air Wednesdays at 8PM ET/PT beginning January 17.