‘Southland’ Reaches New Heights With Guest-Star Shaq

Shaquille O'Neal (Photo: Getty Images)

It was a tall order, but when Shaquille O’Neal called the folks at TNT’s “Southland” to ask if he could play a guest-starring role on the show, it was a slam dunk.

As a result, the former NBA star — all 7’1″ of him — will play a uniformed officer of the Los Angeles Police Department in an upcoming episode. This is all according to Shaq himself, who broke the news to “Access Hollywood’s” Kit Hoover and Billy Bush the other day for this story.

“[‘Southland’] is one of my favorite shows,” said O’Neal, 40, “so one day I just got the number and I called them and I was like, ‘This is Detective O’Neal, and I would like to play a police officer [on the show],’” he said. “They were like, ‘This is not Shaq!’ I said, ‘This is really me.’”

The “Access Hollywood” story notes that O’Neal has dabbled in law enforcement, including serving as “a reserve officer” in police departments in L.A. and Miami. (We suspect “reserve officer” is another way of saying “honorary,” but hey, who are we to argue with Shaq?)

Honorary or not, Shaq has the uniforms to prove it. “I e-mailed them a picture [of himself in his police uniform] and I told them I would like to be on the show. I’m shooting next week,” he said. He praised the TNT series for its realism — a trait that’s been widely recognized by TV critics and fans. “I’m a police officer in real life and that show really depicts how they do it in life,” Shaq said.

A TNT rep confirmed the story on Saturday. On the episode scheduled to air April 3, Shaq plays “Officer Earl Dayton, a cop who knows [Officer] John Cooper [Michael Cudlitz] from the police academy, and runs into him while serving warrants at the funeral of a notorious gangster,” said a TNT statement. There are no plans for the Earl Dayton character to recur in future episodes.

“Southland” just returned for its fifth season, airing Wednesday nights at 10/9c on TNT.

The opinions expressed are solely those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Comcast.

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