In his new action drama film End of Watch, Jake Gyllenhaal takes on the role of a Los Angeles police officer. Doing research for the role required Gyllenhaal and his co-stars to shadow real police officers, an experience that was daunting for a few of the cast members.
Gyllenhaal, who was clean-shaven and sported a buzz cut for the film, said that despite some of the more unsightly things that he saw while on the ride-alongs, he was most influenced by the camaraderie amongst the officers.
"We went through a lot over the five months that we were on the streets; we saw a lot of things, a lot of violence...but to me, the thing that left the biggest impression was the relationship between the two officers," he said. "Over that time, it was their friendship and their humor in the car that really left an impression on me."
With extensive field research under their belts, the rapport between Gyllenhaal's character and his partner Michael Pena's character attempts to mimic those of real police officers. While the men will gladly stick to their professions as actors, Pena thinks that he and Gyllenhaal would make a great team in real life.
"[Jake's] got a sixth sense. There's a couple times we went on ride-alongs and he [pointed something out], and then all of a sudden we pull by and there's four dudes leaning back in a Suburban," he revealed. "I think...we could hit the streets together and be good cops."
Pena, who starred alongside Gyllenhaal's sister Maggie in the 2006 film World Trade Center, said that even though he thinks that he and his on-screen partner would make a good real-life team, he found himself frightened at times when shadowing the officers.
"I grew up in the hood...and if there was any trouble, you'd run or walk away slyly...In this one, the police...go towards the trouble, so it's a little hairy," he said. "There [were] a couple times when you got guys with guns, you got people tattooed all over their face...It gets a little scary."
America Ferrera, who also plays a police officer in the film, also admitted to being scared during some of the ride-alongs, but described the experience as ultimately satisfying.
"I had the most incredible experience preparing for this role," she said. "Spending time with police officers, men and women, was one of the most fulfilling research experiences I've ever had."
End of Watch is in theaters this Friday (Sept. 21).