Estrada Craves 'CHiPs' Cameo

Most Golden State drivers go out of their way to avoid the California Highway Patrol, but Erik Estrada can't seem to stay away.

Estrada, who experiences the reality of law enforcement in his new unscripted CBS series "Armed & Famous," told reporters on Thursday (Jan. 4) that he's looking forward to the upcoming feature film version of his seminal series "CHiPs."

"I tell you what -- I think that Wilmer Valderrama's gonna do a fine job," Estrada says. "I think he'll do a fine job as Ponch. And the script, I've read the script and I'm not in the script, but as far as I'm concerned, it's a win-win for me. I am the original and I'm happy that they're sticking close to what the series was, action-adventure-comedy with respect to law enforcement on the job."

"CHiPs" ran on NBC from 1977 through 1983 and featured Estrada as California Highway Patrol Officer Francis Llewellyn "Ponch" Poncherello. For reasons best known to the Hollywood Foreign Press, Estrada was even nominated for a best actor Golden Globe for the series in 1980.

Valderrama has been attached to the "CHiPs" feature for over a year, though the feature still lacks a director or co-star. Although he hasn't been asked yet to do a cameo, Estrada sounds like he knows what he'd want to do.

"If they ask me, I hope they make me an offer I can't refuse, for one thing," he begins. "And then I hope it's not just me with the thumbs-up and my teeth shining. I've talked to them, because they've contacted me, and I've said to them. 'You know, it would really be fitting if you had one quick scene, a 90-second scene, where I'm chewing out Ponch Jr. because he's not sticking to the grind, he's chasing the girls, he's playing with the toys -- he should be out sticking to the grind.' It's sort of like Ponch Sr. handing over the baton to Ponch Jr. "

Estrada says that his real estate dealings have taken priority over acting in recent years (though he's made frequent cameos and appeared on a season of "Surreal Life") and he'd be entirely comfortable never to make a regular return to show business.

"Because I put myself in a financial position that I can walk away from something if I don't like it," he says. "I don't have to do it for the money."

Estrada puts "Armed & Famous" in the category of passion projects. In the series, which premieres on CBS on Wednesday, Jan. 10, Estrada and a slew of other similarly statured celebrities (including LaToya Jackson and Jack Osbourne) train to become actual reserve officers in the Muncie, Indiana police department.

"We're not here for the money," Estrada says. "This is something that we're doing here because of passion and that's the way I want to live the rest of my days, what passionates me."

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