How My Boyfriend Made Me Appreciate Steven Seagal

“That’s a shame … because those bullets could’ve saved you a lot of pain.”

This is one of many gems delivered by Steven Seagal in the movie “Out for Justice.” The film opened in 1991, and starred Seagal as Gino, a no-nonsense cop. The character must have hit close to home for the ‘90s action star, since in the first episode of his new A&E series, “Steven Seagal: Lawman,” he confesses to moonlighting as a man of the law in real life, too. “I make a living in the movies,” he said. “But for the last 20 years, I’ve also been a cop.”

Last night, I decided to watch this show. It sparked a serious flashback to me watching “Out for Justice” as an 18-year-old freshman in college. The film was the first of many I would see starring the pony-tailed one with my boyfriend, Brian, in the early stages of our relationship.

“You’re into what?“ I asked, referring to Brian‘s admission that he was a Seagal fanatic. It was 2006, and I was familiar with the overweight punch-line portrayed in recent MADtv skits—not the megastar from his heyday. But Brian, 20, was undeterred by my reaction. He grew up watching Seagal take on the roles of aptly named protagonists like Mason Storm, and became an ardent martial arts enthusiast in the process. He’d recite dialogue and imitate the moves from fight scenes when prompted to by friends. Brian vowed to make me a fan.

While Jason Statham and Matt Damon played cool action heroes of the new millennium, we watched Seagal take on bad guys instead, playing every role imaginable, from an environmental agent to a Navy SEAL-turned-cook. Or, more accurately, playing the same wooden character with varying professional titles. A lot of his films featured high profile or soon-to-be big-name actors, too. It was funny to see him play uncle to a young Katherine Heigl in “Under Siege 2” or battle an immoral Michael Caine in “On Deadly Ground.”

During the next three years, I saw many Seagal films, spanning early career releases like “Above the Law” to later, straight-to-video titles like “Urban Justice.” The list included box office hits like the first “Under Siege” and “Exit Wounds,” to the curious-sounding “Fire Down Below.” Everything, including the good (films untainted with lame special effects), the bad (did they just dub his voice?) and the ugly (an aging Seagal doing action shots in slow motion). I sat through hours of hackneyed conversations and watched my friend Casey endure a year of Brian following her moniker with “Ryback” because it was a movie character name. Progressively, I was becoming schooled in everything Seagal.

Now, after an absence from mainstream view, Seagal is back with “Lawman”: a window into his work as a deputy in Jefferson Parish, Louisiana. Some people have referred to the show as Seagal’s comeback, but his fans know better. Whether or not I want to admit it, I know better, too. Having dated Brian for three years, I know that a steady stream of films, two albums, an energy drink line and other projects have kept the Aikido master plenty busy.

Before the show’s debut, I saw a teaser for “Lawman” online. I watched Seagal turn to his fellow officer in the police cruiser, while in pursuit of suspects, and shout, “Let’s catch these mother f**kers, Johnny!” Like the way Megan Fox plays the part of an over-sexed siren on and off screen, Steven Seagal varies very little from the tough good guy he made a career out of playing on film. Seagal, the ’90s box-office draw and Seagal, the real-life deputy appear to be rolled into one paunchy package.

A&E announced the show had a record-breaking debut for the network, so I’m not the only one who’s at least a little bit interested. I may not be the super-fan Brian predicted I’d turn into, but when I happen across “Lawman” I tune in. I know Brian would be proud.