June 19, 2013
Name: Dennis Boutsikaris.
Specialty: Edgy, hyperverbal intellectuals, either kindly (like the SAT policeman-turned-academic-mentor he plays on Shameless) or sarcastic (like the arrogant surgeon he recurred as on John Wells’s earlier ER).
Impersonations: He played Woody Allen, opposite Patsy Kensit’s Mia Farrow, in a low-rent 1996 TV movie, and comb-wielding Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz in Oliver Stone’s W.
Enduring Claim to Fame: As the de facto leading man, in the hilarious, maligned, Green Acres-obsessed sitcom The Jackie Thomas Show. The straight man of the show, Boutsikaris played the fledgling writer whose horrified reactions were often funnier than the punchlines delivered by putative star Tom Arnold, riffing on his own rep as a narcissistic TV star. Boutsikaris and his female lead, the equally underappreciated Alison LaPlaca, were carryovers from an earlier sitcom, Stat.
Where Else You’ve Seen Him: In recurring roles on 100 Center Street, Law & Order, Six Degrees, and many others, and on the New York stage (replacing John Pankow as Mozart in Amadeus, and more recently in the revival of Brighton Beach Memoirs).
Second Career: A prolific narrator of audio books, Boutsikaris is the winner of seven Golden Earphone Awards. I do so hope those are in fact shaped like earphones, and made out of gold.
December 28, 2012
Name: Reg E. Cathey.
Trademark: Wry, sardonic delivery. Although he bears a slight resemblance to Morgan Freeman (recently he reprised Freeman’s role in a stage version of The Shawshank Redemption), Cathey’s rich voice steers him away from Freemanesque authority figure characters and toward skeptical outsider/observer types.
Most Famous For: Supporting roles in The Corner, Oz, and especially The Wire, in which Cathey played seen-it-all political operative Norman Wilson, who counsels the underdog white mayoral candidate Tommy Carcetti (Aidan Gillen).
Recent Work: Funny as a talk show host on 30 Rock, scary as a crooked cop on Person of Interest, and having the time of his life as a Don King-styled boxing promoter in Lights Out (“Ah, the the-a-tuh,” he intones while watching a dirty fight).
Banal, TV-related EPK trivia: Cathey grew up watching Bonanza dubbed in German (check out his German Hoss impersonation).
Banal, TV-related IMDb trivia: Cathey’s early, late-80s bit parts include the final feature films by two major directors of the live-TV generation, George Roy Hill (Funny Farm, 1988) and Arthur Penn (Penn & Teller Get Killed, 1989).
September 19, 2012
Name: Glenn Morshower.
Persona: A solidly-built Texan whose slight but slow drawl has typed him in military and rural cop roles. Morshower: “The only people who have done more military roles than me — what they all have in common? They are dead.”
Overlap: For a four-month period in 2001, Morshower was recurring on C.S.I. (as a sheriff), The West Wing (as a presidential adviser), and 24 (as a secret service agent). A self-proclaimed “dialectician,” Morshower affected a slightly different accent for each show.
Career-Defining Role: Along with the equally sublime Mary-Lynn Rajskub (Chloe, the goofy IT whiz) and Jude Ciccolella (the nefarious, Dick Cheney-ish Beltway dealmaker), Morshower was one of the long-term 24 background players who brought some humanity to a show that dispatched its heroes and villains with a cold-blooded consistency.
Payoff: Morshower enjoyed a beautiful climactic arc on 24 – a forbidden and mostly unspoken attraction to a fragile first lady (Jean Smart) – which was perfect material for his understated style.
Also Recurring On: JAG, Friday Night Lights, the new Dallas, and the Transformers movies.
Goes Back As Far As: The Dukes of Hazzard, in 1980. Somebody else can dig up those clips.
He’s Also a Motivational Speaker: … but let’s not hold that against him.
August 21, 2012
Name: Amy Aquino.
Background: A graduate of Harvard (where she studied biology) and Yale Drama, she is currently an officer in the Screen Actors Guild and a former owner of the historic Villa Royale inn in Palm Springs.
Best Known For: Her cross-ethnic casting as the mother in a Jewish-American family in Brooklyn Bridge, Gary David Goldberg’s fifties-set Wonder Years knockoff.
Usually plays: Authority figures who are (as she said of herself in a 1992 profile) “lobster-tough on the outside, mushy on the inside.”
Recurring on: Too many series to count, including Freaks & Geeks, Everybody Loves Raymond, Crossing Jordan (as a cop), Judging Amy (as a judge), Picket Fences (as a doctor), Felicity (another doctor), Harry’s Law (another judge), and Brothers & Sisters (doctor again). And she would have been the warden on Prison Break‘s distaff backdoor spinoff, had it gone to series.
A Long Run: Starting with the famous, Emmy-winning first-season episode “Love’s Labor Lost,” she was a recurring cast member throughout ER‘s entire run as brusque obstetrician Dr. Janet Coburn. Like most of the doctors from “upstairs,” Coburn was usually a background figure … so it was a welcome surprise when Aquino enjoyed some meaty (and moving) scenes during the penultimate season, in which Dr. Coburn proved to be the perfect dispenser of tough love as Abby’s (Maura Tierney) AA sponsor during a gruesome fall off the wagon.
May 12, 2012
Name: Bruce Altman.
Known For: Supporting roles in many major films of the nineties (Regarding Henry, Glengarry Glen Ross, Quiz Show) and recurring or regular parts on Nothing Sacred, Help Me Help You, and Damages.
Typecasting: “I play guys with ties,” Altman says. Meaning: lots of doctors, lawyers, and businessmen.
The Ethnic Factor: Like the more flamboyant Saul Rubinek, Altman’s cadenced speech has led to many explicitly Jewish roles, often of the menschy variety.
His Home Turf: A Yale Drama School grad who still lives in New Haven, Altman skews toward projects shot in New York, including the inevitable recurring role on Law and Order as one of an endless rotation of upper-crust sleazebag lawyers.
Where’d He Go?: Altman was initially listed in the cast of The American, the lean, European-lensed George Clooney hit-man movie that is one of my favorite recent English-language films … but apparently Altman was cut out of, or replaced in, the film.
Last Seen: As the mayor of New York City in Blue Bloods, desperately trying to punch up a stock character in a bland cop show.
Dream Role: In an interview with the New Haven Independent, Altman says he’d like to play Willy Loman in Arthur Miller’s Death of a Salesman. Consider my ticket bought.
March 19, 2012
Name: Robert Clendenin.
Career-Defining Line, From Cougar Town (Above): “I’d give you a shoulder to cry on, if I had one.”
Trademarks: Apart from the shoulders (or lack thereof), a bald pate and adenoidal voice that has led to typecasting in the slow-witted or deviant veins. Cougar Town also makes fun of his chin (or lack thereof).
Known As: A pervy morgue attendant on The Closer, a pervy doctor and a pervy neighbor on Bill Lawrence’s Scrubs and Cougar Town, respectively, and (per his official bio) various characters named “Slow Roger, Mr. Giggles, Plumber Dave, Louis the Stalker, Doofus, and most recently Bob the Demon.” Plus bit parts in L.A. Confidential, Dude, Where’s My Car? and the most recent Star Trek movie.
His Niche: Not yet a candidate for the meaty parts that typically define a “character actor,” Clendenin is one of the instantly recognizable small-part actors who brighten the corners of our movies and TV shows. He’s the twenty-first century Norman Leavitt.
On the Web: Clendenin has a website, a Facebook page, and a Tumblr (whatever the hell that is). Wouldn’t it be cool if all the Norman Leavitts of the last hundred years could’ve had all those?
Norman Leavitt (via Aveleyman.com)
January 30, 2012
Name: Peter Gerety.
The Rundown: A stage actor since the sixties, Gerety became prominent in movies and on television only in middle age. Now he’s one of the best specialists around playing flawed or flamboyant authority figures; if John Heard isn’t available, Gerety is your man.
The Catalyst: On The Wire, he was the egomaniacal judge who in the pilot gave iconoclast cop Jimmy McNulty (Dominic West) a mandate to investigate the Baltimore drug trade, thus setting the whole series in motion. In a crowning scene for Gerety, Judge Phelan flip-flops and runs for political cover, leaving Jimmy hanging in the wind.
A New Lease: His movie career goes back to the early eighties, with bit parts in Woody Allen and Spike Lee movies and a regular role on Homicide: Life on the Street; but after The Wire, like many of his castmates, Gerety has been happily ubiquitous.
A Busy Man: Since The Wire ended in 2007, Gerety has had recurring roles on Brotherhood, Brothers & Sisters, Blue Bloods, The Good Wife, Rubicon, Prime Suspect, and . . . .
Mediocre Show Worth Watching Just For Him: Mercy. This distaff ER wannabe cast Gerety as the rowdy, hard-drinking father of the main nurse (Taylor Schilling); when he’s diagnosed with early Alzheimer’s, Gerety dodges the cliches and plays the character’s fear (and his foggy moments) with sublime tenderness.
Mediocre Show Not Quite Worth Watching Just For Him: Life on Mars. Gerety’s FBI agent turns out to be the guardian of all the show’s secrets. Think Leo McKern turning up in the last episode of The Prisoner, except everything is very literal and really lame.