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.