Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Shawnee Smith

Not to be a name dropper but as we approach Halloween I can honestly say I’m friends with “the Queen of Scream”, “the Goddess of Gore”, “The Whore of Horror?”(no, that doesn’t sound right). Anyway, it’s Shawnee Smith, star of SAW, SAW II, SAW III, SAW IV, SAW V, and because there are still so many unanswered questions: SAW VI.

She is an absolute sweetheart.

I actually go way back with Shawnee. One of her step-parents lived in the same condo complex as my folks in the 70s. I first worked with her in the mid 80s when she was a regular on the sitcom ALL IS FORGIVEN and I did punch-up work.

Quick aside: ALL IS FORGIVEN is a forgotten gem. Created by the Charles Brothers and Howard Gewirtz and Ian Praiser, it was about life on a soap opera and despite great reviews, NBC cancelled it. They were number one then and although ALL IS FORGIVEN was in the Top 30, it wasn’t high enough in the Top 30 for them. More people probably watched one episode than the number of weekly viewers for Jay Leno. I don’t know if ALL IS FORGIVEN is available on DVD or YouTube or the black market, but it’s worth checking out. Meanwhile…

Shawnee went on to do a bunch of movies and plays – I tried to live off the laurels of doing punch-up on ALL IS FORGIVEN -- and we reconnected when Dave Hackel cast her as the ditzy receptionist in BECKER.

I got to direct quite a few BECKERS and discovered her to be a brilliant comedienne.. Everyone thinks it’s easy playing dumb. It’s not. To make a character dumb but real is exceedingly hard. The irony is you have to be incredibly smart to play dumb. You need expert timing, you need to really commit to the character, and you have to make us believe that the stupid things you say are not stupid to you. For my money, the two comediennes who played dumb to perfection were Judy Holliday and Gracie Allen. Both had IQ’s off the charts.

And now Shawnee's delighting audiences wriggling out of reverse bear traps, knifing people, and sorting through entrails. As Amanda, she’s kind of the Kate Hepburn to Tobin Bell’s Jigsaw.

I couldn’t be more thrilled for her success and once everyone in the world is gruesomely tortured and killed I hope she’s return to comedy.

Here’s a montage of her work on BECKER. For SAW clips you’re on your own.

36 comments:

YEKIMI said...

Oh hell, I didn't know she was in Saw 1 through 73! Now I'm going to have to go rent the ones I didn't see in the theater. She was one of the main reasons I watched Becker and I think I first remember seeing her in that horrid remake of The Blob. She is smokin' hot!

Baylink said...

You did hear that Saw VI took first place in the 2009 Saw Awards, right?

She is cute. I can't quite decide if she's playing dumb, or dumb like a fox, in some of the Becker clips...

Suran: the Vulcan holy book

wackiland said...

Worked on a miniseries with her a gazillion years ago. So talented, and beyond nice!

Harold X said...

I saw her on Politically Correct, and was happily surprised to see that she seemed to be a lot smarter than her character on Becker.

C'mon, Ken, you can spill the beans: Shawnee?

Michael said...

I never watched "Becker". The only thing I think I ever saw Smith in was the miniseries "The Stand" and I remember being intrigued by her name.

During "Becker" she was in a band called "Fydolla Ho" which is quite possibly the most awesomest band name ever.

Word verification: "pooters". Swear to God.

gottacook said...

ALL IS FORGIVEN starred one of the great shiksas (and I say this intending to be complimentary), Bess Armstrong, who previously was Len Cariou's girlfriend in Alan Alda's The Four Seasons and later played the rather stern mom in MY SO-CALLED LIFE. My brother was also an ALL IS FORGIVEN fan and taped the whole series when it aired.

D. McEwan said...

I too know her primarily for THE STAND, in which she is vicious, and is very much the character King wrote in the book, though it's a minor character. I've seen her in BECKER, and thought her character was not so much dumb as other-directed, with interests of her own that seem from Mars to anyone else, but which make sense to her.

But even invoking the name of Gracie Allan, a goddess at whose alter I worship, will not get me to sit through any of the SAW movies. However, I've seen enough of Ms Smith to know she is a talented woman, who can be funny when required, or make your skin crawl when required.

Dear, dear Gracie, take far too young. She made dumb sublime.

Patrick said...

Never saw Becker when it aired in the prime time hours. But became a fan of the a.m. run. And this actress (with her very smart "dumb chick") plays so well in the a.m. --- so talented. Also, and most importantly, it is obvious from watching her work that she is really grounded as a person. There needs to be like a thousand more of her working in Hollywood. As someone else said earlier, she is smoking hot. Thanks for connecting the dots.

sephim said...

I can't believe you didn't mention her role as John Candy's 'sidekick' in WHO'S HARRY CRUMB? An otherwise brilliant and underrated movie.

Paloma said...

oh i love her
she was SO funny on Becker

chalmers said...

I enjoyed "All is Forgiven," and while it wasn't perfect, I think it could have succeeded with some changes and network patience. Bess Armstrong seemed to be on the verge of big things (she was also Tom Hanks' girlfriend in "Nothing in Common"), then went away until coming back in Mom roles like "My So-Called Life."

I'm also biased toward shows with "Taxi" bloodlines, which also showed onscreen through Carol Kane and the older guy who memorably played Elaine's boss in a pickup episode.

Shawnee Smith always does a good job (though for awhile I confused her with Tammy Lauren). Never saw the "Saws," but I have seen "Summer School" more times than I care to admit, where she plays Mark Harmon's pregnant student.

Anonymous said...

Just watched her a few days ago in THE LOW LIFE. Cute then, cuter now.

Mike

Vermonter17032 said...

I always liked Shawnee in Becker. She was FUNNY and sexy. I'm not a horror film fan, but perhaps I'll have to rent a Saw or II.

Anonymous said...

have to admit...I like the Saw movies. Both Tobin and Shawnee are great. Departures from what I was familiar with from them. Glad to hear she's a sweetheart too...too few of them in Hollywood!

cedlys: the lesser-known brother of the dog Mugsley on the Animaniacs.

bettyd said...

Also good a playing dumb - the actors who played Coach and Woody on "Cheers"; Kenneth on "30 Rock"; and it is still funny to see dumb Chrissie on "3's Company". Ok, maybe not that last one. But like Shawnee, Suzanne Somers is no dummy. She made an empire out of the thigh-master, and an entire line of a lot of stuff on Home Shopping. She can't be as wacky as she comes across to manage that much business success.

Raji Barbir said...

Great show. Forgot how funny she was in it

Jeffrey Leonard said...

Hi Ken...
I always thought Shawnee was one of the unsung heroes on the cast of "Becker". Superb acting. I'm glad she is getting work, even if she is killing people to do it!

Word verification: scorsesm
Something that Martin Scorsee says to get his point across.

benson said...

Suzanne Somers is no dummy. She made an empire out of the thigh-master, and an entire line of a lot of stuff on Home Shopping. She can't be as wacky as she comes across to manage that much business success.

She only got into trouble when she went into medicine.

Matt said...

She caught my eye the first time I saw "Iron Eagle."

Kirk Jusko said...

I remember ALL IS FORGIVEN. Shawnee played the teenage daughter, and was the funniest one on that show.

Dan Leo said...

Any actress who can make a career with the name Shawnee deserves all the credit she can get. Damn, Becker was a good show (till they fired Reggie!).

Anonymous said...

I always wondered were "The Ditz with T s" got the money for the fancy wardrobe she always
wore to work. But she was always a great part of the show.

Anonymous said...

Why'd she keep changing her hair color????

Anonymous said...

In the same vein -- Jean Kasem playing Loretta Tortelli on Cheers. Not in Gracie Allen's league, but I still laugh just thinking about her.

Mary Stella said...

Ken, I might be too late for Friday questions, but I'm watching the World Series and a q came to mind.

Why do so many baseball announcers use this kind of sentence structure:

He had a home run off Burnett back in April, did Ruiz.

He's a former big league manager, is Pete MacKanin.

It's used so often by so many different announcers. Did someone wake up one day and decide to simultaneously channel Harry Caray and Yoda with disastrous results?

Steven said...

Mary, I think this is just a common habit with some announcers and is not uniform across the board. I hate it when football commentators repeatedly use the word "football" during a game.

"He's a great football players"

"Gonzalez has got to catch that football, Al"

Most sports commentators just shorten it to "ballplayer", or "player", but football commentators repeatedly use the word "football". Ya know, in case the viewer happens to think they're watching curing.

sephim said...

Steven, I'm sure it's for people who have just tuned it halfway through a game only to ask "what the fuck is that round thing?"

Toby O'B said...

One of my odd little TV habits is collecting quotes that amuse me, but I also seem to have quite a few dealing with the concept of reality. I still have one from 'All Is Forgiven': "You mean, this is not a nicotine fit? You mean, this is my normal state of consciousness?" [Nicolette Bingham]

Jerad said...

I'm glad you pointed out that to play dumb you have to be even more smart, it's that way with a lot of things. I don't know how many times I've warned a director that I'm a mediocre dancer and been told that we'll just make me a comically bad dancer. Of course to do that I'd have to be a great dancer.

jbryant said...

chalmers: Maybe you confuse Shawnee Smith with Tammy Lauren because they were the leads in the TV remake of I SAW WHAT YOU DID.

I've been a Smith fan since the 1985 TV movie EASY PREY, in which she is kidnapped by a serial killer played by Gerald McRaney. I even liked that BLOB remake.

VW: quiptic - nervous habit common to comedians

get info here said...

I like the way she act. I really like her. She's awesome.

denise said...

@Baylink

Yeah, she's pretty on that film. I really love to watch her on TV.

dves said...

I wish to see her in personal. Wanna meet he.

jbryant said...

Yes, she sure am grate on the TV. I have the love for her you bet.

Matt Patton said...

What a delightful actress she is and probably always will be--I loved her as the snotty stepdaughter on ALL IS FORGIVEN (I just loved ALL IF FORGIVEN), and she was a howl on BECKER--and if she's good in those torture-porn movies, good for her . . .

Great Big Radio Guy said...

Of course the best shot is at the bottom of the screen 8:49 in. Ken's too modest to agree, bless 'im.

Okay...the rest is pretty hilarious too.