Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Oh, THAT guy again

For all the thousands of actors out of work there seems to be a lucky few who seem to turn up on EVERYTHING. Not that they’re not good or deserving or lovely people, but Jesus, my pharmacist has a great demo reel.

I call it the “Oh THAT guy again” syndrome. Here are just a few recent examples:

Michael Kelly. Very solid. In the last month alone I’ve seen him in MAN OF STEEL, NOW YOU SEE ME, and HOUSE OF CARDS. Anytime the star turns to ask a subordinate a question it’s Kelly. I also remember him from PERSON OF INTEREST, CRIMINAL MINDS, THE SOPRANOS, and LAW & ORDER. It seems like Michael Kelly gets any role where they need a guy in a suit.

But when a bad guy is required Titus Welliver's phone rings. You booed him in LOST, jeered him in THE GOOD WIFE, hissed in WHITE COLLAR, and raised an angry fist in CSI. You’ve also seen him in TOUCH, GRIMM, ARGO, THE TOWN, SUITS, SONS OF ANARCHY, THE CLOSER, and MONK – probably this month.  He was a good guy in PROMISED LAND and it almost took me out of the movie. 

If you want to go more subtle you hire David Costabile . He’s more the cultured soft-spoken weasel, notably on SUITS. But he also was a lab assistant on BREAKING BAD. David has made a lot of one-shot guest appearances, notably on ELEMENTARY, PERSON OF INTEREST, ROYAL PAINS, LIE TO ME, HOUSE, THE GOOD WIFE, FRANKLIN & BASH, and a little film called LINCOLN.

For elegance, charm, and menace there’s Alan Dale. And he has that New Zealand quality that all producers are obviously clamoring after. I first noticed him as evil Charles Widmore in LOST then found him on BODY OF PROOF, ONCE UPON A TIME, HOT IN CLEVELAND, THE KILLING, HOUSE OF LIES, ENTROUAGE, PERSON OF INTEREST, UNDERCOVERS, SEA PATROL, 24, UGLY BETTY, THE O.C., JAG, WEST WING, THE PRACTICE, X-FILES, and ER. No wonder my father can’t get work.

Kim Raver has been on more series than any other actress who isn’t a star. Currently on REVOLUTION, she’s also been on NCIS: LOS ANGELES, GREY’S ANATOMY, LIPSTICK JUNGLE, THE NINE, THIRD WATCH, TRINITY, and of course 24. The only reason she wasn’t in KNOCKED UP and THIS IS 40 is because she’s not married to Judd Apatow.

Sonya Walger has also had a good run. COMMON LAW, LAW & ORDER, RECEPTION, IN TREATMENT, FLASH FORWARD, THE SARAH CONNER CHRONICLES, CSI: NEW YORK, SLEEPER CELL, COUPLING (American version although she has an accent), THE MIND OF THE MARRIED MAN, but she was best known as dear sweet “Penny” in LOST, and the wife who gave her husband a very graphic hand job on TELL ME YOU LOVE ME. (Sonya, that’s the scene I’d use to lead off my demo reel).

Also worth noting: Chi McBride. He seems to be the king of the “short-lived” series. GOLDEN BOY, HAWTHORNE, HUMAN TARGET, PUSHING DAISIES, THE NINE, KILLER INSTINCTS, BOSTON PUBLIC, THE JOHN LARROQUETTE SHOW, and the classic SECRET LIFE OF DESMOND PHEIFFER.

There are others I’m sure you can add. Again, I don’t begrudge any of them, and a few I’d hire myself depending on the role. And every celebrity other than Clint Eastwood and Ryan Seacrest knows that you only enjoy a brief window when you’re hot so take full advantage while you can. Because along with the success comes the danger of overexposure.

Ask Flo from Progressive Insurance.

It’s the old story in Hollywood. First they say: "Who's Titus Welliver?"  Then they say:  “Get me Titus Welliver.” Then: “Get me a Titus Welliver type.” And then finally: “Who’s Titus Welliver?”

57 comments:

Zappa the Unholy said...

Ditto for commercial actors. I've seen that annoying old guy be the head of geico (gawd I hate that company), the father of the bride on an irritating ad with the talking baby, and countless drug ads. Is there anything this simpleton WON'T shill?

Dan from VA said...

Ken: Congratulations on the Emmy nominations.

http://www.theonion.com/articles/netflix-receives-10-emmy-nominations-for-season-4,33163/

Anonymous said...

Don't forget Martin Donovan - god, he's good.

Eric said...

My favorite "Hey it's that guy" of all time was Vincent Schiavelli. I made sure to figure out who he was and memorize his name, not the easiest task in pre-Internet days.

Dana King said...

I can't believe you forgot Titus Welliver was on DEADWOOD.

Scott Cooley said...

David Costabile was the newspaper editor on the last season on THE WIRE too. Every time he said the name "Scott" it made my skin crawl. Good actor.

DonBoy said...

I first noticed Costabile as a very bad guy on DAMAGES.

Hamid said...

I love character actors, and this subject is rather poignant in the wake of the tragic death of the wonderful Dennis Farina. What a great actor. He was one of those guys that as soon as I saw him in a movie, my eyes lit up and it didn't matter what character he was playing, just his being in the movie was fun. Midnight Run, Get Shorty, Snatch, Saving Private Ryan, Out of Sight, Big Trouble - he was a joy in all of them. RIP.

Wayne Laundry said...

Where do all the actors from the Investigation Discovery recreations come from? It seems I never see the same actor twice, almost like they really do kill the people for the show.

Mike Doran said...

The process you referred to at the close of your essay has five steps:

(1) Who the hell is Titus Welliver?

(2) Get me Titus Welliver.

(3) Get me a Titus Welliver type.

(4) Get me a young Titus Welliver.

(5) Who the hell is Titus Welliver?

Hoping this helps ...

Gary said...

Check out That Guy That was in That Movie. It's running on Netflix and is a documentary about the working actor.

Steve said...

Here's a related question: I've noticed in the past few years that many Americans in TV and film are played by English or Australian actors. I don't object to this, but I'm curious. It seems like this is so frequent these days that there must be a reason... better actors, better people, work cheaper... something. Any insights about this?

Eduardo Jencarelli said...

"Chi McBride. He seems to be the king of the “short-lived” series."

Uh, Ken? Boston Public lasted 4 seasons. Not what I'd call short lived.

Roseann said...

Wasn't that "Who's Titus Welliver?" first said by a New York agent about Eugene Troobnick? I heard it when Troobnick said it......around 1975-ish.

And, Steve, I've heard that UK and Australian don't get residuals......but I've never had it confirmed.

Earl Wearever said...

2 of my faves, who were around forever: Phil Leeds and Henry Jones.

Diogo said...

for a while there John Aylward seemed to be on everything. I think I saw him 3 times on different shows during the same week once.

Toby O'B said...

I heard the "Who's ____?" routine first in connection to Hugh O'Brian.

I'm always intrigued when a character actor's hot streak ends. It's like they finally saturated the market and had nowhere else to go. I thought James Greene fell into this category for awhile after a spate of high-profile roles in the early 90s. But it looks like he's got his second wind, especially with a recurring role on 'Parks & Recreation'. (Actually, looking at his IMDb resume, he looks to have worked steadily, just not in the stuff I was watching....)

Wendy M. Grossman said...

THE JOHN LARROQUETTE SHOW wasn't *that* short-lived - it made it 3 1/2 seasons, though it was only really good for 1 1/2.

Something you may not know about Alan Dale: his early work was in the Australian soap NEIGHBOURS, which in the 1980s came on right after the BBC lunchtime news (which is the only reason I saw any of it). The period he was on that show was also the period in which it made Kylie Minogue a star in Britain.

wg

i could be a bob said...

To correct the poster upthread, the movie is called "That Guy... Who Was In That Thing"

link: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt2402200/

marshall phillips said...

Hey Ken....from KLOS.....Marshall Phillips here....Im still working in radio...drop me a line...marshallphillips@clearchannel.com

Igor said...

Ken, you mentioned the Brit show, Coupling. I liked it (but hated, hated, hated the titles). As an American, I found nothing (much) in it - not the vocabulary, and only 1 or 2 cultural allusions - that was indecipherable/too local-British.

Question: Why did that show have to be remade for America?

Wait, wait, wait - Before you make some quip, let me set that up from a slightly different perspective:

Why can't there be a comedy produced in the UK for both the UK and US markets?

And so for example, 2 best buddies at grad school (MBAs) - a guy and a girl - have just graduated and moved to London to start their new jobs. And they've gotten a flat together in London. Episode 1, they wander into a pub and become 2 of the 6 characters in a sitcom that is (so to speak) "Coupling 2.0". (Or "Friends, UK")

Is it simply that no one has ever written such a show/pilot (well), or is there something else at play?

E.R. Vemt said...

Igor, I can't think of any comedies, but it once was common for crime/adventure shows to be produced for both the US and UK market. A company called ITC specialized in this, with such series as "The Persuaders,""The Protectors," "Man in a Suitcase," "Strange Report," etc. They also extended the formula to science fiction a few times--"The Champions," "UFO," "Space 1999." The shows were all filmed in England, and most of the cast was British, but there was always at least one American in a lead role (e.g., Tony Curtis, Robert Vaughn, Gene Barry, Martin Landau). This worked for awhile, but for whatever reason the habit was lost.

tb said...

Mickey Jones is working on a book about his acting career, to be called "I'm That Guy"

Anonymous said...

A favorite of mine was Burt Mustin. He was in everything.

Pam aka sisiterzip

Hamid said...

One of my favourites is Paul Gleason, who sadly passed away at only 67. Few actors can crack an audience up just by a beautifully delivered swear word. Watch the way he tells a woman who's waiting to use a payphone to f*** off in Trading Places. Priceless. He was also the anal by-the-book police chief in Die Hard and the "don't mess with the bull" Principal in The Breakfast Club.

Buck French said...

James Rebhorn is the go-to version of this type for me.

ambi guous said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Paul said...

Igor, "Episodes" is produced to run both in the US and UK. But I can't think of another comedy.

Loosehead said...

And after Neighbours, Alan Dale was in NCIS for two seasons, as the Director. Just recently come back to it too. Fine actor.

Paul Gottlieb said...

"Ask Flo from Progressive Insurance." I'm sure that this actress didn't start out with the ambition of being the face of Progressive Insurance, but on the other hand, she has already mad a good deal more money than the average lifetime earnings of most aspiring actors.

RCP said...

I still get a kick spotting Ellen Corby (best known for playing Grandma on The Waltons), whose career began with uncredited parts in Laurel & Hardy shorts during the early '30s and continued into the '90s. She'd pop up in everything from 'Vertigo' to 'I Love Lucy' to 'Hush, Hush Sweet Charlotte' to 'Dragnet' playing maids, aunts, secretaries and town gossips and worked steadily for more than 50 years. There's something to be said for that type of career, compared to an actor's meteoric rise to fame that fizzles after maybe 5 years.

I hope the actress who's playing Flo is investing wisely - it'll be a trick to avoid being associated with that character - but she may be able to pull it off.

Phil In Phoenix said...

Brian Doyle-Murray is THAT guy in EVERYTHING.

Hank Gillette said...

I've seen Jim Beaver is a lot of stuff, once I figured out who he was. I saw him recently in an old episode of Lois and Clark, and he looked so young I initially identified him by his voice.

D. McEwan said...

Re: Alan Dale: Leave us not forget his killing Owen, a series regular, on Torchwood. As you know, on most shows, series regulars are immortal. (On Torchwood, the primary lead is literally immortal.) It takes an extra-special bad guy to kill a series regular.

Although no longer appearing as much (He's 78 now), for a ubiquitous villain, Julian Glover has a record only Sir Christopher Lee can come close to beating. He played villains menacing Luke Skywalker, Indiana Jones, Harry Potter (He was the voice of Aragog), Professor Quatermass, Doctor Who (Twice), John Steed & Mrs. Emma Peel (Thrice, with a fourth Avengers opposite Steed and Tara King)), and James Bond. He was in Troy and Game of Thrones. One of the (MANY) disappointments in Woody Allen's mediocre Scoop, was that Julian Glover, cast as Hugh Jackman's father, only had one line and was in about 30 seconds of the movie. What a waste. (That movie also squandered Richard Johnson and the late, great Margaret Tyzack.) Glover has even played the occasional good man, having played Paul Dombey (Who is stern and unloving but is redeemed at the end of Dickens's book), composer Joseph Haydn, painter Claude Monet, and a couple times at bat as King Richard the Liohearted. He was recently honored with a CBE, just like James Bond and Barry Humphries.

Mitchy said...

Mark Shepherd was that guy for years. Off the top of my head, I've seen him in the X-Files, Battlestar Galatica (reboot), White Collar, Burn Notice, Leverage (where he was excellent), and Dr Who, and I know I'm missing a dozen others.

DBenson said...

Then there's the big fish / small fish deal. That's where actors who are big fish at Oregon Shakespeare Festival and other major theater companies crop up in minor (but sometimes showy) roles in TV and movies. I suspect it's because they can be trusted to whip through big scenes quickly.

I recall an impressive actress from OSF turning up on "Frasier" as a waitress in the coffee house. Her part consisted mainly of wordlessly dealing with Frasier's and Nile's constantly changing orders while registering increasing annoyance. Since this was a running gag through a brisk dialogue between the brothers, I'm guessing she was hired largely for a surgically precise sense of timing.

Also a fellow named Christopher Rich, who tended to play broad comic types on TV but concurrently did impressive turns in heavyweight dramas at places like San Jose Rep.

Greg Ehrbar said...

"The Avengers" seasons starting with Diana Rigg were the first put on film and had a bigger budget because they knew the shows would play in America.

The show deliberately played up the eccentricities of British characters and the quaintness of the locales to create what they thought Americans would expect in England rather than how it really was generally in the late '60s.

19 said...

Fred Stoller and Stephen Tobolowsky (sp? My apologies) also have books about being "Hey, it's that guy..."

Jim, Cheers Fan said...

Huh, I posted as "19" while trying to get the captcha code.

Margo Martindale, after I saw her in Paris Je t'aime and then Justified around the same time, was a "hey, there she is!" for me. As Buffalo Mary in Lonesome Dove and Paul Newman's bartender pal in Nobody's Fool, among others.

Rob said...

The late Dick O'Neill used to be in everything (including 3 different MASH eps and a Cheers). Died too young at 70.

Sam Anderson is always great (he even got a laugh on Work It), as are Edie McClurg and Beth Grant.

unkystan said...

I always smile when Charles Lane pops up (like every other movie or TV show since the 1930's) and lived to 102! God bless him!

Anonymous said...

I read an article recently (sorry, can't remember the source!) that ascribed the proliferation of foreign actors to two reasons; they are cheaper, and they are more masculine. The monetary reasons are easy enough to believe, but after running down a list of my favorite male stars I think the masculinity theory was just as believable!

XJill said...

Chi McBride is a treasure.

Hamid said...

Noble Willingham was another That Guy Again. Great comedic actor.

And JT Walsh was terrific. Sadly died at only 54.

Anonymous said...

Ken, Chi's show was "Killer Instinct", not "Killer Instincts"

Michael said...

"I've noticed in the past few years that many Americans in TV and film are played by English or Australian actors."

I've thought about this too. One theory is that Americans, especially Southern Californians, are too likely to come off as flakes, fundamentally unserious, where the Brits can still do gravitas.

Law and Order, similarly, gained immensely from drawing so much on NY theater rather than Lala-land.

Gordon Kent said...

My current favorite is Corbin Bernsen. He's been the dad on Pysch for several years and now he also the dad on The Glades!!!

RW said...

Gotta say, a very graphic hand job isn't the only thing Sonya Walger has done on film, if ya know whut I mean. Rowwrrr.

Jd Spaulding said...

How about Edie McClurg?

cadavra said...

Actually, there are seven steps, as espoused by the incomparable Jack Elam on the Plimpton/RIO LOBO special:

1) Who's Jack Elam?
2) Get me Jack Elam.
3) Can we get Jack Elam?
4) Get me a Jack Elam type.
5) Get me a young Jack Elam.
6) Whatever happened to Jack Elam?
7) Who's Jack Elam?

cadavra said...

This just in: Titus Welliver has been signed for a role in TRANSFORMERS 4.

And no, this is not a joke.

Nat Gerter (sitcom room veteran) said...

As long as we're correcting Ken on the title of Chi's work, it was The Secret DIARY of Desmond Pfeiffer.

Anonymous said...

Stanley Tucci -- ? Since 1985...

Liggie said...

My last office job was in insurance, and in a marketing discussion Flo came up. Apparently the actress was found in the many weekend improv shows around L.A., and continues to do so. Turns out, she's got an impressively varied list of guest star credits. http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0183960/

If nothing else, she's joined the list of commercial characters just as famous as their products: Mr. Whipple, Madge, the Tony the Tiger voice, the Union 76 service station manager, the various Geico characters, etc. nothing wrong with that, career wise.

Anonymous said...

Ken, you forgot THE "Oh, THAT guy" himself: Currie Graham!

Andrew said...

For the movies, I call this the "Donald Meek Society." Think M. Emmet Walsh, Barry Corbin, Alice Drummond....

Anonymous said...

I adore Philip Baker Hall. He would seem to fit the bill here as well.