Last night we discussed several talented actors who, having shone in good, meaty roles on great shows, later chose projects that were rather, well, beneath them. That’s my opinion, “Castle” lovers. Deal. Tonight we flip the coin to examine several actors who after languishing in roles that ranged from “meh” to “dear lord shut up,” have finally found their groove, revealing untapped depths and versatility. What a difference a good script makes.
Dax Shepard: After establishing himself as an obnoxious f*ck wit on MTV’s “Punk’d” and having played variations on a theme of douche in several unwatchable films (excepting Idiocracy), Shepard has, for the past few years, been demonstrating remarkable range, gentle humor and undeniable pathos as, well, a f*ck wit on NBC’s “Parenthood.” Crosby Braverman may f*ck up, but when he does it’s in an endearing, puppy dog sort of way.
Donal Logue: Logue first gained noteriety in the 2000 indie hit The Tao of Steve. The movie was sweet and funny and Logue was pretty great in it. But Logue followed that film up with several years on an unremarkable and formulaic sitcom, “Grounded For Life.” That’s how I’ve always thought of him. The schlubby guy from that boring sitcom. Logue has attempted other, better projects such as “The Knights of Prosperity” or “Life,” but it wasn’t until last year’s criminally underappreciated “Terriers” that Logue turned it up to eleven. As Hank Dolworth, a recovering alcoholic and private investigator, Logue brought subtle despair, irresistable charm and laid back wit to every scene. He could break your heart without breaking a sweat. Because we’re not allowed to have nice things, “Terriers” was cancelled, and I pray Logue doesn’t return to mediocrity. He deserves so much more.
Katey Sagal: Don’t get me wrong here, I love Peg Bundy. Hell, I love Sagal as Leela (“Futurama”) too. But as “Sons Of Anarchy“‘s Motorcycle Gang Matriarch, Gemma Teller Morrow, Katey Sagal is in another stratosphere altogether. Her ferocity, vulnerability and potent sexuality came as an absolute surprise to me, though likely not to “Sons Of Anarchy” showrunner Kurt Sutter, Sagal’s husband.
Matt Czuchry: Alright, “Gilmore Girls” enthusiasts, I’m about to offend. I loved the show. Loved Amy Sherman-Palladino’s writing. Adored the female characters. Was not so crazy about the menfolk. Specifically, the love interests for Alexis Bledel’s character Rory. No one rubbed me the wrong way as much as Matt Czurchy as the smart, priviliged, smug, pretty boy, Logan. As smart, priviliged, smug, pretty boy Cary Agos on “The Good Wife,” however, Czurchy is a treat. A smirking, snide delight. Either Matt honed his craft in the years between the two series, or the characterization on “The Good Wife” is, dare I say it, much much better. Either way, Czurchy went from an actor who bored/irritated me to one piqued my interest. And I think he’s only just begun.
Mike O’Malley: Like Czurchy, O’Malley has spent years playing the same type of character. Always blue collar, down-to-earth, good-humored men. The six years he spent on “Yes, Dear” were an absolute master class in mediocrity. And yet, as blue collar, down-to-earth Burt Hummel on “Glee,” O’Malley is a revelation. As much as I despise that show, and I do, the one storyline that keeps drawing me back is that of young Kurt Hummel, played somewhat erratically by the lovely Chris Colfer. But Colfer is at his very best when playing opposite O’Malley as his loving, if provincial father. I never expected Mike O’Fucking’Malley to make me cry.
Vincent Kartheiser: When Kartheiser showed up as Connor on the third season of “Angel,” I rolled my eyes. Hard. It was Dawn all over again, a teenager conveniently shoved into the narrative to bring down the median age of the cast. And Kartheiser was wholly unremarkable. Sniveling and sneering and forever flipping his hair. I honestly wished he would go back to whatever hell dimension he came from. But then, the world would have been deprived of “Mad Men“‘s Pete Campbell and his remarkable b*tchfaces. And while Kartheiser is still playing a little sh*t, he’s a little sh*t I can get behind.
Bryan Cranston: Another bland sitcom dad makes good, Cranston spent six years playing third fiddle to both Frankie Muniz and Jane Kaczmarek. I’m not saying “Malcolm In The Middle” was a bad show, Cranston was nominated for a Best Supporting Emmy Award three times for his portrayal of the offbeat Hal. But in 2008 Cranston exploded onto the scene as Walter White in AMC’s “Breaking Bad.” Ever since then, the Emmy (for Lead Actor this time) has been his to lose and will be appearing in seven films in the next two years alone.