Are you a Robert John Burke fan? What about Delaney Williams? Or Timothy V. Murphy? Or Reg E Cathey? Or Jayne Atkinson? Or Boris McGiver?
Never heard of them.
Yeah, you did. You just don’t know it. Every good TV show from The Wire to Sons of Anarchy to Law and Order SVU to House of Cards has been made good not just by good lead actors, but by the character actors
around them. We call them character actors, and it’s a slightly misleading title because it hints that they’re sort of limited to playing a similar type of character all the time, which isn’t true, although it feels that way.
Robert John Burke
Is there anyone who doesn’t think of the words “Internal Affairs” and automatically think of Robert John Burke? If anything, some become so good that writers actually start basing characters around them and their sheer presence on screen.
Unlike series regulars, who have time to build a character and their personality and quirks, character actors are usually turning up for a
Reg E Cathey
once-off and yet still have to create a fully credible 3D character. That takes skill, and if you look at the various actors named here, every one of them is an equal peer to the series lead when they’re on screen with them.
In fact, we have now, rightly, reached a point where producers have realised that the really good character actors aren’t just someone to fill in scenes with the series regular but are
Timothy V. Murphy
now adding value as audiences not only recognise them but know that a Reg E. Cathey or a Jayne Atkinson always bring something worth watching to a scene, and want to see more of them.
So here’s to the character actors. Some break through to lead, some do a “Stephen Toblowsky” and become a character genre in themselves, but all deliver.
To jog memories as to all those from above, you’ll have seen Boris McGiver in
House of Cards and Person of Interest, Robert John Burke in SVU and Person of Interest, Delaney Williams in SVU and The Wire, Jayne Atkinson in House of Cards and Criminal Minds, Reg E. Cathey in House of Cards and The Wire, and our own Timothy V. Murphy in Sons of Anarchy.