5 characters + 5 actors I look forward to seeing each week

Almost as much as my love for movies, I love the accessibility of television and the fact that I can watch hours and hours of scripted dramatic programming and feel the same satisfaction I get from two hours at the cinema. I love serial storytelling, but even more than this I love getting to know the characters on the series. Even when a show doesn’t make it past one season, I still am thankful for those episodes and the opportunity to follow their “lives” over the course of many months.
 
This enjoyment began even in my childhood, where I remember watching series with my parents. I grew up on a lot of police shows and mystery/detective series, actually, and found great love for characters on Hill Street Blues, The Equalizer, Miami Vice, Cagney and Lacey, Quincy, M.E., and even Starsky and Hutch and Remington Steele. Some of these shows are now kitschy and full of nostalgia, but they served to create in me a love of character and episodic storytelling that has only grown throughout the years. I care nothing for television comedy and most reality programming, but I always make time for procedurals and compelling mysteries and series laden with their own dense mythologies. So each week, without fail, I set the DVR for shows featuring my favorite characters and actors I love to see regularly. While the list below does not necessarily contain my absolute favorites, it indicates the characters that most intrigue me right now and that have given me reason to check in on them every few days. There’s no greater joy for me in television than to follow the lives of these characters, and when their featured series end, I will feel a void in my television schedule.
 

5 favorite TV characters

 

Mack Gerhardt as played by Max Martini' Mack Gerhardt from The Unit
Although I’ve been a fan of actor Max Martini since I first “discovered” him on the short-lived series Harsh Realm, it is his role on The Unit that has given him the most character development. Mack “Dirt Diver” Gerhardt is the most flawed and volatile character on my TV schedule, and that is the exact reason I’ve come to love him so much. He has a dysfunctional marriage to the most aggravating and annoying wife, and he is an absolute wreck of a man, but when the mission is on, Mack is completely on. He’s the best man to have in your corner: the most loyal and unwavering in his commmitment to the Unit and his comrades, and the only person to act according to orders without any regard to the consequences. This, of course, can cause great emotional wreckage, but he just barrels through it time and again.
 
In the current season of the series, the writers have actually posed that very question to the character: How do you continue living with all the consequences? And what is the emotional toll of such decisions? I enjoy exploring these week to week and watching Martini take Mack into the depths of regret and guilt and crushing remorse. And yet, with all the things going on in his spirit and in his mind, he has the greatest ability to shut it all down when the next mission begins. Which is the characteristic of a great soldier and a true patriot. I put the character of Mack Gerhardt into the category of great soldier, and I enjoy seeing him wear that role each week. 

Special Agent Olivia Dunham as played by Anna Torv' Olivia Dunham from Fringe
It is television’s greatest loss that so few strong and capable women appear in crime dramas, and most certainly that so few are given lead roles. Special Agent Olivia Dunham is the grand exception, proving that women can be the most forceful character in a mythology and still be feminine and powerful. When Fringe first began, I didn’t see this balance in the character, causing her to come across as yet another driven law enforcement agent patterned from a masculine mold. But very quickly the writers displayed a vulnerability that has not undermined the strength of the character but rather shown the many layers she possesses. Week after week we see more of those layers peeled away to reveal a fully developed persona, and it has been her intensity and vulnerability that endears her to me. Actress Anna Torv has placed all of Dunham’s emotion in her eyes, and those eyes reveal such depth and such compassion that I believe everything she believes and would follow her instincts in any situation. Whether Fringe can survive to see another season remains a question mark, but I hope that Agent Dunham’s presence on television has proven that strong female characters are highly coveted and necessary to successful dramas. 

Dr. Spencer Reid as played by Matthew Gray Gubler' Dr. Spencer Reid from Criminal Minds
From the outset I’ve been a fan of Criminal Minds. The psychological foundations, the questions of nature/nurture and predisposition to criminal behavior is utterly fascinating to me, and this series has no easy answers. I am often perplexed and disturbed and saddened by the depiction of humanity’s capacity for evil, but I am never disappointed in the episodes or in the characters. The writing is generally of the highest quality, and the actors have all embraced their particular niches with abandon and commitment to the roles. And while the light of the series is undoubtedly tech gal Penelope Garcia, I believe the heart of it is found in Dr. Reid.
 
In Spencer Reid, actor Matthew Gray Gubler has achieved a difficult balance of extreme intelligence and heartwrenching sensitivity to criminal behavior. He is at once a genius and a boy, grappling with his own personal predilection to schizophrenia and wrestling with humanity’s penchant for evil, even when the majority of the world doesn’t believe it could happen to them. I am fascinated by Dr. Reid, entertained by his great social awkwardness, while at the same time constantly hoping he will find the answers to his own personal questions before darkness overtakes him, too. He is full of strength that he doesn’t see in himself, and he is lovably quirky in his heightened intellectual abilities. That the series’ writers have made him integral to the team and to every episode thrills me and keeps me coming back week after week. I think I might even consider leaving the series if there was no Dr. Reid to walk alongside. 

Dr. Ray Langston as played by Laurence Fishburne' Dr. Ray Langston from CSI
It is usually a series killer when the original lead actor departs, but Laurence Fishburne has taken that challenge and turned it on its head. I have been watching CSI since its premiere episode, and I believe Grissom was the glue holding the series together. When William Petersen left the series, I expected this to be the end of its greatness. But Fishburne has created a character in Ray Langston that I think I love more than Grissom. At the very least, I have the highest opinions of them both. For an actor whose previous roles were so forceful and even aggressive, Fishburne is bringing a quiet strength to Langston that intrigues me and delights me. It is his character that I look forward to seeing each week, even when I’ve loved all the series characters so much from day one. That Langston is now the show’s heart and soul is surprising and enchanting, and as long as Fishburne continues to inhabit the crime lab, I will continue to watch the series. I never dreamed this would be the case. 

Sylar as played by Zachary Quinto' Sylar from Heroes
The writers of Heroes did a phenomenal thing this third season by giving their villain a conscience. Having Sylar display remorse for his actions, revealing that he initially had no compulsion to explore his ability or kill people to develop it changed the entire framework for the Big Bad Evil of the series. I suddenly felt pity for him. I felt disdain for the “good guys” who pressed him into the corner and unleashed the monster that was previously hidden. With this turn of events, I could no longer accept Sylar as the ultimate villain; instead, I see him as a victim.
 
The remainder of this season has brought me great joy in watching him come further and further unhinged as he seeks retribution for all that has been done to him. And while I know there will be consequences for his rampant evil acts, I truly enjoy watching the many ways he succeeds in wreaking havoc and getting away with it. I credit this shift of interest fully to actor Zachary Quinto. Even in Sylar’s most diabolical state, Quinto has managed to infuse him with warmth and regret. Watching Sylar is like watching an impending catastrophe, but he just makes it so much fun.

 

5 favorite actors on television

 

Damian Lewis Damian Lewis from Life
Having Lewis on weekly American television has been one of my greatest treats. Previously, I was lucky to catch him in BBC miniseries or in movies that generally appeared only on DVD in this country, and that just wasn’t enough to satisfy my great love for this actor. While I would much prefer the chance to see him playing his native Englishmen, I’m just grateful for any opportunity to see him on a weekly basis. He’s been a favorite of mine since his appearance in Band of Brothers, and I’ve come to love his character of Charlie Crews on Life more than I ever dreamed possible. It will sadden me greatly when Life is gone, but for now I am delighted at every opportunity to watch him develop his talent. I hope that he will be even more bankable in America now and that we will never again have to live without Lewis at our fingertips. 

Gary Sinise in 'CSI:NY' Gary Sinise from CSI:NY
My interest in Sinise began like most others’, with his performance as Lt. Dan in Forrest Gump. Prior to that, I had no familiarity with him or his name. But since that indelible performance I have come to love Sinise like very few other actors — his effortless talent amazes me and his off-screen image enchants me. I keep watching CSI:NY because of Sinise, and I enjoy the bits of his real-life self that I see him put into the character of Detective Mac Taylor. He just seems like the real deal, and I am charmed. I hope no one ever tells me that I’m wrong. 

George Eads in 'CSI' George Eads from CSI
I didn’t know of Eads until he began playing Nick Stokes, but I’ve loved every single minute of his characterization on the series. It’s probably the character that I love more than the actor, but even when Nick barely appears in an episode, I get a big smile as soon as he shows up. I don’t even need for him to be central to a story (which has happened all-too-often in this current season); I simply want to see him at least once, to hear that long Texas drawl and get one good twinkle-eyed smile. That’s enough for me! I’m happy that Eads has chosen to continue with the series even when his character is not being developed or featured, but I also know that’s a selfish request. I’ll miss him terribly when he does leave, but for now I look forward to Thursday nights just for one good moment with my beloved Nicky. 

Michael Cudlitz in 'Southland' Michael Cudlitz from Southland
Cudlitz is another discovery from Band of Brothers, and I’ve been waiting for him to find a series for years and years. He shows up quite often in guest roles, and had one great opportunity as a supporting player in the short-lived series Standoff, but there have been no good breaks for this talented character actor. Having him on Southland right now is a special treat for me, but I also know its chances are slim for long life. I’m just enjoying the moment, as with Damian Lewis, Jason O’Mara and Neal McDonough. And while I’m not a big fan of Cudlitz’s current character of Officer John Cooper, I’m a very big fan of the actor and can find enjoyment in almost anything that he does. I keep holding out for the day when all things come together and he has that perfect role at the perfect moment. That’s when the rest of the world will see what I’ve always seen: enormous talent and great joy in his craft. 

Matthew Settle in 'Gossip Girl' Matthew Settle from Gossip Girl
I can’t recall when I first noticed Settle, but I remember liking him for years before even knowing his name. I think it was Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood that put a name to the face, but it was most certainly Band of Brothers (again) that sealed my interest. You know I truly like an actor when I’ll keep watching a show like Gossip Girl just to see him in three scenes or less. But I do, and he’s enchanting, even in his character’s vanilla-ness. Settle is just fun to watch, and I can appreciate an actor who takes whatever work he can get and makes the best of it. As long as he’s on the teen soap, I’ll keep watching, but I look forward to much better work for him in the future. He deserves so much more than he seems to get.

 

BONUS:

a favorite character and actor who are one and the same

Wentworth Miller in 'Prison Break' Wentworth Miller from Prison Break
I never knew of Miller before his role as Michael Scofield, but when Prison Break began it was Miller that shone the brightest. He is the sole reason I became a fan of the series, and his work has been the best thing about it. I’ve gone back and watched his previous films, both the good (The Human Stain) and the horrific (Dinotopia), and I’ve found that he is enormously talented and incredibly engaging in everything he does. This final season of Prison Break has given Miller the chance to expand his character and infuse him with humor and joy and romance, and that will remain my favorite version of him. I hope there is much more on the horizon for Wentworth Miller, but if I never see him in anything again, these four seasons will fill a lifetime.

 
images via CBS, Fox, NBC, The CW, IMDB, and 77d.com
 

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About Jules Q

sharing stories of life, faith, and love for pop culture

Posted on 4 May 2009, in What I Watch and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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