Tag Archives: Life

My Favorite Guest Actors – Issue 2

I’m pulling this feature out of the deep recesses of early Melted Brain because, well, writing reviews takes thinking and that’s hard so I don’t want to but I do want to post something so this is the best I could come up with. These men (yes, all men this time – I don’t know why, but I have a hard time remembering or getting really attached to female guest actors) are some of my very very favorite guest actors. They’ve all appeared on several of my favorite shows and, I’ll be honest, they all have that capacity to be excellently creepy. I am nothing if not consistent in my tastes. Here we go!

Arnold Vosloo








He tends to be cast as “The Middle Eastern Guy” and it is in that capacity that he has appeared on several of my favorite shows. Most notably, he played the slipperiest, trickiest, most difficult-to-find-nevermind-kill main 24 villain, Habib Marwan, on Day 4. He has also appeared on Chuck and NCIS and, most recently, on Bones (and that role is being reprised soon as the touted “sniper arc” moves forward). Generally, it is versatility that impresses me in an actor. But that isn’t really what gives Arnold Vosloo his appeal. Instead, what most impresses me about his various performances is the consistent steadiness in his carriage. No matter what he is doing or saying, there is always a certain element of…class, I guess you could call it. Nervousness and wavering are just not in his vocabulary and, really, it’s that steadiness that makes him so appealing and intimidating as a villain. And there is nothing better than an effortlessly intimidating villain. Except for maybe an effortlessly intimidating might-not-actually-be-a-villain, which is also an archetype he plays.

Mark Pellegrino









This actor has a peculiar talent for portraying both innocuous benevolence and brute violence…often in the same character. The two best examples of this disparity are Jacob of Lost and Paul of Dexter. He is totally believable as a loving father/guardian type, as well as an abusive power-hungry sonofoabitch, and somehow he even carries off the transition between those two elements. It is thoroughly amazing. But, it is a little sad that he is being more and more typecast in that sort of role – other recent examples include appearances on Supernatural and Being Human. Though losing the opportunity to seem him anywhere at anytime would be sad, I would love to see Mark Pellegrino get his own show – preferably something that gives him a chance to show off a bit more versatility.

Titus Welliver









Moving right along to Mark Pellegrino’s opposite number from Lost, The Man In Black. Fittingly enough, he is somewhat the opposite as an actor. Titus Welliver shares the talent for straddling two seemingly incompatible personality traits within the same character. For him, the combination seems to be enigmatic menace and almost sissyish emotionality. My favorite role of his is Kyle Hollis from Life, a murderer-for-hire turned evangelist. It was the brief clip of that character’s preaching hellfire and damnation that really sold me on this man’s talent. That talent is yet another point chalked up on the board for “Reasons Why I Should Start Watching The Good Wife.” Also, he gets major bonus points in my affections for having one of the coolest names ever.

Tony Todd









Tony Todd is a bamf, straight up. The man is basically built to play menacing characters. He’s also got one of those excellent, excellent voices. He has played characters on both sides of the moral spectrum, but I definitely prefer his villains. He played General Juma on Day 7 of 24 and was pretty much solely responsible for what I consider to be the best (and by “best” I mean “most terrifying and exhilarating and adrenaline-rushy”) fifteen minutes of the season, possibly of the series. I’ll be totally honest and admit that he’s not my favorite because of his range, or even because of his talent. It’s pretty much just because he plays awesome villains and/or intimidating authority figures and any appearance he makes is sure to be good times.

Callum Keith Rennie









While I’m being totally honest, I should probably start off this paragraph by being straightforward and admitting that, yes, part of the reason I enjoy Callum Keith Rennie so much is because he is attractive. But seriously, mostly I love him because he plays excellent creepers. My favorite role of his so far is probably Leoben of Battlestar Galactica because, thanks to the chance to bounce of the sheer brilliance of Katee Sackhoff as Starbuck, he got to dig his heels way deep in and explore that delicious moral gray area. His character from 24 (yes, 24 again), Vladimir Laitanan is a close second, but that’s probably because not only do I love charming-but-terrifying, I really love Russians. I was going to say “He’s another who I’d love to see have his own show.” But then I went to imdb and found out that he DOES – he plays the lead role, a detective with multiple personality disorder, in a Canadian show called Shattered. Guess what just jumped to the top five in my Need To Watch list.


Oh THAT Guy! Issue: 2

Alrighty, welcome to the new format and official debut of Oh THAT Guy (slightly new title!) as an on-going project. Here are five more guest actor types for you all to get to know and start being able to recognize as not just “Oh them” but as actual people. Yes!

(Remember: pictures link to imdb…even though it is sort of gross now…)

Henri Lubatti

Selected Appearances:
The Good Guys “Vacation” as Nikolai (2010)
Chuck “Chuck vs. The Mask” as Vassilis (2010)
Bones “The Devil in the Details” as Phillip Womack (2010)
NCIS: Los Angeles “Breach” as Safar Jaddalah (2010)
Dark Blue “Purity” as Reuben Pike (2009)
Life “Not For Nothing” as Professor Halliday (2008)
The O.C. [multiple episodes] as Henri-Michel de Momourant (2007)
24 [multiple episodes] as Jovan Myovic (2002)
Felicity [multiple episodes] as David Sherman (1999)
The X-Files “Mind’s Eye” as Dr. Wilkenson (1998)

Hey, apparently this guy’s from Seattle! Win! …more importantly, he is an incredibly unappreciated actor. The number of foreign nationalities he’s portrayed alone is impressive. To be clearly identifiable as “The Russian Guy” and “The French Guy” and “The Middle Eastern Guy” and godknowswhatelse takes a good amount of flexibility. To do that and also somehow find the time to do some acting? Wacky crazy awesome stuff.

Clea DuVall

Selected Appearances:
Bones “The Bones On A Blue Line” as McKenna Grant (2010)
Lie to Me “Blinded” as Michelle Russell (2009)
Grey’s Anatomy [multiple episodes] as Jennifer Robinson (2008)
Heroes [multiple episodes] as FBI Agent Audrey Hanson (2006-2007)
Carnivale [regular cast] as Sofie (2003-2005)
Buffy the Vampire Slayer “Out of Mind, Out of Sight” as Marcie Ross (1997)

Recently, she’s been taking on the role of Tough Girl, but she actually has an enormous amount of flexibility. Her characters, ass-kicking or otherwise, and regardless of the number of episodes they have to develop, have a consistent quality of honest human vulnerability. DuVall (whose name appears in most credits without the semi-inane capitalization) has actually done more movie work than TV, but she frequents both mediums on a regular basis.

Kathleen Munroe

Selected Appearances:
NCIS: Los Angeles “Killshot” as Aimee Su (2009)
CSI: NY [multiple episodes] as Samantha Flack (2008)
Moonlight “Fleur de Lis” as Tina Haggans (2007)
Supernatural “The Kids are Alright” as Katie’s Mom (2007)
Beautiful People [series cast] as Annabelle Banks (2005-2006)

Just compare the top two roles on this list and you can see exactly what kind of range this lady has. I’ve been a bit of a fan ever since she played basically the only not-totally-obnoxious character on Beautiful People, but its really the variety of guest work that shows what a solid talent she is. She looks like a few other actresses, so sometimes I think I see her when I don’t, but she’s worth keeping an eye on in years to come.

Fredric Lehne

Selected Appearances:
Supernatural [multiple episodes] as Azazel (the Yellow-Eyed Demon) (2006-2010)
Lost [multiple episodes] as Marshal Edward Mars (2004-2010)
Lie to Me “Life is Priceless” as Company Owner Kevin Warren (2009)
CSI “Burked” (2001) and “Turn, Turn, Turn” (2009) [different characters]
The Closer “Til Death Do Us Part, Parts I & II” as Eugene “Topper” Barnes (2007)
Bones “The Man with the Bone” as Giles Hardewicke (2006)
CSI: NY “Tanglewood” as Ross Lee (2005)
JAG “Odd Man Out” (2002) and “There Goes the Neighborhood” (2004) [different characters]
NCIS “Dead Man Talking” as Captain Graves (2004)
Firefly “Heart of Gold” as Ranse Burgess (2003)
The X-Files [multiple episodes] as Young Arthur Dale (1998-1999)
Wiseguy [multiple episodes] as Winston Chambers III (1990)
Mancuso, FBI [series cast] as Eddie McMasters (1989-1990)

At least in all the roles I’ve seen him in, this guy usually plays some sort of sumbitch or other. Really really well. He’s got an air of authority that is immediately recognizeable, and a gravelly vocality that lends itself well to drawling and to general assholery. His resume is a healthy mix of the standard guest work (my favorite discovery is that he played three different roles on three different episodes of JAG and its spin-off NCIS) and semi-regular, recognizeable roles on cult favorites like the first two items on the list. FYI: He is usually credited as Fredric Lane, which’ll tell you how to pronounce his last name properly.

Tom Virtue

Selected Appearances:
The Secret Life of the American Teenager [multiple episodes] as…multiple roles?* (2008-2010)
CSI “Random Acts of Violence” (2003) and “Working Stiffs” (2009) [different characters]
Bones “The Intern in the Incinerator” as Dr. Ted Reardon (2007)
Life “Let Her Go” as Fire Chief (2007)
Arrested Development “Queen for a Day” as Car Salesman (2005)
Even Stevens [series cast] as Steve Stevens (1999-2003)
JAG “All Ye Faithful” as Warrant Officer Scoggins (2002)
Firefly “Ariel” as Pompous Doctor (2002)
Star Trek Voyager [multiple episodes] as Lieutenant Walter Baxter (1995) and “Workforce Parts I & II” as Supervisor (2001)
Freaks and Geeks [multiple episodes] as Mr. Sampson/Mr. Simpson** (2000)

For me, Tom Virtue will always be the dad from Even Stevens before anything else. But the truth is, he has been in pretty much everything ever. Seriously. It is somewhat disturbing how many of his roles are called “doctor” or “voice on the phone” or whathaveyou as opposed to actual names. But let it not be said that he doesn’t stay busy. Generally, his characters tend toward the professional, the irate, the impatient, and occasionally the incompetent. He is almost always some form of comic relief.
*I do not watch this show so I am very confused by his being credited as “Reverend Stone” and “Minister” and “Jack’s Step Dad” all in multiple different episodes, intermixed
**Also have not seen F&G so I can’t say for sure whether or not this is an imdb flub or not

Oh, hey, it’s THAT guy!

Frankly, character/guest/whateveryouwannacallums actors do not get enough credit. I don’t mean the people who start out as minor characters but then end up with recurring/regular roles (we’ll call these the CSI Techs of the world). Nor do I mean the people who jump around to various shows but who are always recognizable and memorable and eventually wind up with several semi-regular gigs (we’ll call these the Emmanuelle Vaugiers of the world). I’m talking about those people who you see in a million in a half different things and vaguely recognize, but don’t really remember. You don’t know their names, you don’t know anything but that you sorta kinda recognize them.

So here I am doing my part and giving you the names/faces/brief resumes of five of them in the hopes they’ll stick in your minds from now on.
(Note: pictures link to imdb)

Patrick Fabian

Selected Appearances:
Rizzoli & Isles “Boston Strangler Redux” as Nate (2010)
Big Love [multiple episodes] as Ted Price (2009-2010)
Life “Mirror Ball” as Dr. Stanton (2009)
Burn Notice “Trust Me” as Zeke (2008)
NCIS “Corporal Punishment” as Ray Vincent (2007)
Bones “Boy in the Time Capsule” as Terry Stinson (2007)
Pushing Daisies “Dummy” as Mark Chase (2007)
Veronica Mars [multiple episodes] as Professor Hank Landry

Now that he’s a bonafide movie star (and by that I mean he’s the star of The Last Exorcism), maybe this list isn’t really the place for him. The fact remains, though, that he’s done lots of excellent TV work and has made appearances on many of my favorite shows. The characters he usually plays are a mix of charming, sleazy, slick, and occasionally kind of pathetic. But always entertaining!

Jon Sklaroff

Selected Apperances:
Lie to Me “Darkness and Light” as Larry (2010)
The Good Guys “Broken Door Theory” as Gemeni (2010)
24 [multiple episodes] as Ziya Dakhilov (2010)
Life [multiple episodes] as Arthur Tims (2007-2008)
Bones “The Boy in the Shroud” as Kevin Duncan (2006)
NCIS “Bikini Wax” as Jonathan Redding (2005)

His characters are grade-A creepers. No exception. And not even “slightly misunderstood but harmless” creepers. We’re talking murderous pedophile stalker child-killer manipulative criminal freak creepers. Not usually all at the same time, but generally at least two of those traits per characters. He’s damn good at freaking the crap out of me. His range is limited, but it’s okay – he does just look sort of creepy, and he’s so good at it and there’s an unending need for characters of that variety.

Erick Avari

Selected Appearances:
Human Target “Victoria” as Gerard (2010)
Castle “Wrapped Up in Death” as Rupert Bentley (2010)
Life “Hit Me Baby” as Edward Zakaria (2009)
Leverage “The Second David Job” as Doctor Lloyd (2009)
Heroes [multiple episodes] as Chandra Suresh (2006)
Star Trek Enterprise “Terra Nova” as Jamin (2001)
Stargate SG-1 [multiple episodes] as Kasuf (1998-2001)

You’d be hard pressed to go six months without seeing this guy at least once in some movie or television series. He is everywhere, and he plays a wide range of characters. Oftentimes his characters are some variety of medical professional or scientist or researcher – they can be of the mad scientist persuasion or not. Comedic relief is usually his purpose and he does it well, but his career has been long and varied and shows every one of his myriad abilities. (Oh, and you can find him in several Adam Sandler movies as well.)

Scottie Thompson

Selected Appearances:
Rizzoli & Isles “I’m Your Boogie Man” as Lola (2010)
Trauma [multiple episodes] as Diana Van Dine (2009-2010)
Bones “The Critic in the Cabernet” as Kim Mortensen (2009)
NCIS [multiple episodes] as Jeanne Benoit (2006-2008)
CSI: NY “Buzzkill” as Lia Ramsey (2007)

Compared to the others on this list, she’s a newcomer. But she’s left a mark in multiple places, while still managing to remain a versatile actor rather than an immediately recognizable name. She’s been a murderer more often than not (which is a natural consequence of appearing on crime-centric shows, to be fair). But she’s also been a semi-innocent love interest type when called on.

Tracy Middendorf

Selected Appearances:
Bones “The Tough Man in the Tender Chicken” as Gaynor Rabin (2009)
– CSI “Working Stiffs” (2009) and “Lucky Strike” (2003) [different characters]
Lost [multiple episodes] as Bonnie (2007)
House “Cursed” as Sarah Reilich (2005)
Alias [multiple episodes] as Elsa Kaplan (2003)
24 [multiple episodes] as Carla Matheson (2002)
The X-Files “Signs & Wonders” as Gracie O’Connor (2000)
Angel “City Of…” as Tina (1999)
Star Trek: Deep Space Nine “For the Cause” as Ziyal (1996)
Beverly Hills, 90210 [multiple episodes] as Laura Kingman (1993-1994)

She’s been in pretty much every type of show and played pretty much every type of character over the past couple decades. Hers is a familiar face to the more rabid fans of certain cult hits mentioned in the list above. And yet, the average viewer would be hard put to remember her name. Which is unfair, considering she is not only gorgeous but also rather quite talented.


..and as I think of/see more people who belong on this list, I will post installments of this list.

Hindsight: Life

Damian Lewis in Life

Original Air Dates: 2007-2009 on NBC

Creator: Rand Ravich
Starring: Damian Lewis, Sarah Shahi, Brent Sexton, Adam Arkin, Donal Logue

Damian Lewis, Sarah Shahi, Brent Sexton, Adam Arkin, Donal Logue

Life, as a series, defies explanation in a lot of ways. It includes some of the funniest comedy and most intense drama to hit network television in the last few years. Damian Lewis leads a phenomenal cast, and Rand Ravich does the same with a remarkable production team. The show is a real masterpiece of storytelling and of the serial television medium. It is not, as touted, a mere cop show laced with conspiracy. The overarching plotline is actually one of the most cohesive I’ve ever seen, and the way in which each piece is slowly revealed is massively enjoyable and more than its fair share of brilliant. Plus, it has moments where it is just plain weird, and while that may not appeal to everyone, I definitely count it as a plus.

Damian Lewis and Sarah Shahi


  • Charlie Crews/Damian Lewis
    Of all the enigmatic characters on television, he really does take the cake. Classically trained English actor Lewis mastered all angles of an incredibly complicated personality. Crews is at once the most serious and most comedic character on the show. His Zen attitude and lackadaisical ponderings about life portray a happy, perhaps slightly damaged, but overall delightful and innocuous personality. The intensity of his search to find out who framed him and the moments where he reverts back to cutthroat prison instincts show what is almost an entirely different character. Just the premise of who (and what) Charlie Crews is is possibly the most fascinating part of the show. Lewis’ performance brings him completely to life – no pun intended, he really does make the show.
  • The Conspiracy Plotline
    Seems like every show these days, even the procedurals, are killing themselves to create a ridiculously complicated storyline. Many of these attempts are sad and far from successful. But Life houses one of the best series-long conspiracy arcs I’ve ever seen. It unfolds very slowly, but each piece is obviously a part of the whole – as opposed to being tacked on in an attempt to hold interest. There is very much a sense of “down the rabbit hole” in the conspiracy surrounding the arrest of Charlie Crews. It is marvelously gray-area. Not because we can’t tell if the villains are truly bad or not, necessarily, but because we just can’t tell who they are until it is definitively revealed. It’s a true puzzle. And it stretches through the entire show, instead of popping up every few episodes with a major development and then slipping back into the woodwork until a writer has another idea on how to keep it going.
  • The Visuals
    The script may be the great strength of the show, but it is also an aesthetic delight. It was shot almost entirely on-location, so there’s a real sense of Los Angeles as not just a locale, but a setting in the manner of that word as a literary term. The overall visual tone is gritty, but sunny, like a slightly cartoonish take on the seediness. Colorful, vast settings combined with dark contained areas combined with staged comic scenes, and a mixture of stillshots and moving camera work make Life a lot more visually intriguing than your average crime/cop show, and the effect helps to enhance the mood and tone of the story in an incredibly successful way.
  • Comedy Duos
    The writing in Life is ridiculously funny. Charlie Crews, with his half-Zen half-silliness, is comedic on his own. But the real hilarity starts when he gets paired up with Reese…or Ted…or Bobby…or Tidwell…or even Rachel Seybolt (Jessy Schram). Or any number of other combinations. The back-and-forths are stellar. The words are hysterical on their own. Each actor is great as an individual. But it all really comes alive in the delivery. Damian Lewis and Sarah Shahi have the best comedic chemistry, hands down. But Lewis and Donal Logue are also a force to be reckoned with. Life doesn’t treat itself as a comedy, but with a little intellectual squinting, it could easily be taken as one.
  • Supporting/Guest Actors
    The central cast of the show is a small one. The only characters to appear in every one of the thirty-two episodes are Charlie Crews, Dani Reese, and Ted Earley. But they are surrounded by not only the other regular cast, but also an absolutely marvelous cohort of guest actors. These include Jennifer Siebel, who plays Crews’ ex-wife Jennifer, Gabrielle Union as Jane Seever, Crews’ temporary partner, the lovely Christina Hendricks as Olivia, Victor Rivers and William Atherton who are members of the conspiracy surrounding Charlie Crews, and my personal favorite, Garret Dillahunt as a Russian crime lord called Roman Nevikov. Their various performances are phenomenal, as are the clear connection they have with the lead cast, and that adds another great level of solidity to the show as a successful performance narrative.

Adam Arkin and Damian Lewis


  • Soundtrack
    There are so many things about the production of this show that I like, but the music is unfortunately not one of them. The soundtrack of the show ranges from unnoticed to distracting. The moments where it makes itself known, it is usually part of a comedy gag (see: “Love Hurts” in the episode “Mirror Ball”). Mostly, though, the soundtrack is just ineffective and unimportant at best and irritating at worst.
  • Slow Development
    The writers and producers did identify and work to rectify some of the show’s rookie mistakes, I will give them that. The elements of Season One I found most questionable – the female captain and the love interest(?) lawyer – were both phased out successfully. However, the learning process was slow and ultimately the failure to find and fix the elements that didn’t work hurt the show overall, giving the parts of Life that were really enjoyable an unfortunate counterpoint. Maybe with a third season the show could have found a solid place for itself, but time stops for no show, especially on network television.
  • Lack of Definition
    Related to the slow development was the way that Life never managed to either carve out a niche of its own or fit into one that was pre-formed. It’s not exactly a cop show, it’s not exactly a comedy, it’s not exactly an unraveling conspiracy. It has all the elements of both, but it doesn’t fall into any one category. This can be a good thing, of course, but only if a show can find the right balance between the episodes. Even at the end of Season Two, Life never really managed to work out exactly what it was/wanted to be as a program.
  • “Interview” Footage
    This may just be a matter of opinion, but this was a technique the show used that I never really understood or liked. It was more or less effective as exposition, but it didn’t work within the narrative. Who was the interviewer? Why were they asking the questions? How did they get their preliminary information? How did they get access to the various characters? These are questions that were not only never answered, but never asked within the context of the show. The closest we get to a glimpse at the source of this material comes in the very last episode and it isn’t particularly helpful. Life is quirky in all aspects, but this is the most wtf element of all.
  • Realism
    It takes a real suspension of disbelief to accept this show as a representation of the real world. From Ted the white collar criminal in maximum security to over-the-top murders that are absolutely scientifically impossible, there are a lot of moments where Life completely abandons reality. Some of them are comedic enough that they can be forgiven, like when a shot gun gets blown out a la Looney Tunes in “Find Your Happy Place.” But others, like the man frozen solid from breathing liquid nitrogen and then shattered into a million pieces at the slightest touch in “The Business of Miracles,” completely destroy Life‘s credibility as a true-to-life show.

Damian Lewis and Sarah Shahi


  • “The Fallen Woman” (Season 1 Episode 5)
    Most of my love for this episode comes from the fact that it includes the introduction of Garret Dillahunt’s character Roman Nevikov. It is also the first episode to really embrace the strangeness of the show and incorporate it into creating seriously oddball homicides for Crews and Reese to investigate.
  • “Farthingale” (Season 1 Episode 8)
    Speaking of oddball cases, this is definitely one of the strangest on the show. The murder itself (and the resulting half-corpse) both appealed strongly to my admittedly twisted sense of humor. And the idea of duality that permeated the whole episode is very strongly applicable to the entirety of the show, not just this piece of it.
  • “Serious Control Issues” (Season 1 Episode 9)
    The homicide case that turned into a kidnapping investigation is the most honestly heart-wrenching of the entire series for me. It is genuinely creepy and genuinely tragic. And the episode also incorporates measurable progress with the season- and show-wide plot arc.
  • “Dig a Hole”/”Fill it Up” (Season 1 Episodes 10 & 11)
    This double-header that wrapped up Season One was much more about the conspiracy storyline than about either of the included homicide cases. The darker side of Charlie Crews really manifested itself, and the full depth of the conspiracy came to light for the first time in a way that was both entertaining and gut-wrenching/mind-blowing.
  • “Find Your Happy Place” (Season 2 Episode 1)
    Just creepy, and weird, and fun to unravel – all the elements of a great crime show. Plus, the introduction of Captain Tidwell, who established himself early on as an ingenious addition to the show.
  • “Evil…and His Brother Ziggy” (Season 2 Episode 10)
    This episode didn’t necessarily make a whole lot of sense. It really speaks to my criticism about realism, for sure. But it is just so damned funny. It goes beyond the high standard of comedy for the body of the show and is intensely silly and cleverly hysterical.
  • “Trapdoor”/”Re-Entry” (Season 2 Episodes 12 & 13)
    The second double-header of the series, this one incorporates some spectacular elements like using the Ted character as more than a sideplot, showing the dark side of Charlie Crews, the intriguing diabolicalness of Roman Nevikov, and a couple utterly surprising shootings, one of which leads to an excellent cliff-hanger.
  • “Hit Me Baby” (Season 2 Episode 16)
    This episode is a great combination of silliness and seriousness and it balances the conspiracy plotline and the murder-of-the-week formula exceptionally well. Having Reese only on screen for a limited time (Sarah Shahi was pregnant at the time) was unfortunate, but this is one of the best episodes for Brent Sexton, who never got a huge amount of time to establish Bobby as the noteworthy character he is.
  • “One” (Season 2 Episode 21)
    It’s sad the show had to end, but at least it ended in such a marvelous way. The finale did help to wrap several story elements (even some that had barely been touched upon) in a natural and clever way. It was brilliantly shot, suspenseful, and astounding to watch. And by the very end the story was left both open- and close-ended enough to be satisfying but still a reminder of how much potential there was for sadly ne’er-to-come future seasons.

Season 2 Cast

The various cast members have now gone on to various and sundry other venues. Adam Arkin has joined cable phenomenon Sons of Anarchy and is, I hear, a terrifying white supremacist. American television may have lost Damian Lewis for good, which is a real tragedy for all of us. Sarah Shahi is continuing to work – she’s recently been cast as the lead in a USA drama called Facing Kate. The ultra-hysterical Donal Logue has turned his attentions to film.

Sad as it is to know this team of actors will not be reunited again, there is good news: both seasons of Life will be available on Hulu until Fall 2010, so you don’t even have to go far to enjoy the show, whether you’re re-watching (which is definitely worthwhile) or experiencing it for the first time. All the episodes are also available on imdb.com.

Life is one of my absolute top recommendations for Shows People Ought To See. It is clever, comedic, thought-provoking, emotional, gritty, and aesthetic – all the things that I think a truly great show ought to be. It is far from perfect and much much shorter than it ought to be/could have been. But it is genuine entertainment and appealing in a broad spectrum of ways, and I cannot express strongly enough how much I love this show or how intent I am on sharing it with as many people as possible.


My Favorite Guest Actors

Ladies and Gentlemen, boys and girls, patricians and plebeians, animals, minerals, and vegetables, I proudly present to you the first Actual New Feature on Melted Brain – a rundown of some of my very favorite guest/character actors working the small screen these days, complete with the reasons why I enjoy them so very much.

Since the realization of this segment was inspired by Garret Dillahunt’s appearance on tonight’s Lie to Me, and since I’ve been talking him up all week without really saying anything, I think it would only be right to start with him:

Garret Dillahunt

He’s been on my radar for the past two or three years, but his career extends much further back than that. Focusing in on just his television credits, he’s played such diverse roles as a Terminator, a Russian crime lord, and Jesus. What makes Garret Dillahunt so fascinating to me is an actor is not just his talent, but the flexibility of his talent. He really occupies all of his various roles. And he has that mysterious and wonderful ability to completely alter his aspect. The physical changes are minimal, but he has a way to mold his whole presence to a role, appearing smarter or dumber, handsomer or plainer, guileless or crueler depending on what is required. My favorite role I’ve seen him in so far was his turn as Roman Novikov in Life.

Upcoming appearances: Tonight’s Lie to Me and episode five of White Collar.

Mark Sheppard

I love Mark Sheppard. I love every single thing he has done that I have seen. The roles are arguably not incredibly diverse. But they are all done phenomenally. He has a charisma and a way with words that seeps into every role he takes. And an excellent, excellent voice. He has appeared in just about every single one of my favorite shows, and been a highlight in those episodes. This man has slimy down pat – and also gruff, cynical, narcissistic, and crafty. I don’t know that I could choose my favorite of his roles, although I did really enjoy his time on Battlestar Galactica as Romo Lampkin. I’d say give this man his own show already, but I really enjoy having him in everything.

Upcoming appearances: Some episodes of White Collar, and a (supposedly) pivotal role on Supernatural.

Zeljko Ivanek

He’s been in everything. Seriously. He’s been completely fantastic – and he has an Emmy for his work on Damages to show for it. A lot of the time he plays a creepy Eastern European. Because, you know, that’s what you do as a fairly peculiar looking Slovenian actor. But, he’s also played several creepy Americans, a few professionals, and, in a few cases, somewhat pathetic Americans. It takes real talent to be both pathetic and creepy – even more for creepy. I’m most familiar with his Heroes role, Emile Danko, but I’m very intrigued by his work on Damages as Ray Fiske and intend to get my hands on some episodes as soon as possible.

John Pyper-Ferguson

I don’t know what it is about this guy, but I’ve been keeping my eye out for him constantly ever since I first saw him in an episode of The X-Files way back when (he actually had two different roles on that show, it turns out). He’s maybe not the strongest actor of all time, but he’s great in character parts, switching from hardass Viper jockey to blind astrophysicist to cult leader/prophet with astounding ease. More than any of his one roles, it’s just fascinating to see where and how he’ll turn up next.

Upcoming appearances: Looks like he’s gonna be in some movies…

Gina Torres

To be completely honest, I liked Gina Torres best in her starring role in Firefly. But, she’s also been a guest staple in so many other shows, I can’t complain much. A lot of the time she’s “the wife” – like she is in FlashForward, these days. But she’s also played a genuinely terrifying Cuban KGB officer in Alias and, my favorite of her roles, Jasmine, the goddess/pestilence from the fourth season of Angel. She is incredibly talented. And also very, very attractive. My gay friend and I agree, we may not swing that way most of the time, but we would definitely sleep with Gina Torres.

Upcoming appearances: Presumably some more episodes of FlashForward, tonight’s Gossip Girl, and she’s the voice of Superwoman in an upcoming animated movie.

Jude Ciccolella


As with Gina Torres, I prefer this actor in one of his recurring roles – Mike Novick of 24. However, since he ended his run on that show he’s shown himself to be a very diverse character actor. He left the loyal-but-uptight politician persona behind and has made appearances in all sorts of different roles on Prison Break, NCIS, Life, and Everybody Hates Chris. Many different roles, all performed with equal actorly dexterity.

Stephen Tobolowsky

A well-recognized face on both the big and small screen, Stephen Tobolowsky is kind of like the king of character actors. He’s played lawyers, doctors, greedy fathers, victims of short term memory loss, and, most recently, Sandy Ryerson, Glee‘s answer to “What do choir boys have nightmares about?” It’s astonishing to me that a man who looks so completely innocuous can go to the extreme edges of hilarity, humanity, and terror with brilliance and ease – and then come back and do the whole thing over again.

Upcoming appearances: Sandy is gone from Glee, for better or for worse, and it looks like he’s putting his focus back on movies for awhile.

These are all actors I am always excited to see in anything. Because I fully trust that they will deliver and that I will thoroughly enjoy the end result. I think the only thing I have left to address is, Why are there not more women on this list? The answer is…I can’t really say. I’m not sure. I just don’t notice actresses as much, maybe. Or, when I do, they’re in recurring roles. This is perhaps something I should work on in the future.

PS – The pictures are links to their imdb profiles. I’m crafty like that.