“I take it as such a huge compliment to be called a character actress…as my career has progressed and I’ve gotten older [I’m] more free to do character stuff.” — Sissy Spacek, in an interview with Film Monthly
One day in Los Angeles I was sitting in Hugo’s, one of my favorite breakfast spots, with my college friend Michael. We were eating and chatting when I noticed a woman sitting two tables away from us, reading a newspaper while she noshed. “Look,” I said to Michael, “it’s Amy Aquino.” “Who?” he asked. “Amy Aquino,” I whispered, “the actress, you know, from Brooklyn Bridge. She’s the gynecologist on ER, the one who reamed out Mark Greene after he botched that woman’s breach delivery.” Michael laughed. “As long as I’ve known you,” he said, “you’ve loved character actors.” And he was right. I’ve always had a thing for that kind of actor—the one with the familiar face that pops up in guest-starring roles on TV or plays supporting parts in movies, rarely ever the glamorous leading lady yet always making a memorable impression. Even when they do play leads (and even if they do sorta become “stars”), there’s still something grounded and cool and hardworking about them, something noble that requires a dedication to real acting rather than just personality-selling. Beautiful, talented, formidable women like Patricia Clarkson
and Cherry Jones
and Alfre Woodard
and Swoosie Kurtz
and Kate Nelligan
and the late, great Lynne Thigpen
To me, Pounder’s the heart and soul of The Shield, playing Detective Claudette Wyms with all the seething intensity and off-handed humor and sexy no-nonsense sista-ness she brings to so many roles. She’s been Emmy-nommed before (for work on The X-Files and for her work on ER as Dr. Angela Hicks, the surgeon who had to light into both Eric La Salle and Noah Wylie every so often) but this time she really deserves to be recognized. The Shield wouldn’t be the show it is without the antagonism between Wyms and Mackey or the sarcasm between Wyms and Dutch. If you’ve never watched it, start catching up now—if you like dark cop dramas it doesn’t get smarter or edgier or more addictive than this. I bought the first two seasons on DVD earlier this year and damn near didn’t take a break from watching til I was about halfway thru the second season. Definitely catch the episode where Claudette’s father and daughter come to town. Genius. So here’s to Ms. CCH Pounder, who’ll never be the biggest star in Hollywood, but is definitely one of the best actresses we have. And because she overcame TV’s tendency to typecast black women of a certain age as “The Stern Judge With The Disapproving Stare.”
Essential Viewing: Bagdad Café, “Murder in Mississippi”, “If These Walls Could Talk”.
And a coupla Q’s: No Best Drama nomination for Nip/Tuck? And 15 nominations for Will and Grace? Didn’t that show turn into Here’s Lucy, like, four seasons ago?