Now that Christmas is over, it’s time to look forward to the New Year and new entertainment. With that comes the opportunity to hopefully see some familiar faces again, and there are several that I’ve got my fingers crossed for. These five actors have distinguished themselves in television roles in the recent past, and deserve more of our attention – and hopefully to be back on our small screens – in 2013.
1. Michael Trucco: Former Battlestar Galactica star Michael Trucco did a complete 180 two seasons ago when he stepped into the role of Assistant District Attorney Justin Patrick on USA’s original series Fairly Legal. It was a part entirely different from that of Samuel Anders, and it was a perfect move for Trucco, who had the chance to show audiences that he is not just a good supporting actor, but a great leading man.
Trucco served as Fairly Legal‘s anchor, with Justin being the voice of reason to counterbalance the more impulsive, emotional viewpoint of his ex-wife Kate Reed. He served as the perfect foil without which the show would have been sorely different. He was even better in the second season, when Justin was given his own storyline separate from Kate, and Trucco was able to flourish. Justin was all sorts of things in season two – determined, confused, angry, and vulnerable – and no matter what the script called for, Trucco had it nailed.
Whether the spotlight was on his character or not, whether the writing was there for him or not, he never missed a beat. Furthermore, he could always be counted on to give a good performance, regardless of if it was one scene or a dozen of them. There are many good actors on television, but few are the ones who can take the material they’re given and make it stronger. Trucco is one of those rare actors. Now he deserves an opportunity to be at the forefront again – not just as part of someone else’s ensemble but front and center. Hopefully he’ll find it.
Trucco currently has a guest arc on ABC’s Revenge as Nate Ryan, the brother of Kenny Ryan. Revenge returns Sunday, January 6 at 10 PM ET/PT.
2. James Wolk: I may be one of the only people who remembers the FOX series Lone Star, which lasted only two episodes before being axed, but the best part of that wonderful show was the breakout performance from its leading man, James Wolk. The show rested on his ability to make Robert/Bob Allen both believable as a con man and also a likeable protagonist, and he achieved both goals amazingly well. Here was an actor so good that I was legitimately baffled as to how I had never heard of him before.
Wolk then appeared in guest spots on Showtime’s Shameless and ABC’s Happy Endings, but he came back to series-regular status in a big way as one of the stars of USA’s summer miniseries Political Animals. As Douglas Hammond, the ‘good son’ of and chief of staff to Secretary of State Elaine Barrish Hammond, he was the series’ male lead and handled it with aplomb. Even as the writing pushed Douglas into questionable places, Wolk kept the audience on his side and furthermore, in his head. As one character remarked to him in the final episode, he might have betrayed his mother and cheated on his fiancee, but Douglas was still a good guy – which would never have been possible if he hadn’t been played perfectly.
The biggest shame in USA deciding not to extend Political Animals into a full series is the absence of James Wolk from our TV screens. He’s an actor who can take complex characters and show us every shade of their complexity. Characters in his hands aren’t good or bad, wrong or right, they’re just human beings, and fully realized ones at that. Perhaps the strongest endorsement I can give him is that seeing his name in the opening titles of Political Animals was only the second time I’ve ever cheered upon spotting an actor’s name in the credits. Watching him makes me excited about acting, and I think he’s only just begun. He needs to be a TV series regular so we can see what he does the third time around.
While there’s no news about Wolk returning to TV just yet, he most recently had a recurring part in the WIGS web series Vanessa & Jan, which you can view at the WIGS YouTube channel.
3. Mark Valley: Mark Valley is an actor who’s made the most of the TV roles he’s been given in the past, having been a regular on ABC’s Boston Legal and NBC’s Harry’s Law, just to name a pair of lines on his resume. Other folks might know him from the recurring part of John Scott on FOX’s Fringe. Television viewers have undoubtedly seen him somewhere, even if he isn’t yet a household name.
Yet he truly made the ‘must-watch’ list with his performance in FOX’s Human Target. Valley’s interpretation of hero Christopher Chance was one of the strongest comic-to-screen translations in any medium. He had all the tools needed to bring Chance to life: a physical presence to tackle the series’ ambitious stunts, solid comic timing to deliver the one-liners and witty observations, and acting chops that conveyed the internal struggle that went on underneath those awesome fight scenes and amusing jokes. Valley’s Chance was a fantastic action hero, but that didn’t preclude him being a strong character as well.
That unique mixture of depth and charisma is something that Valley has consistently brought to every one of his roles, whether it was the ‘fish out of water’ Eddie Arlette in FOX’s Keen Eddie or the pair of buttoned-up lawyers he’s played in the two David E. Kelley series he’s joined. He can play the straight man dealing with the crazy coworkers, such as in Boston Legal, or he can be the person who is the crazy one. He’s got a little bit of everything in him, and that’s what makes him a pleasure to watch.
Valley has landed a part as Tommy Sullivan, the new police detective (and ex-boyfriend of Dr. Megan Hunt) in the upcoming third season of ABC’s Body of Proof. The season premieres on Tuesday, February 5 at 10 PM ET/PT.
4. Jamie Bamber: While American audiences likely know Jamie Bamber best from his role as Lee ‘Apollo’ Adama on SyFy’s Battlestar Galactica (alongside Michael Trucco), he did some of his greatest work as Detective Sergeant Matt Devlin on ITV’s Law & Order: UK. On paper, Devlin could have easily been the stereotypical younger, good-looking cop with the short fuse, but together with LOUK‘s crack writing staff, he became one of the best TV police ever to grace the screen in either the US or the UK.
What made the difference? Bamber’s ability to play even the smallest or least significant moments as if they meant something. There were major episodes where he tore into what made Devlin tick, such as after the suicide of an old friend in the episode ‘Confession,’ and he shined in those installments – but some of his best character development happened when the focus wasn’t even on him. There were little moments, like Devlin’s unwillingness to look partner Ronnie Brooks in the eye when they disagreed over a case, that made all the difference. When he exited the series after its fifth season – in two episodes that are some of the best TV drama ever written – it was gut-wrenching, but it also made perfect sense, because the audience could see, feel and understand exactly how Devlin had gotten to that point. The Law & Order franchise may not be known for its character development, but Bamber created one of its most memorable and entertaining detectives.
Since leaving LOUK, Bamber starred in the ambitious 17th Precinct pilot for NBC that didn’t go to series, and booked guest parts on ABC’s Body of Proof – as another love interest for Megan Hunt – and TNT’s Perception. He was good in both roles, but he’s one of those actors who’s wasted just showing up for an episode or two. He’s the one you want leading the ensemble.
Bamber is a regular on the upcoming TNT medical drama Monday Mornings, playing the central role of neurosurgeon Tyler Wilson. Monday Mornings arrives on (fittingly) Monday, February 4.
5. Jason Clarke: Australian actor Jason Clarke gave one of the best individual performances on television when he starred in one of Showtime’s first original series, Brotherhood, six years ago. Then he did it again when he was the lead in FOX’s stunning The Chicago Code last year. Both shows remain enduringly great dramas, and Clarke (pictured above left, with Chicago Code co-star Matt Lauria) is a huge reason why they’re still worth remembering.
It’s astonishing to realize that his role as Providence politician Tommy Caffee in Brotherhood was his first TV main part, because Clarke certainly gave the impression that he was a veteran of the small screen, with how easy he made it look. Even when Tommy did things that were infuriating – and there were quite a few of them – Clarke had such an intense presence that it was impossible to take your eyes away from him. Even if he wasn’t the center of the scene, he had a way of being in the front of your consciousness every time he showed up on screen.
He got even better when he took on The Chicago Code and the character of Detective Jarek Wysocki. Wysocki’s former partner Teresa Colvin might have been the center of the show, and she was a great character as well, but he ran away with the thing. Clarke was in control, whether Wysocki was taking down a door or owning up to his personal infidelities. He could get your pulse racing and break your heart in the same episode, because as much as his character was almost godlike on the streets of Chicago, he was also able to break him down just as strongly. Clarke is less an actor and more a force of nature, and audiences need that kind of shock to the system on a regular basis.
While Clarke doesn’t have another TV role lined up just yet, he has a starring role in the recently released Kathryn Bigelow film Zero Dark Thirty. The movie is in limited release now and in theaters everywhere beginning Friday, January 11.