Great TV-shows not only depend on their regular cast for the show to be a success. If the regulars are considered the heart of the show, seasonal guest appearances could be considered the medical check-ups. Even though a show can be considered pretty much in perfect condition, a medical check-up is never a bad idea. If the doctor is the right one, that is.
Here are some of my favorite guest appearances by actors/actresses that have been given a supporting role in at least one season (give or take).
1. Margo Martindale
In the first episode of season 2, we are introduced to Mags Bennett and the Bennett family. Although Jeremy Davies does a wonderful job as one of her two hillbilly sons, it is Margo Martindale as the mother who puts the star in ´guest star´ in the second season of Justified.
“Justified” is a TV-show with with as many great characters as there are great bottles of Whiskey in Kentucky. Margo Martindale as Mags Bennett is not only one of the best, she might just be THE best. She pulls of a great combination, in that she both looks like your stereotypical hillbilly, but at the same time can put the fear in you like any villain in the history of TV-shows. She said in an interview that her roles in “Justified”, “Million Dollar Baby” and “Paris Je T´aime” are her favorites in her career. As much as I loved her performance in “Paris Je´T´aime”, her portrayal of Mags Bennett is to me her best part yet. And luckily for all of us, it´s a performance that spanned over a whole season of Justified.
She deservedly won an Emmy for Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Drama Series in 2011, and was featured in an article called “Eight Actors Who Turn Television Into Art” in the New York Times.
There, Patton Oswalt wrote:
More than any of the other characters on “Justified”, Mags Bennett embodies the title of the show (…) Any great actress could make this character frightening. But Margo Martindale is beyond great in the role: she is rare. She forces you to understand Mags – and then, without realizing you´re doing it, to root for her.
2. Forest Whitaker – The Shield
“The Shield” is another TV-show with great characters and brilliant writing. In the first episode of season 5 we are introduced to Lieutenant Jon Kavanaugh. He´s a man looking to put right the wrongs of who he sees as the worst kind of people; dirty cops. Naturally, he is not a very welcome sight for Vic Mackey and his crew, who don´t appreciate him poking his nose in the way they do policing. Forest Whitaker is a great actor, but his performance in “The Shield” almost scared me. He pissed me off. He pissed Vic off. He probably pissed himself off. But more then anything, he pulled off one of the finest performances in TV-drama.
3. Zeljko Ivanek – Damages
In “Damages”, Zeljko Ivanek plays a rather complex character. Although one at first might not like the guy, the character Ray Fiske kinda grows on you. The TV-show has 5 seasons on air, and Ray Fiske appeared in 16 episodes. Thus, it speaks volumes of Zelkjo´s impact on the show that he is still one of the first things that come to mind when thinking of the show. His character could be cold as ice, but he still gathered sympathy for his vulnerability and his dedication towards his client (Arthur Frobisher played by Ted Danson). He won the Emmy for Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Drama Series for his role in 2008.
4. Ray Stevenson – Dexter
Season 7 of ‘Dexter’ introduced us to the character Isaak Sirko, a ruthless member of the Russian Mob, and a homosexual. A pretty rare combination. Circumstances leads him to having a somewhat strained relationship with Dexter, and a cat-and-mouse game is on the cards. Ray Stevenson is brilliant as the mobster trying to come to terms with losing the love of his life. As Zeljko Ivanek’s Ray Fiske in ‘Damages’, the vulnerability of the character makes it hard not to be fascinated by (and maybe even root for?) him. His scenes with Michael C. Hall (Dexter) were some of the highlights of the seventh season of ‘Dexter’. Og, and the dude’s got style!
5. Bobby Cannavale – Boardwalk Empire
When the audience really needed a character to love/hate, the writers of ‘Boardwalk Empire’ introduced us to Gyp Rosetti. His introduction to the show is a great scene, and one of the most memorable in the third season (if not in the entire show). Bobby Cannavale gives a powerhouse performance as the highly ambitious gangster – with a couple of sexual fetishes – who challenges Nucky Thompson. His combination of ruthlessness and humor is highly impressive. The scene where he complains to his driver about Nucky Thompson wishing him “Bone for Tuna” (Buon Fortuna) is hilarious. And to think this is the same guy who played Roberto Caffey in the (very underrated) TV-show ‘Third Watch’…
There are others that might as well have been on the list, but that will have to be another time.
Do you have any favorites? Feel free to leave comments and/or suggestions in the comments section.