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Face in the Crowd: Female Character Actors

November 17, 2009

You know the drill:
You recognize their faces from their substantial bodies of work, but don’t know their names. These are five female character actors whose work I enjoy.

Jenifer Lewis

Jenifer Lewis

I first noticed Lewis as Tina Turner’s mom in What’s Love Got To Do With It. I was captivated by the way she drawled her words and could make her lips curve around the shittiest dialog. On Strong Medicine she worked with what easily could have been a one note sassy black lady character and brought gravitas to the role.

Jane Adams

Jane Adams

One can never forget an Oola, though none of us seem to know this versatile actor’s name! She slips in and out out character, but her voice is pretty distinctive. Whenever I notice her I say, “Hey, it’s Oola!” and now I actually know her name.

Dianne Wiest

I first noticed her as the thoughtful counterpoint in Footloose to John Lithgow’s frothing dancephobic preacher. I am probably one the rare Law & Order fans who enjoyed her portrayal of D.A. Nora Lewin. I found her a refreshing intermission from the endless snark of Adam Schiff and the faux folksy douchebaggery of Arthur Branch. Wiest was so wonderful in Bullets Over Broadway and richly deserved the Oscar, despite the best supporting actress award often being the kiss of death. Wiest is doing fine work on HBO’s In Treatment

Melissa Leo

Melissa Leo as Det. Kay Howard

Melissa Leo is having a well deserved career renaissance thanks to an Oscar nod in last year’s Frozen River. But many of us rabid H:LOTS fans know her best as the incomparable Detective/Sgt Kay Howard. Leo was fantastic in the role and I’m told her Charm City accent and mannerisms were near flawless. There are some who argue the addition of the Falsone and Ballard characters caused H:LOTS to jump shark, but I maintain it is Leo’s departure in at the end of season four, which started H:LOTS long and cringe inducing descent into mediocrity.

Lauren Tom

Lauren Tom

Mainly a known for her voice work, Tom is a wonderful on camera actress. Two words:
EMMA ZOOLE. Google it. H:LOTS fans know what I’m talking about!

10 Comments leave one →
  1. Charlie permalink
    November 17, 2009 3:57 pm

    – Mink Stole
    – Mink Stole
    – Mink Stole
    – Mink Stole
    – Mink Stole
    – Mink Stole
    – Janeane Garofalo
    – did I mention Mink Stole?

  2. redlami permalink*
    November 17, 2009 4:05 pm

    Dianne Wiest is a big favorite of mine, along with Mary Steenbergen. I don’t think of them so much as character actresses as supporting actresses, maybe because they strike me as very pretty in a Hollywood way. Here are a few of my other favorites:

  3. Charlie permalink
    November 17, 2009 4:14 pm

    It’s funny. With Dianne Wiest, I can always remember her name, but not what films I have seen her in.

  4. November 17, 2009 4:15 pm

    I actually just watched Janeane in CopLand along with another also ran Robert Patrick. Both gave fantastic performances in understated atypical (for them) roles.

    Mink Stole. There are simply NO words! ❤

  5. November 17, 2009 4:16 pm

    Alice Ghostley and Moonlighting’s Curtis “Booger” Armstrong are very accomplished character actors.

  6. Charlie permalink
    November 17, 2009 4:19 pm

    You don’t fancy Mink as well do you?

    Janeane was great in Copland, and yes, forgot about Robert Patrick in that one. I think he was cursed by Terminator 2. Also, check out Clay Pigeons for Janeane if you haven’t already. Best we don;t mention her performance in Mystery Men, I may start to overheat.

  7. November 17, 2009 4:56 pm

    I do. I need to see more work though. I am trying to catch up via netflix.

  8. Charlie permalink
    November 17, 2009 5:11 pm

    Do you mean you want to work through more Mink Stole?

    Can I presume you are familiar with John Waters output? If so, re-watch ‘A Dirty Shame’. That has two sides of Mink and she gets upstaged (nearly) by Jackie Hoffman. I won;t go into why I love them both on this forum, but if you;ve seen the film and understand my love of Mink you;d see why!

  9. Melinda Jakobovits permalink
    November 19, 2009 11:41 am

    I just came across your blog through Shapely Prose and noticed you referenced H:LOTS. I LOVE that show too!! It’s great to see you mentioning it here. I loved Tim so much.

  10. November 24, 2009 1:14 pm

    @Melinda Jakobovits – Bayliss was my favorite character with “Gee” right on his heels. H:LOTS is one of those shows I come back to from time to time and wonder why I don’t watch this show everyday. It has the perfect combination of pathos and humor – to be a cliche – and the acting is just brilliant. After repeated viewings I’ve focus on the little “throw away” moments, which are fantastic.

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