Tag Archives: 24

Actor’s Spotlight: Nate’s Top Ten Michael Massee Performances

Not too many people remember or could name a lot films in Michael Massee’s career, but to me he was always an electrifying, charismatic and often quite scary character actor accustomed to villains, tough guys and supernaturally malevolent roles throughout his varied career. With sad, cold eyes, gaunt frame and a voice that seemed to both annunciate clearly and blur mercurially with his mannerisms, he always stood out no matter the role. Here are my top ten personal favourite of his performances!

10. Leroux in Sahara

This African set war film is a remake of an old Humphrey Bogart picture and sees tank commander Jim Belushi leading troops through a desert gauntlet of fierce combat. It’s a serviceable TV movie and Michael steals scenes believably playing a French soldier who joins forces with them and turns on the charm even when things get tough.

9. Jacob Dawes in Criminal Minds

A vicious, manipulative serial killer who sits on death row giving everyone the crazy eyes, Jacob is not only responsible for murder but for corrupting an innocent woman and convincing her to join him in the atrocities. Michael makes this one episode arc count with sinister magnetism.

8. Casey Steele in CSI: NY

Casey is a mysterious and sadistic trucker who is transporting several kidnapped women in his rig across many state lines, likely for human trafficking. Michael gives him a sardonic edge and just the right amount of dark humour. When apprehended and in custody instead of talking he just curtly tells the cops: “If you gentlemen are done here I’d like to go to prison now.” That line delivery is note perfect.

7. D. Gibbons/Dyson Frost in FlashForward

This excellent and painfully short lived show saw the entire world experience a collective metaphysical phenomenon and try to deal with the aftermath as well as all the mysteries it brings about. Frost is one of those mysteries, an elusive scientist of dark proclivities out for nefarious ends and appearing here and there like an evil force of nature. Massee gets a solid arc here as basically the show’s main baddie and proves a force to be reckoned with.

6. Andy in David Lynch’s Lost Highway

Lynch’s trippy psychological shocker is chock full of fascinating personalities including Marilyn Manson, Gary Busey and a terrifying Robert Blake in his final acting role. Michael’s Andy is a sleazy socialite who hosts weird cult parties and, like most characters that Bill Pullman’s protagonist comes across, perpetually seems to be keeping some kinky secrets to go along with that unsettling pencil thin moustache.

5. Man In Massage Parlour Booth in David Fincher’s Seven

Another dark film full of interesting cameos, Michael plays clerk at essentially a brothel where one of the film’s central murder set pieces occurs. When asked cynically by Brad Pitt’s detective if he enjoys his work and likes what he has to watch happen there every day he replies “No, I don’t. But that’s life.” It’s a minuscule portion of dialogue but Michael gives it all the gravity, sorrow and resolute melancholy in the world.

4. Gustav Fiers/The Gentleman/Man In The Shadows in The Amazing Spider-Man and The Amazing Spider-Man 2

I’m not really familiar with Fiers as a villain in the comics but her he’s essentially a shadowy figure who manipulates Norman Osborn (Chris Cooper) for unseen purposes and hovers over the events of these two films like a dark entity, actually ending up being the most effective antagonist in either entry, as most of the other efforts are pretty silly. Michael gives him a ghostly noirish vibe and gets the spotlight in the first film’s tantalizing post credits scene.

3. Lucius Belyakov in HBO’s Carnivale

This is a tricky role and it doesn’t belong entirely to him but he’s basically a Russian soldier who serves as avatar for darkness in this show’s complex, slowly revealed mythology. Michael doesn’t speak a word here (the role is later given the voice of Linda Hunt, of all people) but the sight of him spectrally hunting down a wild bear in a smoky battlefield is pretty haunting, as are the surreal dream sequences where he stares menacingly at his adversary Scudder (John Savage).

2. Isiah Haden in Revelations

This miniseries sees him play a maniacal prophet of doom heralding the apocalypse while a priest (Bill Pullman) and a nun (Natascha McElhone) investigate both his claims and his sanity. Michael often reined it in for quieter portraits of evil but he lets it fucking rip and goes absolutely ballistic here, all fire, brimstone and biblical fury. It’s also one of his largest roles in a career spent mostly in fringe supporting appearances.

1. Ira Gaines in 24

Gaines is a sterling badass psychopathic bastard and straight up my favourite villain that Kiefer Sutherland’s Jack Bauer has ever done battle with. He isn’t even a top tier baddie either, he’s one of the early season middle men that is clearly working for someone else (as is always tradition with 24) but there’s something about how cold, nasty and calibrated his operation is that sticks with you. He orders countless people killed and when one of his henchman asks where to bury one he hisses back “In the ground.” When Jack eventually corners and has the drop on him he calmly wishes him “good luck” and casually goes for his gun without hesitation. He was a beast of a villain played expertly by Michael and the show has never matched that level of icy malevolence since.

-Nate Hill

Actor’s Spotlight: Nate’s Top Ten Dennis Hopper Performances

One of Hollywood’s most infamous screen outlaws, Dennis Hopper’s career stretched all the way from black and white 50’s westerns to voiceovers in PlayStation platform games. His epic and resounding career saw him take on countless roles including cowboys, psychos, politicians, detectives, terrorists and all manner of extreme portrayals. He had an intense way about him, a clear and distilled form of verbal expression and half mad gleam in his eye that made any scene he appeared in fiery and memorable. Here are my top ten personal favourite performances!

10. Victor Drazen in Fox’s 24

One of the more heinous and tough to kill villains that Kiefer Sutherland’s Jack Bauer ever went up against, Drazen is a genocidal warlord from a fictional country who turns up near the end of Day 1 to make life hell for everyone. Cold, dead eyes and hellbent on escaping captivity so he can resume ethnic cleansing and blow shit up, Hopper gives him a formidable edge and makes a terrific final boss baddie for the season that kicked everything off.

9. Paul Kaufman in George A. Romero’s Land Of The Dead

Even in a post apocalyptic zombie world there are still greedy billionaire developers, Kaufman being the chief one in a ruined, decaying Detroit. He presides over the coveted skyscraper community Fiddler’s Green with an iron fist of elitism and Donald Trump megalomania, isn’t above wantonly discriminating against the poor or murdering shareholders in the business to get ahead. His response when the zombies finally bust down his doors and invade this sickened utopia? “You have no right!!!” It’s a darkly hilarious, deadpan, tongue in cheek arch villain role that he milks for all its worth and steals the show.

8. Billy in Dennis Hopper’s Easy Rider

A seminal 60’s counterculture biker picture, Dennis directs and stars as an outlaw of the road who along with his compadre (Peter Fonda) embarks on a strange, prophetic and ultimately violent journey across an America that seems to resent and coil towards the two of them at every turn. This film didn’t strike the profound chord in me it seems to have in most viewers and while I’m not it’s hugest fan, the impact that Hopper’s words, direction and rowdy performance has made on cinema and pop culture itself is remarkable.

7. Deacon in Kevin Reynolds’ Waterworld

Another post apocalyptic villain in a very misunderstood and under appreciated film. Deacon is essentially the big daddy of an aquatic desolation after water covers most of the planet and forces the dregs of the human race to adapt to marine life. He’s got one eye, legions of henchmen at his beck and call and runs his operation from an enormous derelict freighter ship. Deacon is a larger than life and a definite scenery chewer but Hopper calibrates the work just right and doesn’t go too far into ham territory, which he has sneakily done so before (remember that weird ass Super Mario film where he played King Koopa? Lol).

6. Feck in Tim Hunter’s River’s Edge

A crazed, one legged drug dealer with a blow-up doll for a girlfriend, Feck is just one of many maladjusted small town rejects in this arresting, challenging drama. Forced to confront an act from his past when a local teen murders his girlfriend for the sheer hell of it, his true nature comes out and he arrives at the ultimate decision. It’s a performance that’s terminally weird and off the wall but there’s a strange gravity in amongst the madness, a juxtaposition that Hopper handles like the expert he was.

5. Lyle from Dallas in John Dahl’s Red Rock West

Texas hitman Lyle doesn’t even show up until midway through the film and at least two characters are mistaken for him before then. When he does show up though, this deadly desert neo-noir really kicks into gear and churns put some darkly funny scenarios. Lyle is killer good at what he does but at first he’s just baffled at how all the other players managed to muck things up so badly while he was on his way there, and there’s some delicious comedic bits to go with the fiery violence he brings into play.

4. The Father in Francis Ford Coppola’s Rumble Fish

This angelic arthouse gang flick sets up a hypnotic tone for an ensemble cast to dreamily wander in. Hopper is a rowdy drunken dad to Mickey Rourke and Matt Dillon, two wayward street kids on a collision course with inevitable trouble. The father/son banter between these three has a beautifully improvised, organic feel to it and you really get the sense that this trio rehearsed, spent time together and wanted to make their collective dynamic something truly special, which it is and can definitely be said for the film overall as well.

3. Clifford Worley in Tony Scott’s True Romance

A stubborn, tough as nails ex cop and father of the year, Clifford and Christopher Walken’s mobster Vincent get some of the best passages of dialogue from Quentin Tarantino’s script in their brief but blistering standoff. It’s a galvanizing, hilarious and now iconic scene in cinema with Hopper in full on Hopped up mode.

2. Howard Payne in Jan De Bont’s Speed

LA’s finest ex cop turned mad bomber, Howard is disappointed by the department’s meagre pension fund. His solution? Arm a city bus with enough C-4 to level an entire block and detonate it if the vehicle slows below 50 MPH. It’s up to super cops Keanu Reeves and Jeff Daniels to nab him, but both his plan and Dennis’s performance are something to be reckoned with. “Pop quiz, hotshot!” He taunts Reeves with that maniacal glee only this actor could bring out.

1. Frank Booth in David Lynch’s Blue Velvet

What can I say about Frank. He huffs oxygen to get high, prefers Pabst Blue Ribbon over Heineken, loves kinky S&M sex and is an unstable, volatile psychopath who engages in every kind of reprehensible behaviour and illegal activity you can think of. It’s an unhinged piece of acting work that carries both Lynch’s and Hopper’s distinct brand of eccentric sensibilities and off kilter lunacy.

Thanks for reading and stay tuned for more!

-Nate Hill

A chat with actor Peter Onorati

Pleased to bring you my latest interview, with veteran actor Peter Onorati. Peter has appeared in many films including Martin Scorsese’s Goodfellas, Rocketman, Shelter, The Last Ride, Postcards From The Edge, Blood Deep, The Last Ride and more. He’s also acted in Television shows including Sex And The City, Tales From The Crypt, CSI, NCIS, Monk, Crossing Jordan, ER, Batman Beyond, The Wild Thornberries, The Outer Limits, 24, Blue Bloods, Sons Of Anarchy, Castle and many more. Enjoy!
Nate: You have done quite a bit in life, before and besides acting, including playing football. When did you know you wanted to be an actor, and knew it would be something you would enjoy doing indefinitely?
Peter: I really never thought about acting until I was challenged to take a 1-night stand class in comedy in NYC, which turned out to be a class in Improvisation. At the time, I had my MBA and I was the Director of Marketing and Research for 3 of McCall’s magazines and dating a childhood crush who was the Art Director of one of the magazines. After the 1-night class I was asked to join an Improv group in NYC that ended up being called Port Authority Theatre Ensemble or Pate (pronounced Pattay like the French word). The Group was named so because NONE of us were in the acting business and we came together from as far as Boonton N.J. (me) and Queens and the boroughs. We were indeed very much like a Pate. We played all he shit-holes in NYC for a few years and competed in the Improvisation Olympics in Chicago at Second City. I met a starving actress in the group named Jeanette Collins who was classically trained in Improv and who had moved to NYC from California. When my childhood crush broke up with me Jeanette took pity on me and dated me. Soon after I had some of my research published in Advertising Age and was being sought after by some big package good firms like P&G. I let my boss at McCall’s know and she decided that I wasn’t worth keeping so she made my life miserable for a few months. During that time Jeanette said “I think you could be an actor” to which I replied “Yeah, so I can have 4 jobs and starve like you?” When I subsequently removed the ice-pack from my eye, I decided to try acting. I walked into McCall’s and quit and within 2 weeks was on hold for a national beer commercial. Within about 2 years I had made more money as a commercial actor than I did as a Marketing Exec and I got my first break in TV on the last season of Kate and Allie. From there you can check my resume cause there’s too much to type.
 Nate: Who are some actors/filmmakers whose work you enjoy and maybe have inspired you in your own work? 
Peter: Actors who inspire me: DeNiro (whom I worked with in my first big movie Goodfellas) Robert Duvall, John Casales, Christian Bale, John Garfield, James Gagney, Spencer Tracey (too many to type) – Filmakers/Actors – Redford, Stallone, Clooney. Barry Levinson, Scorsese (again too numerous to type)
Nate:  You have a very rambunctious, energetic nature to your work; many of your characters have a vitality that lights up the screen and commands attention. Is this something you consciously have done with practice and training, or do you think it comes out of your own personality?
Peter: Most of what I do comes from me. I have no real formal training as an actor so I have nothing to draw upon except my own life experience. For better or worse, there is always a huge piece of me or somebody I loved or hated in what I do. Let’s face it, I have no other resources.
Nate: 24: how was you experience working on this show? 
Peter: My experience on 24 was GREAT and would have lasted longer except for the way this stupid business works. I am an acquaintance of Jon Cassar the Exec Prod (he has subsequently climbed on board with a script I co-wrote to be the Exec Prod.) They offered me that role and that doesn’t happen too much to actors at my level. However they did not make it a “Regular Role” and lock me in. (probably because they didn’t want to pay me). So in the middle I was offered a 4 episode arc on Desperate Housewives and took the guarantee over the possibility of more episodes of ‘24’. So as most of the stories of this business go, ‘24’ called me for more eps but I committed to Desperate Housewives so I did no more.
Nate: You have done a fair amount of voice work in your career. How did that come about, do you enjoy it, and how does it compare to acting in front of a camera in live action? 
Peter: As one who got kicked out of Catholic School in 5th grade for mimicking the Nuns and Priests, I never thought I’d make money doing exactly what I did wrong so long ago.
Nate: I remember a little film you did called Shelter, with Kurtwood Smith and Costas Mandylor, who played your brother. You stole the show as the hyperactive Greek mafia boss. Any memories from that one, and how was the experience? 
Peter: One of the best experiences of my career. Not only did I get to sit across from the great Charles Durning but I got to do something actors at my level NEVER get to do. Unless you’re Dustin Hoffman or Christian Bale, you never get to do maladies or accents. The writer/producer and the director let me speak in Greek and do the Greek/American accent at my suggestion for the character. This is unheard of for us guys at the lower levels.
Nate: Any upcoming projects you are excited for and would like to mention? 


Peter: Nothing in acting right now. I have had some success writing and have put together some strong and interesting packages for my work. Actually I am writing something right now with my wife ( in 30 years together we haven’t done this) She is part of a writing team Collins an Friedman and has been everything from Exec to Co-Exec producer on shows since we moved to California.
Nate: Some of your favorite roles you have played over the course of your career so far?
Peter: I love ALL of my own series. They gave me a sense of security and a long term approach to finding my characters. I specifically loved doing a show that my agents and managers kept me from doing for a while as it was not “the thing to do”. The show was Walker Texas Ranger and I had a BLAST and Chuck was incredibly congenial and respectful of my ideas for my character. I can’t mention all the special jobs that stretched my chops like “Harry’s Law” and the joy and fatigue that accompanied the work. I guess that when I’m not working like most actors I feel unaccomplished. When you come to this town it’s all about the trophies and the P.R. but when you’ve been here as long as I have, you realized it’s a major accomplishment just to raise a family, put your sons through college and stay in your house. So I guess I made out ok.