Dean Norris

Who says type-casting is bad? Not Dean Norris – he’s played FBI Agents, DEA Agents, Sergeants galore, Captains, Commanding Officers, Cops on the beat, Detectives, Deputies… indeed any time you need a authoritative no-nonsense tough guy, Dean is your man.

But it wasn’t always that way. Graduating from Harvard in 1995, a corporate career beckoned. Wall Street companies courted him by offering free flights and hotels so he could attend their job interviews – which he gladly took, but then spent his free time auditioning for anything he could find. One of those auditions got him into RADA, and after returning to the States he hasn’t looked back.

His second acting job was playing a cop in LETHAL WEAPON 2 – 18 weeks on set with Mel Gibson, followed by a role in HARD TO KILL with Steven Seagal and then he memorably played Tony the mutated Mars rebel in TOTAL RECALL. Three great jobs in his first 18 months as an actor.

And from that point he was set – the roles kept on coming, and with them the steady paychecks. A jobbing actor was born.

“The way I look at it, I’m a guy who acts to live,” Norris says. “You can always have a job if you can play shoot’em-up stuff. If playing cops pays the bills, that’s what I need to do to support my family.”

But if you think that playing similar roles means he has limited range then you must check out the outstanding series BREAKING BAD. In early seasons his brash, coarse DEA Agent Hank Schrader provides some easy laughs, but as the series progresses his character goes through some extreme dark changes and it shows what a wonderful, versatile actor he is.

May there long be a need for bald, paunchy bad-asses.


Piper Laurie

You have to admire someone who just does it their way – no compromises, no half measures. Someone who has the courage to break with tradition and follow their instincts. Buck the system. Piper Laurie did just that.

Born in 1932, as a young girl she was painfully shy, anxious and withdrawn. In an attempt to bring her out of herself, her parents enrolled her in elocution and acting classes, where she was noticed by Universal Studios talent scouts.

In 1949, aged just 17, she signed a contract with Universal and spent five years co-starring in a plethora of lighthearted comedies. She became known across all of America, had a string of handsome suitors including Howard Hughes, Paul Newman and a certain Ronald Reagan, she was the toast of Hollywood society. A perfect life, no?

Not for Piper. So frustrated by the lack of substantial roles offered to her, and at Universal’s ludicrous attempts to enhance her image by telling gossip columnists she bathed in milk and ate flower petals to protect her skin, she burned her contract. Quite literally. A hugely courageous and risky decision for a young woman at the time.

She upped and left for New York to take acting classes and hone her craft on the stage and live television – a medium still in its infancy. She persevered – pushed on by a desire to work at the highest levels of her craft.

And it worked – because her next major film role was in 1961 opposite Paul Newman in THE HUSTLER – playing his crippled girlfriend, for which she received an Oscar nomination for Best Actress.

But still the better roles didn’t come, so back she went to the east coast to raise a daughter and take time out. She baked. She sculpted. And then in 1976 the role of an eccentric religious zealot mother came her way – her screen daughter was called CARRIE – and she received her second Oscar nomination.

And then finally she started being offered the type of work she craved. In 1986 she received her third Oscar nomination for CHILDREN OF A LESSER GOD and in the same year won an Emmy for the television movie PROMISE.

And her role in the classic TWIN PEAKS earned her a Golden Globe win (if you haven’t seen this series rent it now – it’s still groundbreaking television).

She has appeared in 60 films, scores of quality television shows and many memorable stage roles.

She’s come a long way from that mute child who couldn’t express herself – an incredible trajectory, and an amazing acting career.

Gary Cole

Chances are you won’t be able to picture this actor simply from his name, but he’s one of those fantastic versatile American actors that never stops working and is a treat in anything he appears in. So today we’re going to highlight the amazing Gary Cole.

Yes, he looks like the guy next door, someone you could share a beer with, a harmless middle of the road kind of guy. But don’t let that fool you – he’s played a S.W.A.T. commander (WANTED) and a drug lord (PINEAPPLE EXPRESS). He’s played astronauts and sheriffs and lawyers and doctors. He was Vice President Bob Russell in THE WEST WING and Ari Gold’s old best friend Andrew Klein in ENTOURAGE. He even played General Custer in the acclaimed tv movie SON OF THE MORNING STAR.

And might he have inspired Ricky Gervais’ David Brent with his role as office supervisor Bill Lumberg in the little seen but much loved film OFFICE SPACE?

Despite playing the lead in a few successful American tv shows in the late 80s and 90s (MIDNIGHT CALLER, AMERICAN GOTHIC) he’s never really made the leap to movie stardom, but that hasn’t stopped him from just working and working – single episodes here, some voice work there, and an occasional supporting movie role.

What a great career – and it feels like his best is yet to come.

Larry Hankin

Every once in a while we come across a wonderful actor whose career should be an inspiration to other actors. It’s usually one of those men or women whose face you recognise but can’t quite place the name.

Today it’s the turn of Larry Hankin.

Here are the names of some of the roles he has played during his 40+ year career – can you work out his niche? –

The Homeless Guy, Drunk, Joe the Bum, Crusty, Homeless Man God, Bearded Man, Toothless, Bearded Homeless Guy, Gaunt Gary, Old Joe, Sex Shop Owner, Fudgie, Wild Mel.

He has worked with Rob Reiner, Woody Allen, John Hughes, John Huston, Clint Eastwood and Larry David. He has appeared in hits and duds, movies and tv, one day roles and recurring roles, but most importantly he has kept working and working and working.

Plus he was Oscar nominated for a short film he wrote, produced and directed – SOLLY’S DINER.

Click here for a video interview with the man himself. Genius.

And here is his website.

May he long continue to entertain us all.