Friday, January 20, 2012

A Salute to Supporting Actors Who Make Everything Better

by Sara N.

My husband and I recently caught Mission Impossible 4: Ghost Protocol, and we both agreed afterward that this already entertaining movie was made even better by the presence of one Simon Pegg. This got me thinking about Pegg and other actors who may not be the stars of every film they're in, but whose very presence elevates viewers' enjoyment levels of the genre films and television shows in which they appear.

Keep reading for my list of MVP supporting actors whose names below the title in the opening credits guarantee that you'll have something to look forward to onscreen for the next two hours.

How nice! He wants me both to live long and to prosper.

Simon Pegg: Yes, we all love him for his fantastic work in Shaun of the Dead, Paul and Hot Fuzz. But think how much brainy, sunshiny humor he brought to his smaller roles as Scotty in Star Trek and Benji in MI4, in which he provided much-needed tech support and comic relief. Yet he also oozed menace in his guest-starring role in "The Long Game," one of the best season 1 episodes of the new Doctor Who. I'd like 2012 to be the year Simon Pegg guest stars on everything, everywhere.

Hello, arms.

Alan Tudyk: To legions of Firefly fans, he'll forever be known as Wash. But he was also quite literally the only enjoyable part of the atrocity that was Transformers: Dark Side of the Moon. His voice alone brought the robot Sonny to life in the otherwise forgettable I, Robot. I frequently drop his line from A Knight's Tale "Hello? It's called a lance!" into conversations at appropriate moments. (I love this movie to an embarrassing degree, and I don't care if its medieval setting doesn't technically qualify it as a fantasy film.) His character (and his abs!) in Dollhouse were a shock to audiences. Heck, for years I remembered him as that funny redheaded German in 28 Days, the rather grim Sandra Bullock rehab movie that I saw ages before I was aware of his name or of his awesomeness. I have no doubt that he'll steal the show as Stephen Douglas in the upcoming Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter. He's effortlessly funny, but he can flip to sad or terrifying with ease.

Squids are so hot right now.

Missi Pyle: She's a beautiful woman who's adept at playing real weirdos, and I adore her for her lack of vanity. Much of her work is in mainstream, non-genre guest-starring roles, but she's had some memorable turns in science fiction projects. She was one of the hapless aliens in the hilarious Galaxy Quest, and she played the loathsome Alexandra Cabot in the woefully underrated Josie and the Pussycats movie. Although it's not a genre film, her Russian athlete from Dodgeball may as well be a sci fi character, with her out-there teeth, eyebrows and accent. She also had quirky turns in Pushing Daisies and Heroes. If you need an attractive but slightly bizarre character, Missi's your gal.

Silly psychic. That's a piece of Mulder's New York Knicks t-shirt.

Brad Dourif: To most of you, Dourif is Grima Wormtongue from The Lord of the Rings. To others, he is Piter De Vries from Dune. Probably everyone recognizes the voice of the murderous doll Chucky, which he's provided in countless projects. But for me, he'll forever be Luther Lee Boggs, the deeply unsettling physic serial killer from the most excellent X-Files episode, "Beyond the Sea." This is just a tiny peek at his roles in SF/F projects, and no matter what character you associate Dourif with, I guarantee it's memorable and a little bit creepy.

Spoiler alert: He turns into a vampire.

Danny Trejo: OK, yes, most of his roles are as drug dealers and convicts in decidedly non-SF/F fare. However, he's had some memorable turns as that gruff, tough Mexican in a few keys works. He's in all three of the From Dusk Till Dawn films, and his trailer for Machete in Grindhouse was so good that it got turned into an actual (kind of disappointing) movie. His role in Predators was typical Trejo fare, but with a bloodthirsty alien added to the mix. Hilariously, IMDb tells me he was also in several episodes of The Young and the Restless. That sounds a little bit like science fiction to me.

I will admit to having a small girl crush on Carla.
Carla Gugino: Gugino excels at playing smart, no-nonsense women, such as the brainy crisis manager brought in to deal with an alien plot to take over the planet in the cruelly axed Threshold. (Seriously, to this day I violently mourn the cancellation of that and of Karen Sisco, which both starred Gugino.) Incidentally, Threshold also featured Peter Dinklage (Tyrion in Game of Thrones), Brent Spiner (Data in Star Trek: TNG) and Rob Benedict (Chuck the prophet in Supernatural), making it a who's who of amazing supporting actors. Anyway, Gugino was also captivating as the blowsy former pin-up superhero Sally Jupiter in Watchmen and sexy/tragic as the unfortunate Lucille in Sin City. Oh, she was also in Night at the Museum and Sucker-Punch, but I was more embarrassed for her than delighted by her presence, to be honest. She's too smart for that drivel. Who'll join me in petitioning for a Treshold reboot?

Did I leave off your favorite supporting actors? Let me know in the comments!
Pin It


  1. I have to add Jeremy Renner. I looove him.

    Also, when Alan Tudyk showed up in Dollhouse so buff, I think I got pregnant. Holy cow.

    1. Laurie, please tell me you've seen Mission Impossible 4.

    2. Oh, I have. It was divine. I want to see it again. Mmm-mmm.

    3. Alan Tudyk on Dollhouse was very surprising! Part of me felt bad about perving on Wash but part of me really appreciated how he looked in that shirt. WOW!

  2. ow can you have left out Garret Dillahunt! The man is criminally under valued.

    1. Good call! Between The 4400 and The Sarah Connor Chronicles, he's got plenty of genre cred. Plus, he can be both hilarious to frightening -- hooray for versatility!

    2. I fell in love with him with Sarah Connor Chronicles and he's hilarious on Raising Hope.

  3. I went to see Mission Impossible 4 specifically for Simon Pegg. I also went to see Tin Tin because he does a voice in it. I can't get enough of that man! I agree with you Sara! Pegg in everything!