TV

No One Plays A Disgruntled Authority Figure Better Than Lance Reddick

Okay, you’re making a movie. Or a television show. A movie or a television show. It doesn’t really matter which one for this hypothetical. The key is that you need someone to play some sort of disgruntled authority figure. Chief of Police, embattled CEO, mayor who has had enough of some loose cannon cop’s shenanigans, whatever. You know these guys. They’re usually glaring at an underling or saying lines like “You better be right” or grumbling the main character’s name under their breath. Sometimes at the end, they’ll say something like, “I don’t like your methods, but goddammit, you get results.” This is an important role. It has to be done right, big enough to convey the severity of things but not so big that it all becomes McGarnagle. There’s an art to this.

And so, you start running through the people who might be able to pull this off. Dennis Franz was a great option but he’s been retired for well over a decade. Paul Giamatti does some of it extremely well but there’s a kind of blustery exasperation in his performances that would need to be sanded down a bit, and why the hell would you cast Giamatti if you’re not going to let him give you the full Giamatti? Dennis Haysbert has the voice and gravitas but not the right level of crankiness. Glenn Close is great but there’s only one of her. JK Simmons is a world-class yeller but his dance card is pretty full these days. The Rolodex gets thin fast. But then, a light bulb. It was right in front of you the whole time. You pick up the phone and you call Lance Reddick, just like you should have done from the start.

Lance Reddick is the best. He’s been the best for a while, too, especially at these kinds of roles. He did it as Cedric Daniels on The Wire, the perpetually beleaguered Baltimore lieutenant who tried to find actual justice amidst a bureaucracy. He did it as the powerful CEO on Comedy Central’s Corporate, lending years of earned authority to a wickedly sharp satire. Hell, he even popped up for like two minutes in Godzilla vs. Kong earlier this year, wearing an incredible black coat and delivering bad news to Kyle Chandler, exactly as he should.

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So, yes, again, the best. And I would have mentioned his role in the John Wick franchise here, too, as Charon, the exceedingly polite and helpful concierge at The Continental, if not for one small issue: Lance Reddick should be managing his own Continental somewhere, not working the front desk under Ian McShane. Imagine Lance Reddick grumbling “Dammit, Wick” in his regular voice. It’s perfect. I could talk about this for one hour, easily, with no interruption. But I won’t. Not now, at least. Because now is the time we discuss his role on Bosch.

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It’s honestly incredible. He plays the Los Angeles Chief of Police and his character’s name is, I swear this is true, Irvin Irving, and he is always so fed up with something someone has done or is doing, and that person is usually Bosch, the loose cannon detective who plays by his own rules but, you guessed it, gets results. The screencap up there is an all-timer. The man is sitting at a piano with a glass of wine just steaming about Bosch’s refusal to play by the rules. It’s beautiful. And it’s not even the best example of Lance Reddick being a disgruntled authority figure on the show. Because there’s also this…

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… which is delightful, both because of the “[quietly]” in the front that drives home how tired he is of all of this, and because it — a moment from the final season of the show — marks something like the seventh or eighth time a character has grumbled this exact profane phrase after Bosch pulls some classic Bosch antics. It’s not even the only time Lance Reddick has gotten to say it. There was also this one from a previous season that got the all-caps treatment in the captions.

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Look at how spot-on this whole image is. Let’s just hit the highlights:

  • Face: Open contempt, sneering, looks like smoke might start shooting out his ears or nose at any moment
  • Posture: Rigid as a flag pole, collar buttoned tight as a drum, dignified as all hell, the look of a man who wants things done The Right Way and has zero tolerance for foolishness
  • Voice: You can’t hear it just looking at a still picture, the deep rumble of disdain that comes out dripping with fury and contempt, but, like, you also kind of can hear it, right?

It has everything you could possibly ask for in a role like this, and yet, somehow, against odds so long you could wrap them around the planet three or four times, it’s still not even the best example of the stuff I’m talking about. For that, we will need motion. We will need action. We will need a GIF.

We will need this GIF, to be specific.

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Watch that a few times through to really let it sink in. Look at the timing on the slow blink and head turn. Look at his face — staring straight ahead now, as though the blink represented the last moment he would ever acknowledge that poor soul’s existence — as the tinted window glides up and the car pulls away. Imagine what you would do if Lance Reddick ever did this to you in real life. I’ve been thinking about multiple times a month ever since the scene aired a few years ago and I’ve come to two primary conclusions:

  • I would burst into a cloud of pathetic molecules and dissipate into the atmosphere
  • I would do this kind of thing a lot if I were Lance Reddick, in real life, just for fun, like at busy intersections or when I pull away from a drive-thru

And I am pleased to report that this all gets even better. Because after he did this, like years later, when the final season dropped a week ago, something truly breathtaking happened. I need you to collect yourself here.

Are you ready?

Are you really, honestly ready?

Please be sure.

Because guess what.

HE DID IT AGAIN.

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The greatest. Maybe the best that has ever done it. I don’t think I’ve seen anyone do it better. I’ll go as far as “as good as,” I guess, only because I’ve seen Dennis Franz throw a tantrum about John McClane shooting up the airport in Die Hard 2, but not better. I don’t even see how you could do it better. There’s no area left to improve. It’s as close to a flawless performance as anyone has ever given. Lance Reddick does this one thing as well as anyone has ever done any aspect of their job. It’s remarkable. We should talk about it every day. We should give him an award for this exact thing. I am barely kidding.

So, yes, please, call up Lance Reddick. Ask him to play the disgruntled authority figure in your movie or television show. Do not give him any notes on the set. He knows what he’s doing. He was born to do it. This part of the production is now in good hands, strong hands, ones that might ball up into fists and slam a stack of papers on the desk upon hearing that the reckless protagonist has disobeyed a direct order, again.

Just make sure not to insult him with your offer. Make sure you don’t do that even a little. You do not want to be sitting across from an angry Lance Reddick. Because that’s when something like this might happen.

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Devastating. But, again, flawless. We are witnessing history here, people. We are watching greatness happen right in front of our faces in real-time. Please do not take it for granted.

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