I watch a lot of sci-fi shows. It’s no doubt that it’s my favorite genre. I’m willing to give just about any of them a chance, and I often try to juggle more than one so that I always have something to watch. It all started with Star Trek: TNG – pretty much the only sci-fi I watched at the time… until I latched onto X-Files way after it was cool. But that was it for a long, long time. Until SciFi channel’s Battlestar Galactica introduced me to some of the cool new things happening in sci-fi. And some of the faces I should’ve prepared to see over and over again (and in other genres) – even if their names aren’t really known. What’s even more fun than to just play “Spot the Canadian” with them while I’m bingeing on Netflix is to see one of them and try to predict how long before I see another. Observe:
Richard Harmon (AKA Julian Randall AKA Angry Snot-faced Jealous Beta-Male)
Ok, so I know my opener was all about BSG, and this kid was not in it (to be fair, he was like 12 when it came out) but – fun fact – he was actually in BSG’s cousin/spin-off/prequel, Caprica. But I know him best from Continuum, where he plays the bafflingly against-technology would-be/future terrorist, Julian Randall (ok, to be fair, he’s supposed to be anti-corporations, but they really played it as anti-tech during his dad’s little cult meetings).
I guess he perfected the bratty/angry jerk face, or was just born with it, because he appears in this role over and over again. He was also credited as “Gaunt Teenager” in Smallville… which seems to actually be the hidden breakout show for most of these guys, rather than BSG.
I’m not quite sure what it is that enabled this guy to pop up in our living rooms on so many shows in such close temporal proximity, but I’m willing to bet it’s his RBF.
While I’m talking about this Continuum antagonist, let’s take a look at another:
Terry Chen (AKA Curtis Chen AKA That Asian Guy AKA Minority Thug #1)
Fun fact #1: he wasn’t only in the 2004 BSG, but also in the prequel mini-series Battlestar Galactica: Blood and Chrome (which did not live up to the series at all) playing an entirely different character. In addition to that, he’s played Asian Thug #1 in Arrow, Bates Motel, The 100, and, as mentioned, Continuum.He’s also played crooked, tough Asian Businessman/Official guy in House of Cards, Smallville and Nikita.
Fun fact #2: “Chen” is part of his character’s name at least 7 times in his IMDB filmography, and is “Chin” at least once.
Alessandro Juliani (AKA Gaeta AKA the one who loses a leg AKA that guy I remember as being Gaeta in Man of Steel)
This is where things start to get fun, cuz he’s in tiny little parts all over the place, plus, he and Tahmoh Penikett (next) almost always show up in the same things, even if not in the same episode. Heck, they even showed up in Man of Steel together. I don’t know if they just happen to be buddies who recommend each other to projects, or if they have the same agency or what, but you can’t see one without the other, it seems.
He usually plays a brainy “nobody” who tells the hero (and audience) something important, conveniently, before disappearing. That even was kind of his long-standing role in BSG (until they cut off his leg).
His “tactical officer” type roles include spots in: Watchmen, Smallville, Continuum (although he was actually a computer simulation), and The 100.
Tahmoh Penikett (AKA Helo AKA Fish Face AKA the nicest guy on BSG)
You can pretty much see why Tahmoh Penikett shows up everywhere despite his weird name. He’s beefy and not bad looking, but somewhat without the leading man “luster” so he gets plugged everywhere. Everywhere. The only shame is that he played a nice/decent guy so well, yet he keeps getting plugged in parts as “tough guys” or “gangsters” or just generally “meanie pants. We’ve seen him do that in: Continuum (corrupt mayor), Arrow (gangster), Castle (contract killer), The Killing (abusive husband or something? Jerk ex?), and Smallville (super soldier).
Probably, besides for BSG, my favorite role for him was Dollhouse – because he was kind of a tough guy (cop), but was basically just a tired guy, doing his job, and doing what he thought was best. I thought it fit him well – just like being the perennially likable Helo seemed natural for him. Too bad I didn’t really care for Dollhouse itself, though.
As a side note, back to Man of Steel, J and I were sitting in the theater when Penikett showed up on screen: “Hey it’s Helo!” Followed a few moments later, “Hey! Gaeta!” Later, J joked with me: “If I could, I would have paid so much money to have James Callis in the background of every scene going, “What exactly are you saying?”)
Now, good for these guys for getting some steady work. That being said, I’d really love to see them get just a good, long stretch in one show – because seeing them in all these other shows, all intersecting, kind of take me out of the moment. Sometimes, rather than focusing on the story, I start to build in my head how all the storylines could connect into one massive, really weird universe.
But perhaps I should start thinking of it like Japanese Noh Theater. In Noh theater, the actors would wear masks that represent different archetypes – that way the audience wouldn’t need too much explaining or backstory. It was understood that they could be different characters, but their origins, motives, and personalities did not need to be specified because they audience could assume it was familiar. And so, next time I see Tahmoh in a show, I can just think: Ok, he’s big and tough because he was on a spaceship fighting androids before becoming a cop that got beaten down at his job, so turned to a life of crime. Got it. Or Alessandro: He’s kind of ethnic looking, so he’s bound to be smart and good with computers. Great. He’ll give the MC some major information. Chen: Asian Thug. Got it. Harmon: RBF. Ah, got it. Right.