Appreciation: Big or small roles, Lance Reddick made every scene he was in stand out

It somehow seems absurd that Lance Reddick, who died on Friday at the age of 60, is no longer around. An impressively solid presence wherever he went, Reddick seemed invincible, immortal. That one of his last roles was Zeus in the upcoming Disney+ adaptation of Percy Jackson and the Olympians seems like just a typeface.

A wonderfully centered performer, he was able to enhance any scene without breaking a sweat. Reddick, whose voice was well-trained, resonant, and pleasing to the ear, did not need to be raised to inspire godliness in a character or a spectator; one could feel the turbulent currents well enough beneath a calm surface. He made an art out of quiet cooking and a stern look. When asked, he could smile broadly enough to charm birds from the trees.

Best known for crime dramas (“The Wire,” “Bosch”), genre drills (“Lost,” last year’s Resident Evil series), or combinations of both (“Fringe”), Reddick has also guest-starred on sitcoms (“Young Sheldon, It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia) and alternative comedies (Tim & Eric’s Bedtime Stories, Key & Peele, The Eric Andre Show, and Comedy Bang! Bang!). Voice work in cartoons and video games. He appeared in Regina King’s historical drama One Night in Miami… and will star in an upcoming remake of White Men Can’t Jump. That said, any generalizations I make about his career are bound to be contradicted somewhere in there.

The face was familiar, even if you couldn’t place the name; Once you’ve seen him, you’re glad to see him again. Reddick was handsome in an individual way, almost pretty. Tall, lean, and subtly muscular with a body built for clothes, he made suits look good, and his parts tended to put him in them. Whatever he wore, he looked neat and dignified. (In “Oz,” where he played an undercover cop in prison, was something of an exception. On the other hand, he was a character who played a more disheveled character than himself.)

Though we can dream of the series or movie now never being built around him, basically Reddick was the definition of a supporting actor. A character who exuded authority, he was often cast as an authority figure. Often, like on “Fringe” or “The Wire” — not the only shows he’s played a senior lawman — he’s called upon to act as law enforcement, a guide to what the hell is going on. Nobody was better at making the unloading of explanatory details sound like a poetry recital.

Even though he wasn’t busy, Reddick made a big impression. He appeared in just four episodes of Lost, and yet his mysterious Matthew Abaddon is one of the series’ most memorable characters; He is rarely seen on screen in the “John Wick” franchise, although he does enlist as one of the stars. As the stalwart concierge at an assassin hotel, Reddick’s Charon justifies the film’s brutal nonsense with something resembling a morality.

Although he rarely played a major H-hero – more often than not he’s just a man dedicated to his work and doing it as well as he can – his characters are read as heroic. And even if they’re flawed, who on The Wire isn’t? – they will strive to do the right thing.

To some extent, his size has guided his career. Physiognomy is destiny, even more so in show business than in real life, and Reddick wasn’t made to play weakness. Perhaps the best reason to spend time watching Netflix’s Resident Evil is that Reddick can play extreme variations on his multi-cloned character, even demonstrating his range within a single scene.

And there was more to him than fans might have guessed. Before graduating from Yale School of Drama, Reddick earned a bachelor’s degree from Eastman School of Music in Rochester, NY. “Reflections & Memories”, available on multiple streaming platforms, isn’t the wannabe pop/folk/soul pastiche that moonlighting actors have in common. It is an original, personal and very beautiful work, with art song melodies layered over jazz harmonies and Latin rhythms, sung in a higher, sweeter key than one might have expected.

It suggests that in another world, Reddick may have had a career as a performer or writer of musical theater. But in the one we shared, he left us a lot.

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