I watch a lot of TV, that’s not a surprise to anyone who reads my blog. What might be a surprise is that I’m also interested in the production side of things. How people are cast, the role of show runners vs. writers and sub-writers, the role of non-show runners vs. producers, and what stars actually do if they get an executive producer credit, if anything. But stunt casting is out of the hands of the writers, that I know.
Which leaves some episodes in the mystery genre where casting a big name is clearly a bad decision on the part of the producers and casting director, because they are often the bad guy, leaving a carefully crafted script way too obvious. You might as well have them introduce themselves as Murderer #1. But what about non-big names but experienced actors? Take a simple episode of a series, perhaps Elementary for instance. Have it start off being about one murder, and along the way suggest that maybe it is murder not about love or money, but the third most popular theme, related to another crime. Flash-forward, meet with the police involved, relatively junior actors, decent work, a little more than fifth business, but not much more. Meet with the D.A. on the case, and whoa, wait a minute, SHE’S the background D.A.? Red flag. I know she’s not a big name, but she’s big enough to be more than room filler.
I watched the second of two episodes for the week of Elementary (don’t ask, the eps were barely related), and there is Christina Cox as the D.A. You probably have no idea who she is, and I don’t blame you. She’s not a big name. But, as I said, she’s way more than room filler.
She was a main character on Defying Gravity, a short-run series a few years ago, as well as the lead on Blood Ties. She’s guest-starred on The Mentalist, NCIS, NCIS:LA, NCIS: NO, Stargate:Atlantis, Arrow, Perception, Castle, Numb3rs, Andromeda, Mutant X, and Forever: Knight, and those are just the shows I *watched*. Every time she shows up, she’s got something integral to do related to the story. A driving force, with lots of lines, or like this one, she had maybe 10 lines, but had to establish presence pretty fast in the two scenes she’s in, cuz she’s important at the end. This time, in the last scene, she starts off bold and cocky, and says only one line in about 3 minutes as her world crumbles around her, you see the evidence stacked against her chipping away her bravado slowly.
I like her, but as soon as I saw her in the episode, I said “Oh, she did it”. I could have turned it off at that point. There was NO other option, she had no role, no more lines, and if that was all she was going to do, they could have hired someone with a lot less experience. The business side of things butting in to the story for me. By contrast, some guy named Jason Dirden played the big suspect, with three whole previous credits to his name (which is not a giant slight, just about HR costs, he did a great job). But Christina Cox? She has 71 credits including at least three key roles in series, not to mention her role as the young femme fatale to lure the equally young star of Better Than Chocolate, and a slew of other movies in there.
Of course, by that logic, I should suspect John Noble of every crime every week. And I would. Except he’s playing Sherlock’s father, which would seem awkward at dinner.
Now I don’t know what my point was…that I spot guest-stars too fast, or that I watch too much TV?