Greetings all and sundry!
Having taken a brief while experiencing weather change from arctic to damp, drizzly wet and cold to the first hints of spring. I’ve allowed my mind to roam and wander through myriad topics, opinions and ideas. I’ve fallen back on what is slowly becoming a favorite of mine, and hopefully others… The Character Actor.
Which, by its definition comes in all shapes, sizes and dispositions, The bookish nerd who finds the clue to the mystery at the end of the second reel. The hapless, everyday company man. The schemer. The wide eyed sap. Pre packaged and ready to be taken off by schemers and con men. The harried business agent. The fastidious curmudgeon.
Ripe low hanging roles to be given best efforts. And one would be satisfied to master just a few, Though there’s a distinct and near anonymous few who can make these parts their own. And often amplify upon them.
Please allow me to introduce one of that very rarified number.
Consummate Character Actor: Saul Rubinek.
I’ll wait for the surprised laughs and “Who?”s to settle down before continuing.
Here is an actor who caught my eye back in 1980. In a forgotten little conspiracy gem, titled Agency. With Lee Majors and Robert Mitchum. Wrapped around a less than prosperous ad agency headed by Mitchum to bring in black ink and profits. The company handles vast clients covering liquor to sports wear to high-end camping and recreational gear. With Mr. Rubinek playing a kind of dumpy nebbish with a spoiled pet cat. His Sam Goldstein is just a bit too OCD, curious and clever. Notices inconsistencies and reports them to Lee Majors’. Philip Morgan. Who decided to handle his own investigation. Which slowly enters the realm of subliminal messaging right before a gubernatorial political campaign.Rather heady stuff for 1980!
Though not long in the film, Mr. Rubinek was able to sell the “McGuffin” and set the stage with suspense and tension As other friends and co-workers disappear and the clues lead upward toward Mr. Mitchum’s CEO, Ted Quinn.
Which opened to doors to a role in Young Doctors in Love and rich, degenerate gambler, Steve Kirsch in Against All Odds. To iconic for fifteen minutes, perhaps drug dealing and money laundering screenwriter and director. Lee Donowitz in the over the top shoot ’em up finale of True Romance.
While honing his craft on television with characters in Hill Street Blues, Men and The Equalizer. To then make his mark as antiquities collector, Kivas Fajo. Who takes a fancy to Data in ST:TNG’s The Most Toys.
Then on to lawyer, Jed Kramer in Tom Wolfe’s ridiculous, The Bonfires of The Vanities. And bespectacled journalist, W.W. Beauchamp in Clint Eastwood’s The Unforgiven. Then returning to television for two memorable characters in the updated, The Outer Limits and as layman investigator Saul Panzer and later, gossip reporter, Lon Cohen in the superb period series, A Nero Wolf Mystery.
Bouncing back and forth for the role of the manager and agent, George “Bullets” Durghom. For a young, up and coming Jackie Gleason (Brad Garrett) in Gleason. A surprisingly good bio-pic that pays attention to the beginnings of this new medium. Its countless details and what is and isn’t “funny”! Then off to be a recurring character, Donny Douglas on Frasier.
Before finding and defining distinctly memorable characters in the science fiction arenas. As perpetually frightened scientist, Dr. Carl Carlson during the first seasons of of Sy-Fy’s under rated, Eureka. Then finding a long-term home as the very set in his ways, earth tone friendly, long time agent, Artie Nielsen. Lord and master and curator of Warehouse 13. Who’s old enough and wise enough to plunge deep into comedic repartee (“Devil Child!”) with young upstart, Claudia (Allison Scagliotti) at arm’s length. While trying to keep older agents Pete (Eddie McClintock) and Myka (Joanne Kelly) in line and securing “artifacts” from around the world.
Then taking time to create a rather slimy, fast taking bad guy, Victor Dubenich on TNT’s Leverage through several seasons. Then flipping the coin to give life to a paranoid and perhaps, rattled, Arthur Claypool. Who may have helped Finch (Michael Emerson) create the all-seeing, all-knowing computer on CBS’s Person of Interest.
There was something about Mr. Rubinek that struck and stuck the first time I saw him. An ordinary looking guy. Not tall. Not muscular. Though endearing in his delivery. With a whiff of self-deprecation. Though, by no means a victim. Though, that is a story in itself. Not really taking himself too seriously, Yet, taking his tasks and roles very seriously. No matter long, front and center. Or in the background.
Hitching up the reins and pulling the plow and moving the story along for however long his character was required. And occasionally beyond. Creating memorable characters for more than thirty years. And making the mediums of film and television much better for his inclusion!