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by Amanda Knoss

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How often do you stay to see this?

How often do you stay to see this?
It is indescribable how many elements go into creating a movie that you enjoy. A countless number of people have contributed far more than just those two hours of screen time that you see, and it's an amazing process that would not have the same result if it had not been for every single individual in those end credits.

One of the most frustrating things for me, as a movie fan, is the fact that the majority of people who go to see films in the theatre do not know any of the actors, except for the big names fed to them by magazines and talk shows. Unless there have been rumours of an extra scene in the very end, they don't stay through the credits. Who knew that anyone else besides Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie mattered?

As for me, it's a most enjoyable experience to walk into the theatre without knowing who the "secondary" cast is, only to find out that the film features an actor that I thoroughly enjoy. These people may not be very well-known. The tabloids haven't been throwing their pictures up at every news stand, and you probably don't know their names.

There's a good chance, however, that you've sat in a theatre and thought to yourself, "Hey, it's that guy."

So I've put some thought into it, and I've come up with a small list of my favourite "that guys." You'll probably recognize their faces, and maybe if prompted you'll recognize a name. But have you thought about their abilities? Have you looked beyond the dazzling smiles of Brangelina to see what skills lie beyond?

The first on my personal list of what I call "secondaries" has been acting for quite a while, but has only more recently gained some notable attention. His
Michael Pena out on the town.

Michael Pena out on the town.
name is Michael Pena, a thirty-three year-old Mexican-American actor from Chicago.

You would recognize Pena from the award-winning film CRASH, where he joined an extensive and talented cast of individuals portraying unknowing connections and the ruthlessness of our own prejudices in Los Angeles. Pena played Daniel, a family man trying to make a living as a locksmith while dealing with racism.

Pena also acted alongside Nicholas Cage in WORLD TRADE CENTER, the story of police officials attempting to help evacuate the Twin Towers after the planes hit on September 11, 2001. More recently, the actor joined Mark Wahlberg in the conspiracy thriller SHOOTER, where he played yet another good guy trying to do the right thing.

I don't believe that we've yet seen the extent of what Pena has to offer. Although we have recently seen him expand his portfolio with a guest star role on NBC'S television series, "My Name Is Earl," I think it would be great to see what other types of characters he can portray. He plays an excellent good guy, but I believe that he would easily be able to expand to other roles.

The second person on my list is definitely the type of actor who can play either a protagonist or an antagonist. He's even been in roles where he switches from bad guy to good guy with ease and dedication.

William Fichtner brings a fun depth to his roles that is rather underrated. You often either love to hate him, or hate to love him, but that only strengthens my resolve that he excels at bringing a more complicated life to his characters.

You would definitely know Fichtner as "that guy" in several films. He played the frustrating
William Fichtner as Alex Mahone on Prison Break.

William Fichtner as Alex Mahone on "Prison Break."
Captain Knauer against Adam Sandler's Paul Crewe in the 2005 remake of THE LONGEST YARD. Knauer uses physical tactics against the ex-football player to scare him from helping out the warden and his football team, but in the end gains respect for Crewe and is not afraid to show it.

More recently, Fichtner is known for his performance as Agent Alex Mahone in the television series "Prison Break." Like his character in THE LONGEST YARD, not everything is as it seems with Mahone, who has been commissioned to take down the show's main characters at all cost. As the plot progresses, so does the complexity of Mahone's character, and the skills of Fichtner.

Although Fichtner often falls into the role of an official type in dramas (he has also played a sheriff in the show "Invasion," a soldier in BLACK HAWK DOWN and a colonel in ARMAGEDDON,) he is not afraid to try new things. Just take a look at BLADES OF GLORY, the Olympic ice skating comedy starring Will Ferrell. He has even voiced a character in a couple of Grand Theft Auto video games.

Last but not least on my list is an individual who has been one of my favorite actors for a very long time. If you're any sort of science fiction fan, you've seen Canadian actor Callum Keith Rennie's face many times. Although he is more often than not appearing on television, he has taken on roles for the big screen as well.

The very first time I saw Rennie act was in the Canadian television series "Due South." He played American detective Stanley Kowalski alongside the humorous antics of Paul Gross' Mountie Benton Fraser. Kowalski was unwillingly humorous and willing sarcastic, but undoubtedly a good
Callum Keith Rennie on the set of THE INVISIBLE.

Callum Keith Rennie on the set of THE INVISIBLE.

If anything can be said about Rennie, it's that he doesn't get stuck in one type of role. He plays as good of an antagonist as he does the protagonist. Recently, he is known for his role as one of the Cylon types in the re-imagined "Battlestar Galactica," a rather in-depth character for someone who is supposed to be just a machine. He has guest-starred in an incredible amount of other science fiction series as well, including "Smallville," "Supernatural," "Kingdom Hospital," "The Dead Zone," "Dark Angel," "Mutant X," and the list goes on.

Rennie was also "that guy" in the film SLEEPWALKING, where he starred alongside Charlize Theron and Nick Stahl. He played the detective in THE INVISIBLE, and that really creepy abductor in THE X-FILES: I WANT TO BELIEVE. He was even one of the wicked vampires in BLADE: TRINITY.

These three men are only a small number of actors that help shape their films and shows into what they are. Their portfolios are extensive, and you've at least seen them in one of their roles. Chances are you've seen these men several times without even realizing it.

One thing is for sure- these actors may be the "secondary" characters in a film or television episode, but they are definitely secondary to none. The next time you see "that guy" or "that girl" when you're sitting in the theater or in front of you television at home, take time out from your popcorn (and Brad's dimples) to appreciate what these people bring to the screen. Judging by the effort that they put into their work, one can tell that they definitely appreciate being there.

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Jan 20, 2009 8:18 PM
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William Fichtner is a good addition to your column being actors you know by face but never hear about, however his roles always irritate me. I hated him in Armageddon, Heat, Empire Falls and The Perfect Storm. He was pretty good in The Dark Knight but he died in like 3 minutes.

Other notable mentions for me would be David Morse, Bruce McGill and of course Tom Sizemore.
Jan 21, 2009 11:26 PM
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Oooh, those are all great ones as well.

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Other Columns
Other columns by Amanda Knoss:

Secondaries: Part Two

Ub Iwerks: Engineering Creativity


Star Wars Cubicle Gear

Mano-a-Mano: The Travolta Role

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Amanda Knoss
If there's something Amanda can't commit to, it's a single taste in films. She believes that Walmart, Starbucks and a certain super-power government are going to clan together to take over the world. Either that, or she's over-caffeinated again.

If you have a comment, question, or suggestion, you can send a message to Amanda Knoss by clicking here.

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