Tuesday, August 04, 2020

Star turns

by Rick Blechta

I couldn’t sleep the other night so I took my laptop to the living room and watched “an old friend” on YouTube. I’ve written previously about my enjoyment of Rex Stout’s Nero Wolfe. The old friend was an episode of the fantastic TV series from the early 2000s starring Timothy Hutton and Maury Chaykin.

The interesting thing about this production was it used an ensemble cast. Generally, the same actors would appear in every episode as different characters. Some shows even had actors doubling up on roles. It was an interesting way to work and something quite out of the ordinary for a TV show. But best of all, the troupe of actors were really excellent. It was a fun show to watch. (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/A_Nero_Wolfe_Mystery)

The episode I watched the other night was “Death of a Doxy”. Appearing early in it was Kari Matchett as Archie Goodwin’s girlfriend, Lily Rowan. However, later on she appears as a showgirl, Julie Jaquette, and it’s this role that I’d like to discuss. Best of all, it’s one of Stout’s best Nero Wolfe stories.

Whenever she’s on screen, Ms Matchett just kills it. Her performance is note perfect and breathtaking. In short, she eclipses everyone and it’s just magical how she brings this quirky character to technicolor life. If you wish to see it, visit YouTube and search for “Death of a Doxy + Kari Matchett”. The complete episode is three down.

If you enjoy good theatre, you will enjoy this production!

Actors have the opportunity to make more of their part than was intentioned by the playwright and craft a performance that is more memorable than what is written. They don’t have to be in a leading role.

And that got me thinking: Could writers do more with minor characters than we generally do? Some writers do this well — I’m thinking Elmore Leonard here — other not so much.

It would be wrong to make every character so quirky and interesting that it overwhelms the story’s arc and slows the plot down to a plod, but might we, well breathe a little more life into minor characters in some cases?

I’ve got to put a lot more thought into this. I may be missing some good opportunities in my WIP.


Sybil Johnson said...

I really loved that version of Nero Wolfe. I'm sad that there weren't more episodes.

Sybil Johnson said...

I like writing the occasional quirky minor character. Usually they just pop into my head. Susan Kandel does a good job of making her minor characters pop off the page.

Rick Blechta said...

Well, if you saw this episode, Sybil, then you know Kari Matchett jumped out of the screen. What a brilliant job -- and funny as hell.