Hey It's That Guy!: Ray Wise

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Hey It's That Guy! Ray Wise

For whatever reason (be it Heroes or...hey, it's probably Heroes!), Fall 2007 is shaping up to be the Season Of The Unusual Gift/Curse. This time around, in Chuck (possesses spy information accidentally downloaded to brain during Geek-Squad-like mishap), Journeyman (can travel through time), Pushing Daisies (can bring people back from the dead and kill them again), New Amsterdam (Dutch soldier living in New York is secretly immortal), and Reaper (soul has been sold to the devil by idiotic parents), the gifts and curses belong to men. This represents a shift from a few years ago, when it was all about Ghost Whisperer and Medium and all the partially supernatural people were women.

Reaper is the only one of these with a premise that brings with it an additional challenge: that of casting the devil. The devil can't be too obviously Satanic, or it's not funny. (Reaper is going largely for comedy, in case you aren't aware of the premise.) But the devil is the devil, and he needs a certain larger-than-life quality. He can't be a dull, generic character actor of a certain age, but he can't be one of those overly winking Shatner types, either, where all you'll ever see is the baggage of a guy's career weighing on him. The devil has to be distinguished, but he can't be a stiff. He has to be menacing, but he can't be mean and petty. The role requires confidence, style, and a certain loose sense of fun that comes with knowing that being Satan makes you untouchable. This is why the devil had to be Ray Wise.

It's probably an understatement to say that Wise is best known for his role on Twin Peaks, where he played Leland Palmer, father of the murdered Laura. Inhabited by...well, if you watch the show, you know...Leland watched his hair turn white overnight, among other traumas, and that's before everything kind of went to hell. As Leland, Wise was intense and strange, all of which led to an absolutely spectacular holding-cell freak-out that we're not sure he exactly pulled off, because quite possibly nobody could, but seriously: the dude committed. You can kind of picture him taking direction in some of his final scenes and saying, " want me to do what? Well...okay." We apologize if anything from 1991 can still be considered a spoiler, but the show's exposure of the fact that Leland wasn't all he was cracked up to be relied heavily on Wise's ability to flex his creepy muscles, and his ability to act in a way that would be overacting if it didn't seem so preposterously over-the-top that it was obviously calculated, were central to the story's success.

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