Some actors have the luck (or curse) to play an unforgettable character on a popular television show. Luck, because certainly not every actor gets the chance to shine on screen. Curse, because although it’s a career divining part, it’s hard to get away from the role. Its shadow keeps looming over you.
The public’s yearn for a reprise remains, even though the character died, or the show was cancelled. So they’re hoping for a new part, in another series, that’s similar to the one they love to see again. Xander Berkeley’s claim to fame was George Mason, CTU director in 24.
At that point – 2003 – he could look back on a big career already. From the early eighties, he starred in M*A*S*H, The Incredible Hulk, V, The A-Team, Miami Vice, Terminator 2: Judgment Day, A Few Good Men, The X-Files, Heat, Meat Loaf’s music video for I’d Lie for You and That’s the Truth, Gattaca, Amistad, ER, and much, much more. However, when he stepped into the cynical shoes of George Mason and suffered from radiation poisoning, the audience finally embraced him.
Post-George Mason I
Something strange happens after you’ve played an iconic role. You’d think he’d be typecast, that other series would love to bring George Mason aboard, that writer rooms would create a cynical character especially for him, but no. It seems like no one wants to burn their fingers. For whatever reason, iconic roles are toxic. One explanation is, his appearance would attract too much attention. His Masonic status would overshadow the rest of the cast, which is not something you’d want from a guest role.
The only series who dared, was CSI: Crime Scene Investigation, that gave him the part of Sheriff Rory Atwater. Because of the writing, even Al Pacino would’ve turned into an Al Pacino cardboard cutout on that show. CSI is tapping its screenplays and dialogues from the same source as Star Wars. It’s formulaic, with no room for personality. It’s actually not that uncommon. In book thrillers the characters are also inferior to the action.
Post-George Mason II
He’d earned a starring role in a series, no doubt. No one would give it to him, though. He did his animation voice work, a guest role here and there, until he got one of the leading roles in Day One, a science fiction/alien series which would air on NBC. Unfortunately, it was the year of a television science fiction meltdown. The reboot of V didn’t perform as expected, neither did FlashForward. NBC lost all hope Day One would do any better, played with the idea of airing it as a TV movie, but ultimately buried it in the ‘not gonna see the light of day’ archive section.
Berkeley did manage to crawl out from underneath the boot of George Mason, when he got a job on The CW’s Nikita. Then came the Canadian mystery show The Booth at the End, Syfy’s Being Human, The Mentalist, Justified, WGN’s Salem and Syfy’s 12 Monkeys. He’s finally back in spotlight territory. Time for that starring role.