Xander Berkeley, post-George Mason

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.


Pre-George Mason
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.

A Legion of Biblical Heroes

On the heels of Arrow, The Flash and a secret new series coming this fall, The CW has gone full blown superhero. Its latest addition, The Messengers, has got a religious spin on it. Something like NBC’s Heroes meets the movie Legion.


The pilot, titled Awakening, starts off with a brutal murder. Does every new show have to begin with someone getting shot multiple times in the chest, point blank? It sure seems like it. To be fair, the victim lives – sort of – when we see her hooked up to a machine in the final seconds of the episode, but still. The Messengers isn’t a police procedural with a dead body of the week. There must be other, less predictable ways to make it interesting.

Everything after the shooting is set up as a frame story, where we follow different characters right before and after a meteor hits Earth. The crash sends out a specific kind of static, which for some reason only affects our ‘heroes’. This time around they’re called ‘angels’, but the idea is the same: superhero powers for everyone.

Johnny on the Spot
These people have to be brought together, obviously. No worries: the meteor wasn’t some extraterrestrial rock, but a guy – at least with the appearance of one. A real johnny-on-the-spot, also known as Johnny Redeyes. He’s the man behind the curtain and he seems to be up to no good. He tries to recruit one of the angels to assassinate someone, when he’s clearly more than capable to do that himself; in full Terminator 2 style he appears out of nowhere, all naked, and asks the first person he meets for their clothes. That person, we can easily assume, is no longer with us.

The most interesting angels are Shantel vanSanten (Gang Related, One Tree Hill) and JD Pardo (Revolution, The O.C., Drive). The latter was saved in his first scene, when some bad guys figured out he’d been undercover and wanted to kill him. Before they could do anything, two bullets came out of nowhere and took them down. You’d think a sniper was responsible for it, or two, but no. Somebody took the shots from a car that was driving towards them. The bad guys were too busy to notice that. Fine. That could happen to anyone, but taking two perfect shots from a moving vehicle, from half a mile away, on a dirt road, is a bit, how shall I put it, lucky.
One of the guest stars is an old familiar Fox River face: Lane ‘Tweener’ Garrison. He’s on the right side of the law this time. Let’s hope it stays that way.

The angels have wings, as it turned out. It’s not quite clear when they’re visible, though. They suddenly appear on camera screens and in mirrors, but disappear just as fast. In any case, these angels will have to stop Lucifer, who’s ‘coming’, according to the voiceover. Or is he already here? Is it Johnny Redeyes? But if Johnny is indeed Lucifer, who’s doing the voiceover? Who knows more than any other character on the show? And if it’s not Johnny, why does he have red eyes? I’m confused now. This is precisely why I detest voiceover work.