If Steven Spielberg’s Lincoln is nothing else, it is a glorious roll call for many of the finest character actors currently working in film. As often as I can, I dedicate this blog to character actors in my recurring column, In Character, and I thought this would be a great opportunity to mix things up.
So, below I have called out more than 20 character actors who appear in Lincoln, highlighting some of their best work, and drawing attention to their one particular best role.
Hope you enjoy putting names to the faces!
Role in Lincoln: Mr. Jolly
Notable roles: Public Enemies, Lawless, Damages
Best role: Camp was utterly perfect as Ann Dowd’s at-first sympathetic (then devastatingly manipulated) fiancé in the masterful thriller Compliance.
Role in Lincoln: James Ashley
Notable roles: Flight of the Conchords, Damages, Afterschool, Solitary Man, Breaking Bad
Best role: As the do-whatever-it-takes-to-win-a-Pulitzer Baltimore Sun editor in the fifth season of The Wire, Costabile was the perfect business slime ball.
Role in Lincoln: John Hay
Notable roles: Flags of Our Fathers, Untraceable, Milk
Best role: I didn’t like Ryan Murphy’s Running with Scissors (at all), but as Augusten Burroughs, Cross did his damndest to carry the film as best he could.
Role in Lincoln: Second White Soldier
Notable roles: True Blood, Chronicle, Lawless
Best role: DeHaan was a perfect encapsulation of teenage angst in the third season of HBO’s phenomenal show, In Treatment.
Role in Lincoln: Samuel Beckwith
Notable roles: You Don’t Know Jack, J. Edgar, Frances Ha
Best role: His Adam Sackler on HBO’s Girls is currently the best character on television.
Role in Lincoln: Senator Bluff Wade
Notable roles: Apollo 13, The District, Love Liza, In the Valley of Elah, Pride and Glory
Best role: Duvall is hilariously pathetic as a Grand Wizard of the KKK in the Coen Brothers’ O Brother, Where Art Thou?
Role in Lincoln: Clay Hutchins
Notable roles: The Apostle, House of 1,000 Corpses, Miracle at St. Anna, Justified
Best role: What Goggins did with Shane from The Shield marks one of the finest character arcs I have ever seen a television character go through. By the end of the show, he was completely stealing every scene.
Role in Lincoln: First White Soldier
Notable roles: Witness, Mars Attacks!, Alpha Dog, While She Was Out, Inception
Best role: I loved his snaky, curiously commanding The Pin from Brick. No idea how I guy like that was able to maintain control for as long as he was.
Jackie Earle Haley
Role in Lincoln: Alexander Stephens
Notable roles: The Bad News Bears, Breaking Away, Watchmen, Shutter Island
Best role: Tough call, but I still think Haley should’ve won the Oscar for his icy portrayal of a pedophile in Little Children.
Role in Lincoln: Ulysses S. Grant
Notable roles: Natural Born Killers, Dead Man, I Shot Andy Warhol
Best role: What Harris did in the most recent season of Mad Men should’ve earned him the Emmy. Period. Long live Lane.
Role in Lincoln: Robert Latham
Notable roles: Deadwood, Me and You and Everyone We Know, Martha Marcy May Marlene, The Sessions
Best role: His unrecognizable, remorseless Teardrop in Winter’s Bone justly catapulted his career. A perfect performance.
Role in Lincoln: Preston Blair
Notable roles: All the President’s Men, Wall Street, The Firm, The Majestic
Best role: Holbrook is utterly devastating in Sean Penn’s Into the Wild. That final send off, when he asks to adopt Chris? Wow.
Role in Lincoln: Edwin Stanton
Notable roles: Animal House, My Cousin Vinny, Matchstick Men, Collateral, Cinderella Man
Best role: McGill doesn’t have a huge role in Michael Mann’s The Insider, but he steals every second he is on screen.
Role in Lincoln: Alexander Coffroth
Notable roles: Rescue Me, Fur, John Adams
Best role: Nothing beats McGiver’s helplessly clueless lieutenant from The Wire. Dude just wanted his camera back.
Role in Lincoln: George Pendleton
Notable roles: The Purple Rose of Cairo, Shaft, World Trade Center, Law & Order, Boardwalk Empire
Best role: His one scene as John Twist represents one of the more heart breaking moments of Brokeback Mountain. He knew what his son was, and he couldn’t care less.
S. Epatha Merkerson
Role in Lincoln: Lydia Smith
Notable roles: Terminator 2, Lackawanna Blues, Slipstream, Mother and Child
Best role: She killed it on Law & Order for damn near 20 years. Impossible to top.
Tim Blake Nelson
Role in Lincoln: Richard Schell
Notable roles: The Thin Red Line, Donnie Brasco, The Good Girl, Syriana, Leaves of Grass
Best role: There are many entertaining nincompoops in O Brother, Where Art Thou?, and Nelson’s Delmar O’Donnell ranks chief among them.
Role in Lincoln: Corporal Ira Clark
Notable roles: The Last King of Scotland, Rise of the Planet of the Apes, The Paperboy
Best role: Actually, I’m going to go with his Lincoln role. His brief monologue to Lincoln (in which he recites Lincoln’s own words) perfectly sets the tone.
Role in Lincoln: Schuyler Colfax
Notable roles: Dogville, Michael Clayton, Damages
Best role: Raymond’s The Greek proved to be one of the most subtly menacing and memorable characters from The Wire.
Role in Lincoln: W.N. Bilbo
Notable roles: Less Than Zero, Wolf, Crash, Secretary, The Practice, Boston Legal
Best role: Spader has a rather impeccable body of work, but he’s never been better than as the manipulative Graham in Steven Soderbergh’s Sex, Lies, and Videotape.
Role in Lincoln: William Seward
Notable roles: L.A. Confidential, Harrison’s Flowers, The Bourne Identity
Best role: Strathairn is one of the finest, most reliable actors currently working in film. I am a huge admirer of his, and I can say with upmost sincerity that his work as Edward R. Murrow in Good Night, and Good Luck represents one of the finest performances of the ‘00s.
Role in Lincoln: George Yeaman
Notable roles: Afterschool, Boardwalk Empire, Hugo, Seven Psychopaths
Best role: While I love Stuhlbarg’s work as Arnold Rothstein in Boardwalk Empire, I simply can’t turn my back on Larry Gopnik, that desperate, curious, lost man from the Coen brothers’ A Serious Man.
Role in Lincoln: William Hutton
Notable roles: Running Scared, Public Enemies, The Master
Best role: Warshofsky has one of the best deliveries of the line, “What?!” in cinema history. Because, really, how would you respond to having Daniel Day-Lewis tell you he’s going to come into your home when you least expect it and slit your throat? Ah, the power of There Will Be Blood.