01/20/2022 – Is It Disrespect?

I admit I felt a pang of embarrassment after having singled out Rekha Sharma when discussing Yellowjackets on the QNA Year End Review. After being the first actress you see on the show, she’s soon sidelined for a majority of the season and killed off in the finale. So, actually, it was a series of pangs. The funny thing is, in a post-show interview with the creators [which, naturally, I can’t find again], these two emphasized the ambiguity of plot events, that what you saw is not necessarily what it seemed, and the only thing they did confirm is that Sharma’s character is dead. What the hell?

If you watch a significant and random amount of television like I do, you’ve probably encountered Rekha Sharma. I first saw her in an episode of Star Trek: Discovery — in the interest of honesty, she caught my eye for being violent — and later in something that hasn’t premiered yet. Most will know her from Battlestar Galactica, and I’d already seen her in AVPR: Aliens vs. Predator: Requiem ages ago — as a nurse, which likely means a grisly death, but I’ll have to verify with the Kill Count sometime. There’s at least two things I really appreciate about her: she’s clearly an excellent actress, and she appears to have a soft spot for science-fiction. Dark Angel, V, Another Life. She’s been on a lot of spaceships, but how long before she captains one? (It took Sonequa Martin-Green a few seasons on her own show, but to be fair, the original captain was Jason Isaacs).

A long time ago, when I was in one of my periodic moods of “I should try to get paid for the things I write,” I began drafting a piece for a potential pitch about the actors in The Wire. I’d just seen a season three episode of Homeland where I noticed Seth Gilliam, wordless and in the background before getting blown up — but strangely focused on for just one shot — and this was after years of having spotted Michael K. Williams in the briefest movie appearances (The Road, Robocop, the Django Unchained thing). Lance Reddick and Robert Wisdom played the same bit parts in Godzilla (2014) and The Dark Knight Rises, police guys on the bridge who say something on the order of “You can’t cross” only to be rebuffed. This was also before I started seeing Lance Reddick everywhere, but Robert Wisdom? Christ, he was the heart of The Wire, both chronologically speaking and as the Ed Burns insert character. From Anwan Glover to Chad L. Coleman, J.D. Williams to the incomparable Michael Hyatt, these aren’t just good actors, they’re some of the best — and they happen to be Black. The narrative was irresistible.

The article, though, never came together. As I was writing it, I felt bad. I couldn’t distinguish between “sticking up” for actors I felt were overlooked and minimizing the work these actors had already done. Morgan Freeman is one of our great actors, but how many movies can you name off-hand where he was the lead? Two, for me. There are other measures of success, and by contrast, other measures of being overlooked — of disrespect. I’ll settle with the delightfully bizarre appearances of Coleman on It’s Always Sunny, and the knowledge that several Wire alums landed in the probably lucrative Walking Dead franchise. For Rekha Sharma? Can I say I want to see her play leading roles or is that patronizing? At least that she isn’t dumped so unceremoniously. Whatever the takeaway, I hope you keep an eye out for her.

Seriously, though, what was with Wood Harris in Dredd? It seemed like he was gonna play some important role, and then he’s an armless non-sequitor. Anything else? I see John Doman here and there, even as Dominic West’s father or father-in-law in The Affair. I don’t remember which. When you look at the big stars now like Idris Elba and Michael B. Jordan, it wasn’t The Wire that skyrocketed them to fame. Elba was already established, I think, like Glynn Turman all the way back in the ’60s, not to mention the odd director like Clark Johnson or future Oscar-winner Tom McCarthy. Or even those brilliant non-actors like Donnie Andrews and Little Melvin Williams as The Deacon. Jamie Hector had a lead role in Bosch, where in the final season he makes a direct reference to The Wire. Chris Bauer shows up here and there, always a welcome face. I just saw Jim True-Frost for the first time since The Wire on the first episode of American Rust. I see Gbenga Akinnagbe now and again. Like Domenick Lombardozzi, he shows up in 24 at some point. I’ve never seen Corey Parker Robinson again. Wendell Pierce, Clarke Peters and Michael Kostroff are David Simon regulars. Larry Gilliard Jr. continues to work regularly, but he truly gave one of the show’s most wrenching performances as D’Angelo Barksdale. That’s leading man material — I’m at a loss just as I was ten years ago.

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