Posted by: John McGerr | June 10, 2009

Bit Parts


I’m watching Law and Order SVU Season 8 at the moment. I have seen all of the other seven seasons on DVD and in my opinion it’s some of the best television ever made. It’s quite gritty and definitely not family viewing but the acting, writing and directing is superb. However, while the star names are good and play their roles well, it’s the bit parts that get my attention. Like other shows I watch, CSI, ER, it the ones who play the bit parts and supporting roles that really make these series work. They play victims, or criminals, or other cops(or doctors/nurses), they are usually character actors who may not ever make the big headlines, but they add substance to the stories, have their ‘fifteen minutes’ to make their part believable and then they are gone, rarely to reappear. I’m not sure which actor or actress said it, nor can I remember the exact quote, but they mentioned how important it was to have good bit players in a movie or tv show. ‘Realistic’ shows need their stars and bit-players to be ‘real’ for things to work. Even though the bit-player may have only a short time onscreen, a well-written and acted part can have you sympathising with a victim or wanting the bad guy punished, and in a frequent twist, you may find yourself having sympathy for the wrong character, or for a bad guy. The main characters will get several episodes, or even seasons for the regular viewer to get to know them, and for the actor to build up their character. The bit-part player has no such luxuries. Even when featuring in several episodes as a recurring character their time is often limited and the whole ‘story’ will only come out at the end and maybe in a single episode. Few of these bit-prt players will ever make it to big name status but they are key elements that are often overlooked.

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