For four seasons, Ethan Suplee played the lovable, kindhearted Randy Hickey on the NBC comedy, “My Name Is Earl.” Those who only know Suplee from that series might need a moment to adjust to his role on the new Hulu series, “Chance.”
His character – known only as D – is the brawn and physical force who joins forces with forensic neuropsychiatrist Dr. Eldon Chance (Hugh Laurie). His role in the violent and dangerous world gives Suplee the opportunity to play a very different character.
“When I first looked at this, I had absolutely nothing to draw on. There’s not a single thing that I’ve done that comes close,” Suplee says.
After thinking about it for a few seconds, Suplee points out that in “American History X,” he had a shaved head. That’s the closest role he has had to his work in “Chance,” and even that role is miles away from his current job.
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It’s not that Suplee hasn’t had a lot of roles as his resume is loaded with film and TV performances, including “Boy Meets World,” “Dogma,” “Remember the Titans,” “Cold Mountain,” “Jennifer Falls” and, most recently, “Deepwater Horizon.”
Suplee goes on to explain how he’s never played a part like the one in “Chance,” a character who is so super confident and such a strong leader. The chance to play such a role has been exciting for Suplee. He jokingly adds that he has four daughters and a wife, so he never gets to live the kind of life D has.
It’s taken some retraining for Suplee. While growing up, he was always told he had to be gentle and kind. The training he’s going through for his new role – which includes Filipino knife fighting – is making him think the other way.
Don’t pigeonhole the role as just being a bully and a thug.
“He studies philosophy, theology and is a student of everything. He just uses it in an unusual way of crushing people,” Suplee says.
If you want to see the very different work for Suplee, the first season of “Chance” debuted on the streaming service Wednesday, Oct. 19.
How the West was fun
The actors working on the new HBO series “Westworld” get a wide range of challenges. It’s not only a show where most of the action takes place in the wild, wild West, but it’s also a sci-fi thriller. These two very different elements mean the actors have to be able to handle everything, from the coldness of a robot to the passion of a player in a very sophisticated theme park.
Evan Rachel Wood, who plays the robot farmer’s daughter, Dolores Abernathy, who has been acting since she was 7. She tells TV critics at their summer meet that she’s had to call on all her experience for this new role.
“There are so many more things to think about, but the funny thing is doing research. I tried to really learn about the actual technologies that we’re working on in the inner workings of AI because now that’s my hard drive. That’s my brain. That’s my thought process,” Wood says.
She took that knowledge and mixed it with input from directors to come up with a way to play the dual role. It’s a very subtle transition, but enough of one that it makes a real divide between what it is to be a host in the game and how different that is from being one of the human visitors.
Wood likes that viewers can’t tell the difference between the real and the artificial except for a slight little movement, shift or freeze.
“Those are the moments in the show that made me slightly scared, but really fun to do. We call them just acting Olympics because you’re having to shift between a panic attack, into a complete freeze, into character accent mode, into computer analysis mode in a span of about 30 seconds sometimes,” Wood says. “So figuring out how to do that and the intense focus that it took was real fun.”
Getting to that point took Wood asking a lot of questions: Will the sun blind us? Do we squint in the sun? Do we sweat? Do we breathe?
Wood didn’t have those kinds of concerns when working on TV shows such as “True Blood,” “Doll & EM” or “Once and Again.” Same goes for her feature film credits of “Across the Universe” and “The Upside of Anger.”
“Westworld” airs 9 p.m. Sundays on HBO.
Big rewards: Nickelodeon will premiere the made-for-TV movie, “Legends of the Hidden Temple,” at 8 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 26. The TV movie is inspired by the network’s 1990s game show of the same name.
Isabela Moner, Colin Critchley and Jet Jurgensmeyer join original TV show host Kirk Fogg and the voice of Olmec, Dee Bradley Baker, in the 90-minute action-adventure movie, which tells the story of three siblings who embark on a high-stakes, life-or-death mission.