Wednesday, June 2, 2010

The Dead Guy


Many of Hollywood’s most successful thespians have forged a career path based on typecasting. Actor Rupert Everett, for instance, has become synonymous with romantic comedies where he plays an intentional or inadvertent gigolo; Noel Gugliemi has made a career as “Latino Perp #2,” but only one man has been brave enough to base his entire career on being “the dead guy.” That man is none other than Jeffery Dean Morgan.
Mr. Morgan’s first feature film was 1991’s Uncaged, a gritty prostitution-themed drama where he portrays “Sharkey” the psychotic pimp. (Is there any other kind?) Not one to rest on his past successes, Jeffery’s next feature film was 1995’s Undercover Heat; a low budget soft-core porn about a strikingly attractive female police officer that goes undercover at a brothel and “gets more than she bargained for.” (Don’t they all?)
By 1996, Mr. Morgan had made the transition into television and would go on to star in episodes of Walker, Texas Ranger, E.R., The Practice, and JAG before landing the type of role that would make him a household name “that dead guy.” In 2005, he portrayed Judah Botwin in the Showtime series Weeds opposite Mary-Louise Parker. Later that same year, he landed a recurring role as John Winchester on the paranormal thriller Supernatural. Finally, in 2006, he began his run as Denny Duquette on Grey’s Anatomy. What did all of these characters have in common you ask? They were either dead before the show began (Weeds), died during the show’s story line (Supernatural), or they died during the show only to see the absurdity and scope of their character expand posthumously (Grey’s Anatomy.)
Any less of a man would have quickly distanced himself from his newfound reputation for being associated with the deceased, but Jeffery Dean Morgan forged ahead by jumping back into feature films with 2006’s Dead & Breakfast. A gore infused horror comedy of the highest order where he portrayed a grizzled lawman known only as “The Sherriff.”
In 2007 he starred in P.S. I Love You, a film about a guy who dies and arranges to send his widow on an increasingly expensive series of self-discovery tasks which seemed to have been arranged for no other purpose than to ensure that any surplus life insurance money bequeathed to her will be squandered.   
Later that same year he appeared in a mockumentary film called Live! about a network television game show where contestants play Russian Roulette in front of a studio audience for prize money. I believe the premise was meant to illuminate the exaggerated boundaries of modern entertainment but was more akin to an awkward marriage of Hollywood Squares and The Deer Hunter.
In 2009, Mr. Morgan portrayed “The Comedian” in the highly anticipated film adaptation of Watchmen. In true J.D.M. form his character was attacked, beaten, and forcefully thrown to his death from a high-rise apartment before moviegoers had time to open their box of Junior Mints. It may have been his finest performance to date, but to be fair I have not seen Undercover Heat.
So what does the future hold for Mr. Morgan? There is no telling when you have forged a reputation as being worth more dead than alive….

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