The Face of All Saints

Nurse Jackie is one of those series that you just want to devour over a rainy weekend.  Living in Manchester, a city where rain is a daily threat, that’s exactly how Karey and I watched the first season .  And the second season.  Then we waited patiently for the start of third season (it was still raining after all).  Our pace has been forced to slow down now (because we can only GET one episode a week…not because we’ve lost interest) and as of today, we’re totally caught up to the current season.

I’d heard lots of great things about Nurse Jackie and had read all about Edie Falco’s superb and award-winning portrayal of the titular character + the clips that they would show on awards shows were always tantalizing.  But I really didn’t know much about the show beyond some basic plot points.  I had no idea, for instance, that its format was thirty minutes.  I thought it would be an hour-long drama–like The Sopranos.  But, it’s more like Sex and the City (before the last SATC movie made a whore of that groundbreaking show’s legacy).  It’s a thought-provoking dramedy with a wonderful supporting cast and alternating gasps and gags.  It was difficult to choose which aspect of the program to hone in on.  Seriously, all of the actors are adorable/sexy/completely awesome in their own way.  But–even though it’d be easy to write about grouchy Falco and her dykey Nurse Jackie hairdo, or the lovable glass-eyed lug Thor, or the super hot and well-heeled Brit Dr. O’ Hara–I’m going with the dark horse.

You are all contenders.

165.  Anna Deveare Smith as Gloria Akalitus

Anna Deveare Smith is a darling of the theatrical community.  I first heard her name when I was attending NYU–where I was decidedly NOT a darling of the theatre community.  All the people who actually knew about theater (I knew nothing) were raving about her one woman show.  Twilight: Los Angeles.  She played a billion characters in this one woman show which was pieced together with interviews after the LA riots.  She won a Drama Desk Award for it.

A native of Baltimore, the woman who plays Akalitus has other accolades as well.  She is currently the artist in residence for The Center for American Progress and she also won a MacArthur Fellowship in 1996.  So, you know…that’s pretty good.

Another awards ceremony? Wait, let me just put on my finest hats. Ok, ready.

She was also, reportedly, awesome in The West Wing, a program I have not yet viewed.

Yes, I AM good on that program. You should watch it.

When her character first appeared, I thought–right–this is the villain of the show.  She’s a straight up beurocratic pain in the ass.  She’s the hospital administrator–the baddie, we’re all going to love to hate.  In comparison to the heroic medical staff, who go above and beyond the rules, she’s just there to stop people from saving lives!!!….what with her clip board and crunched data and no fun skirt-suits.  But, I’m glad that by midway through the first season they sort of went a different direction.  I’m not saying she’s never the obstacle for the medical staff, but she’s much more human, hilarious, and fun to watch.  She feels more like someone who wants to be a constant ally but who has to deal with the real world whilst the others are away with the fairies.  Deveare Smith makes so much more out of a character that could have just been a stereotype and a constant foil to the heroic doctors and nurses.  Here she is talking a bit about the character.

So, award winning, theatrically trained, intelligent actress makes interesting acting choices on an acclaimed cable television series.  Slow news day, yes?  But that’s not really the whole story.  I think the main reason that I love Deveare Smith’s performance so much is because of the faces that she pulls.  I know it’s childish, but check it out and tell me it’s also not just completely adorable and sort of transfixing.  When she’s on screen I am just WAITING for that bit of gurning.  Half the time she looks like she’s straight out of the animation from Fantasia 2000’s  segment for Gershwin’s “Rhapsody in Blue”.  The entire piece is here.  (Highly recommended viewing)

Or, if you can’t be bothered with a thirteen minute cartoon, here is a still.

Now, here is Deveare Smith’s face.

Am I right?  Who’s with me?

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