Monday, October 06, 2008

Acting in a post-Sopranos world

James Gandolfini as Tony SopranoIn The New York Times, Virginia Heffernan considers the demands on TV actors in the shadow of James Gandolfini in David Chase's The Sopranos.
In the Chase paradigm, a show’s main character must be fundamentally evil, and this evil must undermine the tenacious American fantasy that there are morally responsible roads to power and moreover that the achievement of power is itself a moral responsibility. Chase once told me in an interview that conventional dramas reassure audiences that “authority figures” — doctors, lawyers, psychiatrists — “have our best interests at heart.” In “The Sopranos,” authority figures hate us. This kind of cynicism is now the industry standard. “Damages,” which is about a devious litigator, suggests that avenging career women are no less savage than mob bosses. “Mad Men,” about hard-drinking, womanizing ad executives, adds charming creative types to the blacklist. The lawyer of “Damages” and the adman of “Mad Men” are sinister, ugly figures. They’re not easy roles, and certainly not easy roles to play on a television shooting schedule, for hours and hours of screen time.

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