It somehow seems absurd that Lance Reddick, who died Friday at age 60, is gone. An impressively solid presence wherever he appeared, Reddick seemed invincible, immortal. That one of his last roles was Zeus in the upcoming Disney+ adaptation of “Percy Jackson and the Olympians” seems like a typecast.
A wonderfully focused performer, he could elevate any scene without breaking a sweat. Reddick, whose voice was well-trained, resonant, and easy on the ear, didn’t have to be strong to instill the fear of God in a character or viewer; you could feel the turbulent currents below a placid surface quite well. He made an art of low boil and stern look. When questioned, he could display a toothy smile fit to charm the birds in the trees.
Best known for crime dramas (“The Wire,” “Bosch”), genre exercises (“Lost,” last year’s “Resident Evil” series), or combinations of the two (“Fringe”), Reddick also guest-starred. in sitcoms (“Young Sheldon,” “It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia”) and alternative comedies (“Tim & Eric’s Bedtime Stories,” “Key & Peele,” “The Eric Andre Show” and “Comedy Bang! Bang! “) Was voice work in cartoons and video games. She appeared in Regina King’s historical drama “One Night in Miami…” and will be in an upcoming remake of “White Men Can’t Jump.” This means that any generalizations she makes about her career are surely contradicted somewhere by her.
The face was familiar even if you couldn’t place the name; seeing it once, you were glad to see it again. Reddick was handsome, almost pretty, in an individual way. Tall, lean, and subtly muscular with a body built for clothes, he made suits look good, and parts of him tended to put him in them. Whatever he was wearing, he looked dapper and dignified. (In “Oz,” where he played an undercover police detective in prison, he was something of an exception. Then again, he was a character playing a scruffier character than he was.)
Although we can dream of the series or movie that will now never be built around him, Reddick was at heart the definition of a supporting actor. As a figure who radiated authority, he often presented himself to her as an authority figure. Often, like on “Fringe” or “The Wire” (not the only shows where he played a top law enforcement officer), he’s asked to act as a law enforcement officer, a guide to what the hell is going on. No one was better at making the barrage of expository details sound like a poetry reading.
Even when he didn’t have much to do, Reddick made quite an impression. He appeared in only four episodes of “Lost” and yet his mysterious Matthew Abaddon is one of the series’ most memorable characters; he barely appears onscreen in the “John Wick” franchise, though he does register as one of its stars. As the stolid concierge at a hotel for assassins, Reddick’s Charon grounds the film’s violent nonsense with something of an air of morality.
In fact, while he rarely played a Hero with a capital H, more often than not he’s just a man dedicated to a job and doing it to the best of his ability, his characters will read as heroic. And even when they’re flawed, who on “The Wire” isn’t? — will strive to do the right thing.
To some inevitable extent, his stature directed his career. Physiognomy is destiny, in show business even more so than in normal life, and Reddick was not made to play weakness. Perhaps the best reason to spend time with Netflix’s “Resident Evil” is that Reddick can play extreme variations of his cloned character, showing his range even in a single scene.
And there was more to him than fans might have suspected. Before graduating from the Yale School of Drama, Reddick earned a BA from the Eastman School of Music in Rochester, New York. His 2007 album, “Contemplations and Memories” Available on multiple streaming platforms, it’s not the wannabe pop/folk/soul pastiche common to moonlighting actors. It’s an original, personal and quite charming work, with art song melodies layered over jazzy harmonies and Latin rhythms, sung in a higher key and sweeter than one might have expected.
It suggests that in another world, Reddick might have had a career performing or writing musical theater. But in the one we shared, he left us a lot.