This is Bruce Greenwood.
I chose this photo because, as far as I knew, this actor sprang into being immediately before the filming of 2009’s Star Trek. I have no conscious memory of him having existed before then. But yet, this is also Bruce Greenwood.
He’s shown here from the intro of the largely forgotten Nowhere Man, a show that aired in late 1995. And that’s not all. If you take a look at Mr. Greenwood’s IMDB page, you’ll see an amazing 152 credits and counting, starting in the late 1970s and including a long stint on shows like St. Elsewhere and Knots Landing. But, if you really dig deep, you’ll find that Bruce Greenwood did an absolute ton of work in the 1990s and 2000s. Sometimes he was a costar or guest star, but just as often, he was the lead in a TV series that didn’t go anywhere.
This video, as well as many others by YouTuber RwDt09, shows opening credits for most of the TV shows that have premiered in the last 50 years. And, if you dig deep into the 1990s, you will see Bruce Greenwood’s name come up an uncomfortable number of times. The TV networks were convinced, clearly, that he was going to be a “capital S” star, and they kept putting him in show after show thinking that was going to happen.
Showkiller or working actor?
It was in the late 1990s that I started hearing the term “showkiller.” The thought was, there were some actors who just heralded the end of a show when they were brought in, and others whose presence on a show as a regular meant the show would never succeed. Yet, as much as anyone talked about Ted McGinley or Paula Marshall in that context, no one talked about Bruce Greenwood that way. Yet, the record stands for itself. Through 1994 and 1995, Bruce Greenwood appeared in 12 TV shows or TV movies, and I cannot recall seeing a single one. But showkiller, that wasn’t and still isn’t a fair charge to level.
There’s a whole class of actors who we like to call “working actors.” These are the folks with extraordinarily long resumes who come in because they epitomize a certain character. It was the epic J.T. Walsh who really led this pack in his life, but you could say the same of Danny Aiello, Tim Bagley, Parvesh Cheena, and mounds of others. The phenomenon of the working actor was best explored in a pair of films, That Guy… Who Was In That Thing and That Gal… Who Was In That Thing. Both are streaming for free on Vudu and several other sources as I write this.
Greenwood (and other working actors) for the win
There is a certain awesomeness about being this kind of actor. I’m sure it’s worrisome not knowing for sure if you’ll get work from day to day. But I have to imagine that once you get to this level, the pay is pretty good and inevitably you’re going to have a fair amount of free time. You’re not likely to be bothered as you walk down the street, save for the really obnoxious tourist who can’t remember your name anyway. You can live a fairly normal life and yet enjoy much of what the world of stardom has to offer.
And, if you’re Bruce Greenwood, you occasionally get to be in a Star Trek movie, which has to count for something.