We know their faces, but their names are juuust out of reach. Seen against their plain or just plain hideous visages, our real stars seem to shine a just a little more brightly. We derisively call them character actors, when really, aren’t the A-Listers supposed to be playing characters as well? They’re the mothers, fathers, plumbers, bosses, perps and old college buddies of the charismatic heroes we trick ourselves into identifying with. In this series we plumb the depths of the IMDB to Better Know a B-Lister
This week’s subject: ENRICO COLANTONI
Returning to screens for the delayed victory lap of the Veronica Mars movie, Toronto actor Enrico Colantoni is a familiar face on both sides of the 49th parallel (which, little known fact, Toronto is actually south of). While in the U.S of A he’s most recognizable as crime-solving rad dad Keith Mars, in Canada, he may more identified with Sergeant Greg Parker, leader of Toronto PD’s Strategic Response Unit on Flashpoint. But before he graduated to characters who enforce the law, he played the same sort of scumbags, wackadoos and criminals every other character actor is forced to play.
Young Rico, as he was then known, first appeared in an unnamed role on the Canadian television police drama Night Heat in the episode “The Wise Guys”. While there’s little info about this unspectacular episode online, I assume that because he has an Italian name and it’s an episode about a mob informant that his character is some sort of no-good mafia thug– of course I could be making the same stereotypical generalization I was about to accuse popular culture of.
[Also of note is that this episode was directed by Donald Shebib, who directed the seminal Canadian film Going Down The Road (1972), the most well known Canadian film until the semenal Porky’s (1982).]
After the obligatory Law & Order and an episode of New York Undercover, Enrico moved up the ranks, guest starring on two episodes of NYPD BLUE (Season 2, Episodes 8 & 9). Playing Danny Breen Jr., the mentally unstable adult son of Sipowicz’s AA Sponsor Dan (played by Peter Boyle), he attacks his father after going off his meds. Sipowicz convinces Dan to move out and break off contact for his own safety. There’s a heart wrenching scene where Peter Boyle says goodbye to his son, knowing full well he won’t be able to take care of himself. Sadly, in the next episode Dan goes back to check up on his son and is killed, forcing Sipiwicz must bring the almost catatonic Danny in. Colantoni’s performance is wonderfully nuanced and sensitive, and even though he kills his dad in the end, I’d rather have him for a son than Ray Romano.
From the mid-90’s Colantoni could be found rounding out the casts of sitcoms Hope & Gloria (also featuring Alan Thicke) and Just Shoot Me, as the womanizing Eliot DiMauro– but that didn’t stop him from appearing in films such as Stigmata as Father Dario and Galaxy Quest as Mathesar.
In 2001 he starred in The Outer Limits episode “Think Like A Dinosaur”. Based on a short story by James Patrick Kelly, Enrico plays Michael, the operator of lunar transfer station who is testing a new transportation method that allows travel between great distances by creating a duplicate of the person at the new destination and destroying the original. Oh, also there’s a bunch of talking alien dinosaurs, because why the hell not. When something goes awry and the process is aborted partway through, a redundancy is created, and the talking dinosaurs try to convince Enrico to “balance the equation” by destroying the remaining original, a woman named Kamala, whom he has started to develop feelings for.
Now adept at playing men with questionable ethics, Enrico was cast opposite James Franco in James Dean as film director and HUAC names-namer Elia Kazan. Colantoni was reunited, kinda, with James Franco via his cameo in the Veronica Mars film. That’s not really a spoiler because it’s never a surprise to see James Franco show up in something for no reason. You gotta give one thing to James Dean, he knew how to leave you wanting more.
Enrico is no stranger to playing controversial real life characters on television. In The Kennedys he stepped into the (probably) sassy lady shoes of J. Edgar Hoover, but perhaps even more heinous than the man who illegally wiretapped civil rights leaders, is the impresario who launched the career of Céline Dion. Enrico played Rene Angelil in the made-for-Canadian-television movie Céline. Discovering the future superstar at the age of 12, Rene plots Céline’s path to stardom, and uhh, yeah, basically starts dating her when she’s 19. And they’ve been married for years, but still… it’s icky. Enrico manages not to seem totally weirded out in his portrayal, but I think it’s because he holds his apprehension in his temples, and they’re covered with the worst wig you’ll see until the American Hustle Halloween costumes hit the shelves.
In Canada, Colantoni can currently be seen on the medical drama Remedy, and the Veronica Mars movie is currently available on iTunes, Amazon, and perhaps in some movie theatres still, because movie theatres are still a thing