In 2009, an episode of Burn Notice featured a character named Spencer Watkowski. He was a computer genius, also a conspiracy theorist, who approaches Michael Westen (Jeffrey Donovan), the burned spy who the show’s about. He thinks a co-worker of his has been murdered, that the murderers are on to him, and that ‘they’ are out to get him, plus also commit treason or something. Of course, Michael and Sam think Spencer’s nuts, and of course, it turns out he’s not, he’s right about all of it, well, except for the part about the space aliens. And our heroes get to save the day, like they do every week. I remember the episode for two reasons: one, because the actor who played Spencer was really good, and the other, because he was played by an actor named Michael Weston.
I loved that; it felt so meta. You just know the producers of this series about a spy named Michael Westen cast Michael Weston on purpose. Can’t confirm that it was on purpose, but believing that makes me a happier person. For example, on the show, every time Sam has to pretend to be someone else, he uses the name Chuck Finley. I have to believe the show runner for Burn Notice was and is an Angels’ fan. I mean, has to be. (Chuck Finley was a left-handed pitcher for the Angels, was their best player from like ’86 to ’99. Great player. Not a Hall-of-Famer, but certainly would make the Hall-of-Really-Good. Perfect for Sam. Like I said: meta).
Anyway, I checked out Michael Weston on IMDB, and he’s definitely one of the Six Thousand, the Industry equivalent of the Hall of Really Good. See, people believe Hollywood is about movie stars, about Cruise and Damon and Clooney and Charlize and Brangelina. But I believe Hollywood’s basically about the Six Thousand. Let me explain: at any given time, there are basically 6,000 actors working in Hollywood. I call them The Six Thousand. You see the same faces all the time when you watch as much TV and movies as I do. I have friends who’re in The Six Thousand. One of them is a wonderful actress named Erin Chambers, and you see her all the time, usually either getting murdered, murdering someone, or being interrogated as a suspect in a murder. (That’s TV for you; it’s basically all about murder.) That’s not all she can do, obviously; she even played God for awhile, in a series called Joan of Arcadia that I loved. I enjoy watching her, because she’s always really good, and because she’s basically the last person on earth I would ever imagine killing anyone in real life. And she’s hard-working, and she’s a good person, and those are always the people you want to see succeed.
Same with Michael Weston; I don’t know if he’s a good person, but he probably is, and he’s certainly hard-working. He had a small but really good part in the terrific indie film Garden State. Recurring characters in really good shows, like ER and Six Feet Under. Made the best of a small part in an awful movie, The Dukes of Hazzard. CSI, House, Law and Order. He’s short, and he’s good at nerds, and good at comedy, but obviously that’s not all he can do. New TV mini-series coming up, Coma, where they turn an implausible but scary movie into TV ditto; he’s in that. I think he’s a murderous doctor. He’s a professional, a good working actor. He’s one of the Six Thousand.
Every once in awhile, one of the Six Thousand breaks through, becomes one of the Sixty–the guys who front big movies. And basically all of TV is a place where the Six Thousand get to be, not Stars, but stars lower-case, like “stars”, like that, anyway, “stars” for awhile, because they have their own TV series. Bryan Cranston. Jon Hamm. Danny Trejo. Jeffrey Donovan. These guys are all tremendous actors–is there anyone better than Cranston?–but no one knew it, because they weren’t Movie Stars. But that’s the Six Thousand–they’re all terrific. They’re better actors than, well, some really big, really well paid Movie Stars in really Big Star Vehicle movies. Dirty Secret: some of those Stars are actors who aren’t actually good at all. Wasn’t it great to see Jeremy Renner, for example, front the new Bourne, and be so incredibly good in it? (Not that Matt Damon wasn’t good; some movie Stars are also terrific actors). Bruce Campbell is the patron saint of The Six Thousand; got his break with The Evil Dead, and has been working steadily ever since, going on thirty years.
I think they’re the backbone of Hollywood, the Six Thousand, the really good working actors who you immediately recognize but can’t quite put your finger on what else you’ve seen them in. My wife and I did it tonight; were watching Falling Skies and saw this actor and were both all “who is that?” And she said, “it’s Max Headroom!” And son-of-a-gun, it was. Matt Frewer, still working, still terrific. Another proud member of the Six Thousand.