The Ted Levine Day Thread

Today is the 61st birthday of veteran actor Frank Theodore “Ted” Levine, known for his intense screen presence, piercing blue eyes, and distinctive, deep baritone voice. Levine began his career as a stage actor, notably as a member of Chicago’s Remains Theater ensemble. He later played guest and supporting roles in various movies and TV series, the earliest being the 1983 made for TV cheese-fest about voyeurism and serial murder, Through Naked Eyes, where a young Levine has a few questions for David Soul, as one does.

He later played a recurring part on the 1986-1988 NBC series Crime Story before landing the role that would launch his career—that of serial killer Jame Gumb/Buffalo Bill—in Jonathan Demme’s 1991 film adaptation of The Silence of the Lambs. With a few deft strokes, Levine brought a strange humanity and complexity to Buffalo Bill that didn’t exist on the page, and his performance became iconic almost instantly.

Though Buffalo Bill is still arguably Levine’s best known role, he has managed to have a steady and varied career as a character actor. He has credited Jennifer Jason Leigh with helping him break free of post-Silence typecasting by lobbying for him to be cast as Jake, the passive-aggressive, stay-at-home husband of Mare Winningham’s title character in the 1995 drama, Georgia (which also starred Leigh and was written by Leigh’s mother, Barbara Turner). Around the same time, Michael Mann wanted him to play Waingro in the 1995 heist film Heat, but Levine, uneasy with the notion of portraying yet another psychopath, opted for the smaller, but still memorable, role of ill-fated police captain Mike Bosko.

Levine’s role as Capt. Leland Stottlemeyer in the long-running, 00s USA Network series Monk is another for which he is particularly well known. While I’ve only recently starting watching Monk, and, so far, I’m not crazy about the writing, Levine really committed to the part. I’ve yet to see another actor convey exasperation as well as he did.

More recently, Levine appeared as Lt. Hank Wade in US version of The Bridge. As part of a talented ensemble cast, his performance helped elevate this otherwise flawed series.

He also brought a wonderfully creepy menace to the role of retired NYPD Police Commissioner Thomas Byrnes in this year’s adaptation of Caleb Carr’s The Alienist on TNT.

As with all steadily working actors, Levine has been in his fair share of dreadful projects (Wild, Wild, West and Evolution spring immediately to mind), but no matter what he is in, he always gives a compelling performance and is always worth watching. So today, let’s all wish Ted Levine a happy birthday, a long life, and many more performances to come.

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