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You could always count on Lance Reddick

The actor was a symbol of steadfast authority that could hold his own in any scene

Lance Reddick holding a Gjallarhorn at a Destiny launch event Photo: Rachel Murray/Getty Images for Activision
Joshua Rivera (he/him) is an entertainment and culture journalist specializing in film, TV, and video game criticism, the latest stop in a decade-plus career as a critic.

Lance Reddick made carrying the weight of the world look easy. The actor, who died in his Los Angeles home on Friday, was widely known for playing authority figures. Usually, these were cops: Cedric Daniels on The Wire, Phillip Broyles in Fringe, and Irvin Irving in Bosch.

As with many artists, one role, or type of role, is tremendously insufficient to sum up a life and career. Reddick’s resume was an expansive one that spanned a wide variety of movies, television procedurals, oddball comedies, animated series of all stripes, and video games. In the breadth of his work, Reddick didn’t just embody authority, but dependability — his assured performances were a strut that a writer could rest any kind of scene on, and his generosity allowed his scene partners to shine. He never took up more room than he needed, but you never, ever forgot he was there. It’s an attribute that was made literal in his performance as Charon, the unflappable concierge from the John Wick films that preferred to disarm you with manners but also could work a room with a shotgun if polite finesse couldn’t get the job done.

This is also what made him such a natural fit for the authoritative roles he became known for. Reddick knew how to appear stern yet soulful. He could command a room because he knew how to play a character that had earned that command the hard way. You never knew what one of his characters had to sacrifice to get to where they were, but you knew it cost them something.

Actors like Lance Reddick are the hardest to appreciate in their time. They rarely take center stage even when they can hold it with magnetic intensity — whether when playing multiple versions of his character on Fringe, or bellowing “I wish I were LeVar Burton!” on The Eric Andre Show. Reddick wielded that intensity as deftly as a conductor’s baton — going from graceful stoicism in the urban tragedy of The Wire to gonzo mania as executive Christian DeVille in Corporate.

Lance Reddick always seemed to know where he was needed, and how much of himself to give. You could always count on Lance Reddick. He made it so no one ever had to think about how much they needed him.

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