Welcome to ACTING UP. This is the tenth installment in a regular Casting Networks feature designed to call attention to standout roles and performances in television/streaming and film. It will spotlight work in projects that have recently been released as well as work in projects being released that same week. The column will also tell you how those actors and actresses got to where you see them now. Read up and watch these performances as your weekly in-home acting class.
Tenth up: Perry Mattfeld, who stars in the CW dramedy “In the Dark” that premiered Thursday night on The CW; and Jason Clarke, who costars with John Lithgow in the reboot of Stephen King’s “Pet Sematary” that hits theaters today.
THE PERFORMER: Perry Mattfeld
THE SERIES: “In the Dark” on The CW
THE PERFORMANCE: Murphy Mason is a young blind woman with an attitude. She drinks, does drugs and in general treats her body like a pin cushion in this offbeat and alluring new hour that stars Perry Mattfeld as a gal who stumbles across the murder of her drug-dealing friend but can’t get the cops to believe her, since she’s, you know, blind and all.
So, Murphy takes matters into her own hands, opting to track down the killer herself with an assist from her guide dog, Pretzel. Except that she’s got to her out of her own way first, which isn’t easy when she says things like, “You’d think blacking out would be a little easier when you’re blind,” “I feel your eyes burning a hole in my ass” and “You guys know I would be a mess even if I could see perfectly.”
She does at least have a green consciousness, however: “Condoms are bad for the environment. We’ve all gotta do our part, right?”
What’s wonderful about “In the Dark” is the way it turns disabled stereotypes upside-down. Mattfeld’s character is reckless, self-destructive and loathsome, a far cry from the paragons of goodness we’re accustomed to in our deaf, blind and otherwise handicapped. She doesn’t wear dark glasses, either, leading to exchanges like:
“Why don’t you look blind?”
“Same reason you probably don’t look stupid.”
Great, snappy dialogue, and a career-breakthrough role for Mattfeld.
THE CAREER: Mattfeld, who just turned 25, hasn’t been acting all that long. She was a child prodigy dancer who worked with Debbie Allen before graduating Cum Laude from the USC School of Dramatic Arts. She was part of Mattel’s American Girl Theater, portraying dolls in performance at The Grove in L.A.
Her biggest acting claim to fame to date was a seven-episode arc as Mel on Showtime’s “Shameless” in 2017-18 and a pair of 2009 episodes of the Disney Channel’s “The Wizards of Waverly Place” in which she portrayed “FrankenGirl.”
THE PERFORMER: Jason Clarke
THE FILM: “Pet Sematary” in theaters today
THE PERFORMANCE: In the grisly and well-reviewed reboot of the 1989 horror flick adapted from the Stephen King novel, Dr. Louis Creed (Clarke) and his family relocate from Boston to rural Maine, only to find a sinister and deadly burial ground hidden deep in the neighboring woods. His neighbor Jed (John Lithgow) tells him all about it. Then the fun begins.
Dr. Creed thinks its harmless enough at first. As he tells his young daughter, “It’s a place to bury our pets and remember them, which seems scary, but it’s not. It’s perfectly natural. Just like dying is natural.”
(Cue the scary music.)
“It’s definitely not Boston” the good doctor assures us, and that would be a great big “Duh.” He’s still trying to sell how cool it is to his family, however: “I even got ‘em to throw in a forest as a new backyard.” Next time, he should tell ‘em to keep it.
Clarke is agreeably, and alternately, strong and scared witless in this “Pet Sematary,” playing The Man Determined to Protect His Family role to the hilt. And he gets to work opposite a legend like Lithgow, which helps elevate this above the standard scare fare.
THE CAREER: The biggest splash for the Australia-born Clarke, 49, to date was a regular role in the three-season (2006-8Irish-American drama “Brotherhood” on Showtime, on which he portrayed Tommy Caffee. He also had a single season on “The Chicago Code” (2011) opposite none other than Jennifer Beals.
More recently, Clarke appeared in the features “Zero Dark Thirty” (2012) and “The Great Gatsby” (2013) and also portrayed Ted Kennedy in 2017’s “Chappaquiddick.”