Welcome to the fifth installment of ACTING UP, a weekly Casting Networks feature designed to call attention to standout roles and performances in television/streaming and film. The series spotlights work in projects that have recently been released as well as work in projects being released that same week. The column also covers 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.
Fourth up: Andrea Savage, whose comedy “I’m Sorry” launched its second season over at truTV on Wednesday, and Shea Whigham from the Golden Globe Award-winning Adam McKay feature “Vice.”
THE PERFORMER: Andrea Savage
THE SERIES: “I’m Sorry” on truTV
THE PERFORMANCE: Savage, who hails from the world of stand-up and improv comedy (The Groundlings), brings a Larry David-esque energy to her role as a comedy writer, wife (to Tom Everett Scott), mother (to a six-year-old) and daughter (to Kathy Baker) in a show that’s like “Modern Family” on steroids. She co-created it (with Will Ferrell and Adam McKay) and makes herself the butt of pretty much every joke.
Indeed, “I’m Sorry” is one awkward scenario after another, putting Savage’s neurosis front and center. She’s broad, she’s brassy, but at the same time she’s oddly appealing (as well as easy on the eyes). In the opening installment of Season Two, she wonders aloud how much she’d be able to charge were she a prostitute and wrestles with her kindergarten daughter’s questions about menstruation and pubic hair.
When her mother accidentally flashes some breast in front of her husband, Andrea asks, “Do you see a family resemblance in the nipples?” As her daughter stubbornly maintains that her father doesn’t have pubic hair, she finally blurts, “I’m not gonna argue with you about this. Daddy has pubic hair!”
Also, apropos of nothing, she reasons, “Parenting can lick my butt.” She’s divertingly raunchy, but she’s such a force of nature you can’t help but root for her.
THE CAREER: Prior to “I’m Sorry,” Savage was best known as Laura Montez, the Acting President of the United States after winning a disputed 2016 election on the HBO comedy “Veep” (a seven-episode arc in 2017). She also portrayed Helen Basch during a season-long arc on Showtime’s “Episodes” as the lesbian head of the network.
Prior to both of those, she had a regular role on the Comedy Central mockumentary “Dog Bites Man” (2006) as well as a small part in the Will Ferrell-John C. Reilly comedy feature “Step Brothers.” That’s not to mention her pair of Hulu reality parodies “The Hotwives of Orlando” (2014) and “The Hotwives of Las Vegas” (2015) and a role in the comedy feature “Sleeping with Other People.”
THE PERFORMER: Shea Whigham
THE FILM: “Vice”
THE PERFORMANCE: Whigham only appears in “Vice” for maybe two minutes, but he’s so good it stands out as a showstopping moment.
It happens early in the film, after Dick Cheney’s mother-in-law, Edna, turns up drowned in a lake. She couldn’t swim, so it’s more than a little bit suspicious. The prime suspect is her husband, Wayne, who’d reportedly been in a bitter argument with his wife an hour before.
Whigham portrays Wayne in a scene of subtle acting power. He has just been playing with his two young granddaughters when Cheney approaches.
Wayne (to Christian Bale’s Cheney): “Hey, Dick. You catching any fish?”
Cheney burns a hole through him with his intense glare.
Wayne: “How’s it going in D.C.?”
Cheney: “Don’t ever go near my daughters or my wife again.”
After a tense beat, Cheney walks away.
Wayne (yelling): “Big shot! Big shot in D.C., Dick!”
Watching the exchange on screen literally takes your breath away. That’s how good Whigham is.
THE CAREER: Having just turned 50 last Saturday, Whigham is something of a late acting bloomer. His big break came when he appeared opposite Colin Farrell in the 2000 Joel Schumacher military drama “Tigerland.”
But it was in 2010 that his career really began to kick into gear. Whigham landed a regular role as Eli Thompson on the HBO series “Boardwalk Empire,” followed by cameos in the David O. Russell films “Silver Linings Playbook” (2012) and “American Hustle” (2013). Then came a season on FX’s “Fargo” in 2017 and, last year, eight episodes on the acclaimed Julia Roberts drama “Homecoming” for Amazon.
And later this year, he’ll be in the Todd Phillips-directed “Joker” (due in October) with Joaquin Phoenix and Robert De Niro. Currently, Whigham is filming “Modern Love,” an Amazon comedy anthology based on the popular New York Times column and co-starring Anne Hathaway, Tina Fey, Catherine Keener, John Slattery, Dev Patel and Andy Garcia.