Saturday, August 30, 2014

In Memoriam, Part 2: Wesley Lau

The second post of the day is for Wesley Lau, another very talented and special man.

I have actually seen at least one new thing with him, and curiously enough, it was an accident. I was looking up an old episode of Suspense because Joseph Campanella had a walk-on part. Then I started skimming through it to see if he appeared again. Instead, I found a man who both looked and sounded very much like Wesley.

It didn’t take long before I knew it really was Wesley. And interestingly enough for Perry fans, the plot of the episode had Wesley’s character accused of a murder he didn’t commit. He turned out an amazing, heartbreaking performance, completely falling apart under pressure and screaming that he didn’t do it.

Thankfully, the real killer is finally caught and Wesley’s character is exonerated. And since Wesley wasn’t even credited for that episode on, I added the credit right after watching the episode.

I took a few low-quality pictures and put them on my Tumblr account:

It’s always interesting to me that Wesley never even wanted to act. He was just a natural at it. His characters are so believable and so human. Most times they are sympathetic. Occasionally they are not. He was equally wonderful at playing good guys and bad guys.

The other day we re-watched I Want to Live!, to see Wesley as well as Simon Oakland. As the fourth husband of Barbara Graham, Wesley’s character Henry starts out seeming fairly mild and sweet. But he’s mixed up in criminal activities and also has a crippling drug habit. It isn’t far into the marriage when Henry is drug-tripping and becoming violent, even striking Barbara while holding their baby. He then disappears, not reappearing until found by the police and brought into court during Barbara’s trial. He looks somewhat dazed, which he very likely is; the newspaper headline comes up that he isn’t any help and had a “foggy day” in court. He apparently can’t remember whether the events of that last night of him being at home happened or not.

The character is certainly not very sympathetic. I can’t say whether or not the way he was written was much like the real Henry Graham; reports I’ve read on him seem a bit contradictory when attempted to be put together. But what I can say for a surety is that Wesley’s portrayal is, as always, very unforgettable.

Perry-wise, it’s always interesting to put his two characters side by side and examine their similarities and differences. Amory Fallon jumps to conclusions, is tortured by said conclusions, and unravels into a completely stressed-out and irrational person. Lieutenant Anderson is detached and businesslike, but often puts together the pieces of a case the wrong way, can be made to look ridiculous on the witness stand, and eventually allows the more stressed-out side of his personality to take over a lot more frequently.

He can’t be faulted too much on how he tries to solve cases, since the same problem plagues all Perry police and is just a fault of the formula. But I still wonder what could have caused him to become so stressed-out by season 8.

Just in that fact of being stressed, he is similar to Amory. But the way they behave while stressed is different. Amory is irrational, sometimes even bordering on hysterical. Andy is just frustrated, angry, and fed-up.

It’s intriguing how Wesley even approached that same basic characteristic of stress in different ways. Amory goes so far as to start running his fingers into his hair so much that it gets downright messed-up. Andy presses his lips in a thin line and becomes clipped. Sometimes, but not always, he doesn’t even raise his voice when his temper snaps.

While writing The Malevolent Mugging, which focuses a great deal on both of them, I had to do my best to make sure they were always portrayed as the two different people they were meant to be. When calm, they can both behave in similarly businesslike ways, which can present a problem in writing. But Amory almost always seems a bit more open with his emotions, even in calm times, so I try to bring that out and also to keep them different in whatever other ways are possible, such as Amory commenting on how Andy is trained to risk his life but he, Amory, hasn’t been and wouldn’t ever be able to think of some of the things Andy comes up with.

I ended up inspired by discovering Deputy Sampson exists in the books and I wrote a new chapter of that story: I have Andy finally end up pushed to the limits of his patience and he becomes stressed even to the point of being somewhat irrational. Luckily, Tragg brings him back to Earth.

I’m hoping to keep that story rolling to its conclusion now. I came up with one plot twist that may hopefully be the start of bringing all remaining loose ends together.

The story was originally meant as being largely for Andy and Amory, then later expanded to also be for the district attorney’s office and Hamilton and Sampson. A tribute to several wonderful characters and hence, the actors who brought them to life and made them memorable.

The actors for three of those characters are gone now, the actors whom are being remembered with the posts today. Thank you, Wesley, and William, for the amazing performances, characters, and the creativity you have helped to inspire. You will both always be unforgettable.

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