It’s time for the Nikita finale (thankfully we’ll get a season three!) which means it’s time for me to again say something: Shane West is an amazing actor. Possibly the most underappreciated actor on television. So in honor of his big night tonight, I give you ten of his best moments – as Michael and otherwise.
10. As himself. OK, it’s not an acting role, but Shane West the man is…well, the man. Just check out his Twitter and you’ll see that he’s both sharply funny and also friendly with the multitude of Nikita fans. Having gotten to talk with him a few times, I’ll say that he is my all-time favorite interview subject, ever. Not only does he give a great interview, but he’s a straight shooter who always tells it like it is, and he’s not afraid to rib me when I deserve it (and I have). Even when he’s not playing a part, Shane is pretty great.
9. In The Presence. Simply put, he got one word of dialogue in this 2010 ghost story. And it was at the end. Yet he still created a character that I was interested in and felt for. That’s talent.
8. A Walk To Remember. It’s a decade old now, but every time this 2002 movie (largely considered Shane’s breakout role) comes on TV, it somehow ends up on Twitter and we all end up crying by the tragic end. The fact that Landon Carter is still a character we keep coming back to years later proves how memorable Shane was in that role, which is in turn a reflection of some great work on his part.
7. The Echelon Conspiracy. Put anyone else in the lead role of tech expert Max Petersen, and this would’ve been just another direct-to-video suspense flick about a guy in over his head. In fact, it took me two tries to understand the thing. But while the 2009 film might not be a classic, Shane’s performance was an interesting mix of brains, brawn and vulnerability. Max was in over his head, but he wasn’t a wimp, nor was he suddenly the next great action hero. He was a realistic guy who didn’t fit into any of the stereotypes you’d see in a direct-to-video movie, and that’s why he was a good character.
6. The Nikita episode “Rough Trade.” It took me awhile to warm up to the character of Michael, but this is the episode where the light bulb came on. The best part of Michael’s arc in the first season was being privy to his internal struggle between the organization he’d served for a decade and the evidence in front of his face that something was wrong. “Rough Trade” was our first real look at his backstory, and we got to see that struggle was not solely because of Nikita – he had his own doubts and issues. Shane cracked Michael’s robotic shell in this one, and convinced me that I wanted to see further inside.
5. In Once & Again. This 1999-2002 show will always have a special place in my heart as one of those lost gems of television, but within it, I have a soft spot for Shane’s character, Eli Sammler. This is one of those shows where the kids (especially the high school-aged kids) could easily have been sulky, self-absorbed, and utterly annoying to watch, but between the actors and the writers, these teenagers were not just watchable, but I wanted to know what happened to them next. Eli might sometimes have driven me up the wall, but I cared about him and wanted to hug him, too, as if he was my own brother. When you start feeling like a character is a real person and not a fictional one, that’s great acting.
4. His exit from ER. Shane spent three seasons on the NBC medical drama from 2004-2007, and he was a welcome addition to an already impressive cast. When I think of Dr. Ray Barnett, though, I think of the way he left County General. To have a main character lose both legs was tough stuff, and a surprising storyline to see. As someone who is disabled, it was a plot that I was particularly sensitive to – and I was proud to see that Shane played it with respect and class. Not to mention that he did it so well that it really struck home with me. He couldn’t have handled it any better.
3. The Nikita episode “One Way.” For my money, this is the best Michael-centric episode of Nikita to date. Knowing the tragic fate that befell Michael’s wife and child, we all wanted to see him get his revenge – and watching Shane play that was Michael at his most vulnerable, his most unhinged, his most human. There’s no denying the dude has his robotic moments (some by design and some not), but we really got to dig into his heart in this episode, and be “in the moment” with him. And then how painful was it to see his chance at revenge stopped by Nikita, in order to save Michael’s life? I needed the Kleenex for this one, but it’s also the installment that made Michael my favorite character on the show.
2. Nikita, in general. There’s no one specific episode that points to what I love most about Shane in the role of Michael: how he’s grown the character over two seasons, often with little subleties that you have to watch a second time to catch. It’s an extra beat that he plays, or an inflection in his voice, or his body language. Even when he’s in the background of a scene you get the sense there’s always something going on with him. He’s always on his game and I love to watch him work, no matter if Michael’s saving the day or just giving exposition. Those little moments of additional effort, when many other actors would go on cruise control, are the ones that put him above the rest in my book.
1. What We Do Is Secret. This isn’t just Shane West’s best performance, but it’s one of my favorite individual performances from an actor, period. Watching this 2007 movie I was not at any point watching Shane West act. I was watching Darby Crash live. Shane completely disappeared into the role so much that it took me time to adjust to seeing him as Michael on Nikita again. It’s a true thing of beauty when an actor has that real connection with a role, and he had that in spades. This is a little gem of a film that not enough people saw, and it’s the best proof that Shane West is a truly talented actor.
Luckily, we’ll have a third season of Nikita for us to enjoy his work even further. Don’t miss tonight’s season finale at 8 PM ET/PT on The CW.
For more from Brittany Frederick, visit my BuddyTV writer page, and follow me on Twitter at @tvbrittanyf.
Image courtesy of The CW