Performer of the Week: Regé-Jean Page

Regé-Jean Page in Roots

THE PERFORMER | Regé-Jean Page

THE SHOW | Roots

THE EPISODE | Parts 3 and 4 (June 1 and 2)

THE PERFORMANCE | History’s lavish remake of the landmark 1977 miniseries was so rich in powerful performances that it was a challenge to single out just one. But, although strong cases were made for Malachi Kirby (Kunta Kinte) and Anika Noni Rose (Kizzy) in particular to be named Performer of the Week, the versatility that Page displayed as Chicken George kept us coming back over and over again to his star turn.

You see, the British-Zimbabwean actor didn’t merely nail the flamboyant showmanship that allowed his character to disarm and even charm white crowds before his masters’ gamecocks had entered the ring. He also shone in subtler, more sincere moments, which afforded us keen insights into both George’s deep devotion to Matilda, the wife from whom he was repeatedly torn away, and his conflicted feelings for Tom Lea, the white father in whom he desperately wanted — and was naïve — to believe.

When Tom finally gave George his freedom, then in the blink of an eye, took it back, the betrayal and rage that Page called forth were haunting to witness. However, the rawness of that pain made it all the sweeter when, near the epic’s conclusion, he radiated George’s joy at being asked by his formerly estranged son how to name his newborn daughter in the Mandinka tradition. (The moment was so moving, it still gives us chills.)

In all honesty, we had never heard of Page before this. (He’s better known overseas.) But now, we’ll be looking forward to checking out whatever he does next. He didn’t just make an excellent first impression, he made a lasting one.

HONORABLE MENTION | Person of Interest‘s person-of-interest-episode-100-ackerSamantha Groves aka Root went out with a bang this week, thanks to a stellar swan song by Amy Acker. Who else could sell us on the absurdity of discussing Schrödinger (and in doing so segue into ill-timed flirtation) amid a barrage of bullets? But Acker’s finest moment came when during a spectacular car chase — steering toward Root’s heroic death, it would turn out — she urged Harold to allow The Machine to be all that She needs to be in this final clash with Samaritan. “I walked in darkness for a very long time before you guided me to light. And I wouldn’t change any of it,” Root told The Machine’s maker. “But we’re not going to win this way. And we can’t afford to lose. Sometimes you have to fight a little.” Acker brought great passion to that moment as Her No. 1 cheerleader, in what would be Root’s final hurrah.

HONORABLE MENTION | A (very) funny detour-zea-performancething happened on Monday nights this spring: Natalie Zea quietly created one of TV’s most entertaining moms. As The Detour‘s Robin, the Justified alum ditched the “blow up your bangs” trope of the wife exasperated by her goofball mate and got in on the hijinks herself, whether (unwittingly) officiating the marriage of a pedophile or getting quite stoned on tainted candy. Zea was in particular fine form in the first half of the Season 1 finale, where Robin 1) was fascinated to discover husband Nate’s “Pull the trigger” credo, 2) inadvertently schooled her kids on the “Plan B” pill, 3) taught us how to “walk backwards” into an invite-only party and 4) got her flirt on with a very eligible billionaire (in the name of saving Nate’s job). Robin may not have gotten to first base with the aforementioned tycoon, but Zea’s comedic chops totally won us over.

Which performances knocked your socks off this week? Hit the comments!