THE PERFORMER James Roday Rodriguez
THE SHOW | A Million Little Things
THE EPISODE | “The Last Dance” (Feb. 8, 2023)
THE PERFORMANCE | We’re used to seeing Rodriguez deploy his wry sense of humor and impeccable comedic timing to great effect: In the ABC drama, his Gary is routinely called upon to provide levity when a scene is reaching peak emotional intensity. But we’re not used to seeing him use a moment of easy humor as an access point for his character’s heartbreaking grief — which is why his excellent work in the Season 5 premiere merits special attention.
Midway through the hour, Gary told a story about his recently deceased father. Rodriguez infused the memory with real mirth, his laughter growing louder as Gary recounted a snowball fight from his childhood. But when it looked like Rodriguez was going to have his character succumb to a fit of giggles, the scene took a bittersweet turn and Gary started to sob.
We were very impressed with the way Rodriguez made the hard turn feel so seamless. Gary’s guilt and sorrow overwhelmed him, and his portrayer rode those waves of high emotion in a way that hit hard. Rodriguez’s small choices — the smile that slowly turned into a grimace, the way he ducked his head when it was clear the tears weren’t going to stop, the hand he pulled to his face in a vain attempt to hide — truly made the scene.
It takes a lot of skill — and even more heart — to pull off a moment of such vulnerability. Rodriguez nailed it.
Scroll down to see who scored Honorable Mention shout-outs this week…
HONORABLE MENTION: Ego Nwodim
We can’t remember the last time a Saturday Night Live skit sparked as much joy in us as last weekend’s “Lisa From Temecula” sketch, and it’s not just because practically every cast member, as well as host Pedro Pascal, broke character at some point during the the four-plus minute sendup. Much of the credit for the high guffaw quotient goes to the satire’s titular star, Ego Nwodim, whose commitment to the insanely silly premise — i.e. Lisa likes her steak so well done that the restaurant table can barely withstand the impact of her “sawing” the meat, sending food flying — never wavered. In fact, as the situation became more ridiculous, Nwodim dug her heels in further, feeding off of the chaotic energy swirling around her and nimbly improvising her way through every unforeseen curveball (while mostly maintaining a straight face). Now pardon us while we go watch the uproarious skit for a 20th time.
HONORABLE MENTION: Kiele Sanchez
Sydney Voit knew something was askew with her husband. And as Criminal Minds: Evolution‘s finale unfolded, the pitch-black truth became apparent, and Kiele Sanchez had us feeling Sydney’s ensuing spiral. Confronting Elias about the “Moose” collar, Sydney snipped any last emotional tie her serial killer husband was feeling. Instantly she was at gunpoint, and Sanchez’s face registered every ounce of terror. Sanchez’s best work came after Elias was caught and Sydney was asked to coax Rossi’s location out of her monstrous mate. In a gripping scene opposite real-life husband Zach Gilford, Sanchez showed us a woman juggling disgust and heartbreak over a family ripped asunder. “Does 15 years [of marriage] matter? Do your children matter?” asked Sydney. “Show me that you’re not just some sociopath who can mimic human emotion, that our marriage was more than just some elaborate alibi.” The appeal worked, and we wept.
HONORABLE MENTION: Chyler Leigh
Time travel can be fantastical, but when The Way Home‘s Kat ventured back to the ’90s and spotted her father and little brother, both of whom she’d lost in her teens, the unimaginable led to an emotionally grounded performance from Chyler Leigh. As an adult Kat laid eyes on her now-departed family members, Leigh’s face filled with shock at the sight in front of her, before giving way to choked sobs that Kat tried to hide behind her hands. Through Kat’s little smile of wonder and her anguished tears, Leigh encompassed both the joy and the sadness that comes with unexpectedly seeing a dearly departed loved one under the most strangest of circumstances.
Which performance(s) knocked your socks off this week? Tell us in Comments!