Little roles, big impact: Supporting players who made a difference on screen in 2021

  • Ana de Armas plays a secret agent worthy of a spinoff movie in the 007 adventure "No Time To Die."

    Ana de Armas plays a secret agent worthy of a spinoff movie in the 007 adventure "No Time To Die." Courtesy of MGM

 
 
Updated 12/30/2021 6:41 AM

On the silver screen and the black mirror, 2021 was a year of bravura performances from big-name actors.

A slithering, scary Benedict Cumberbatch in "The Power of the Dog." Will Smith as a singularly determined father in "King Richard." Lady Gaga's fair, if not particularly ethical, villain in "House of Gucci."

 

But in this edition of Widescreen's year-end column, I want to recognize supporting players who enriched their prestige projects. And I don't mean the people who get third or fourth billing -- these are actors with small parts who made a big impact.

Jamie Demetriou, 'Cruella'

You probably first saw him as an awkward date for "Fleabag" or perhaps as the choreographer in "Eurovision Song Contest: The Story of Fire Saga." No matter where you've seen him, he's made you laugh, and he helps set the tone for Disney's surprisingly excellent live-action prequel to "101 Dalmatians" as the title character's boss at a high-end London department store. Demetriou's Gerald is a pompous hoot, and his comeuppance gives Emma Stone's antiheroine her first victory in this fashionable fantasia.

Meg Stalter, 'Hacks'

Nobody, not even Jean Smart, has a higher lines-to-laughs ratio than Stalter in this HBO Max series about a senior standup rediscovering her voice thanks to a young, acerbic writing partner. Stalter, who first became famous on Twitter, plays the gloriously oblivious assistant to co-creator Paul W. Downs' manager character, and her every appearance feels like a gift to the audience.

Carl Lumbly gives "The Falcon and the Winter Soldier" its emotional core.
Carl Lumbly gives "The Falcon and the Winter Soldier" its emotional core. - Courtesy of Disney+
Carl Lumbly, 'The Falcon and the Winter Soldier'

The least of the Marvel Cinematic Universe's Disney+ shows boasts its very best performance. Lumbly, a veteran TV actor perhaps best known as Jennifer Garner's partner on "Alias," plays a genetically enhanced Super Soldier who never got his chance to be Captain America, and who doesn't think the nation deserves to have a Black man like him wielding the shield. His scenes with Anthony Mackie -- whose Falcon does indeed become Captain America -- are the highlights of a series with hard-to-follow action and disappointing drama.

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Fred Melamed, 'Impeachment: American Crime Story'

The silky voiced villain of the Coen brothers' "A Serious Man" talks tough as lawyer to Monica Lewinsky (Beanie Feldstein) in FX's fabulous but curiously overlooked dramatization of Bill Clinton's earthshaking presidential scandal. His dressing-down of relatively sympathetic prosecutor Mike Emmick (Colin Hanks) was the most electrifying moment of the entire limited series.

Ana de Armas, 'No Time To Die'

Last but certainly not least is a rising star whose one-scene appearance in Daniel Craig's last film as 007 gives a fittingly somber story its lightest touch. As a green, game special agent named Paloma, de Armas reminds old-timer James Bond of his own youthful excitement, and leaves the audience begging for a spinoff movie.

• Sean Stangland is an assistant news editor who has already seen "The Matrix Resurrections" way too many times.

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