In A Desolate Land
by Hafidah Samat, New Straits Times (November
Some actors are born for bad guy roles. Clancy
Brown a.k.a. Brother Justin, seems to be one
of them. by Hafidah Samat has the inside story.
For many moviegoers, horror and action dramas
are synonymous with actor Clancy Brown, much
like the classic screen dancing pair Fred Astaire
and Ginger Rogers.
Indeed the tall, intense,
hulking actor, who was a natural to play Frankenstein's
monster in The Bride, has utilised his menacing
persona for a career's worth of villainous roles,
most notably in films such as Highlander (Kurgan,
the giant sword-wielding protagonist) and Stephen
King's inspired Pet Sematary 2 as Gus.
With looks that are somewhat
Neanderthal, he sometimes gets to play the sympathetic
character, and has been equal to the task.
Six-foot four with a
square jaw and a steely glare - Brown leaves
a deep impression on most people. That's why
Brown's always playing guys who look mean. "Mean"
doesn't necessarily spell "bad".
Sure, there's bad "mean",
like the prison warden in The Shawshank Redemption,
but Brown can play a whole stable of hard cases,
from cops to lawyers to...uh, more cops.
Occasionally, he plays
some modern-day Little John, like John Dazinger,
the tough-colonist-single-father in sci-fi television
series Earth 2 - big men with bigger hearts.
But mostly, Brown plays
cops and robbers.
His brawler build and
gritty voice tend to attract more heavy roles
than leading man parts. For example, he recently
co-starred in The Hurricane (which also starred
the Oscar-winner Denzel Washington) as a cop.
Born on Jan 5, 1959,
in Urbana, Ohio, the son of a newspaperman turned
United States congressman, he was raised in
Urbana and Washington. He claimed to have been
introduced to acting by a neighbour who got
him into Shakespeare at a young age.
"My father is my
hero and has encouraged me to follow my path.
He told me that he's in Congress because he
has a successful paper, and he has the successful
paper because he wanted his children to have
the freedom to do what they wanted to, and that
I should never feel obligated to follow him,"
His acting career started
in high school and during his teenage summers
before enrolling at Northwestern University
on a track scholarship as a discus hurler.
He graduated with a degree
in speech and went on to mix drinks in Chicago
while working in local theatre.
His first film role paved
the way for his future career.
He appeared as Viking
in the Sean Penn "bad boy" drama Bad
Boys, in which he flexed his muscles as one
of the detention centre's intimidators.
Next, he appeared in
The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the
8th Dimension (1984) as cowboy Rawhide followed
by the cult classic Highlander.
Numerous roles as a bullying
thug, often a corrupt cop, followed in films
like Dead Man Walking and The Hurricane in the
late 1980s and 90s.
The most memorable among
these was Captain Byron Hadley, the crooked
prison guard with the deadly club in the multiple-Oscar-
nominated The Shawshank Redemption.
In 1997, he played one
of his few good guy roles as Sergeant Zim in
He also had a prominent
recurring guest TV role as a doctor on NBC's
ratings champ ER.
His television career
also included a role in Earth 2. In 2002, Brown
appeared The Laramie Project, the made-for-HBO
film about the beating-to- death of gay Wyoming
teen Matthew Shepard.
This year, he took on
the prominent role of Brother Justin Crowe in
Carnivale, HBO's cryptic period drama. In this,
he joined a talented ensemble cast, once again
tapping into his dark side.
Directed by David Knauf,
Carnivale is a fictional tale of supernatural
suspicions, fantasy characters all embedded
in a very real time.
Set in the `30s American
Dust Bowl era, it traces a caravan of travelling
freaks and sideshow performers as they travel
through the desolate land. It was a time of
titanic sandstorms and drought, which were seen
to be a sign of God's fury, leading to an inevitable
"What's most impressive
is the look of the show," said Brown (Brother
Justin) in a phone interview from his California
it - the photography, production, design - it's
mesmerizing, stunningly gorgeous, I think it
should be shown on the big screen!" Brown
Playing Brother Justin,
who exemplifies the goodness in man, proved
to be a challenging task for Brown.
Always looking out for
his congregation, he takes the Okies (immigrants)
under his wing.
There's even something
dark and mysterious about this man of the cloth,
who claims God has spoken to him, and that he's
acting under orders.
about Brother Justin is that he's immature.
I'd like to take the first season as his best
- spiritually. It's about him coming to grips
and understanding what the destiny holds for
him," said Brown.
"The most intriguing
part of the show is that he (Brother Justin)
realises he's destined for greater things but
finds himself trapped in a backwater town so
there's no way out but to put his abilities
to good use.
Drawing parallel to a
few historical figures, Brown modelled his role
after Father Crawford, a Roman Catholic priest,
who became the first tele- evangelist.
"The power got to
his head and he tried to run for president,
got ex- communicated, so he was far more political
than Brother Justin."
He added: "Through
the first season, Justin is sure that all his
visions are coming from his divine authority,
all-knowing, all- loving. He is sure he's doing
God's work, he's a man on a mission, he feels
righteous in his mission, but gets challenged
right at the end of the first season."
"There's not much
more you can do but read, watch movies, listen
to the series music, to get into the character
role. So I do the most I can, then the next
thing you know, they're making you spew coins
out of someone's mouth, there's no preparation
for that!", said Brown, referring to a
scene in which his "power" granted
him the ability to make an old woman spat coins
from her mouth after she was caught stealing
at the church.
Brown, however, admitted
he practises his religion in a "moderate"
"I do believe in
some kind of cosmic design, but there's always
a dark side that sort of balances everything.
I may not go to church every Sunday, but I do
read the Bible, and I am raising my kids to
believe in a higher divine authority.
"But at the end
of it, I'm not a preacher, I'm just a guy,"
According to him, his
theatre background has helped quite a deal in
playing the role.
"It's one of those
rare roles that I simply couldn't resist and
I got to stretch myself in every possible way
and the only thing I couldn't do is my cartoon
voice," said Brown laughingly.
Brown is also well known
for his distinctive voice which has been in
high demand, resulting in dozens of voice-over
credits. He was the "voice" of Mr.
Krabs in Nickelodeon's popular animated series
Spongebob Squarepants and super-heroes cartoons
like Spiderman and Superman.