The character actors who burn into the memory are most often the colorful kind, the Christopher Walken/Wilford Brimley/Harry Dean Stanton school, Ed Harris-Giancarlo Esposito intense, Margo Martindale-Jenifer Lewis colorful and quirky.
Scott Wilson gave us more by showing off less. From “In Cold Blood” to “Hostiles,” Wilson seemed to speak volumes with just a line, a soulful look, a crinkle of pain. He died Saturday at 76.
He was a recurring on “The Walking Dead,” working right up to the end.
Robert Blake got all the attention from “In Cold Blood,” but you remember Wilson. Colder, less sympathetic.
He’s the sober, sane, long-suffering father and husband in “Junebug,” Scott Crossfield, the test-pilot-of-even-fewer words than Chuck Yeager (Sam Shepard) in “The Right Stuff,” the victim that lets us see Aileen Wuornos has no trace of humanity left when his Good Samaritan instinct puts him in her path in “Monster.”
I once spent a day riding all over Kennedy Space Center with members of the cast of “The Right Stuff,” there to commemorate the movie for a DVD re-release. Wilson, even then, was the unassuming one. Shy, in the background, taking it all in and remembering the movie (all his scenes were set at Edwards AFB.).
But I sidled up to him and we chatted, about “The Right Stuff,” about making “Junebug,” written by my friend Angus MacLachlan and shot in Winston-Salem, where I got to know Angus and director Phil Morrison, and about “Monster.”
He said he had gotten in the habit of looking for roles with few lines, trying to do more with less. He’d done that most of his career, but his moments in “Junebug” and “Monster,” which I covered as it was filmed in Greater Orlando, have the power of a character who picks his spots, uses words sparingly and when he has something to may, makes them count.
You see a little of that in “Hostiles,” bigger than many he played — but making his words count.
Not every character actor chews the scenery. Some put their effort into coloring the edges, drawing attention when it’s called for, inhabiting the space.
Scott Wilson was great at it.