Until recently, Scottish thespian Peter Mullan has worn multiple hats. As festival darling, he picked up a best actor award at Cannes in 1998 and a Golden Lion statuette in 2002 in Venice for directing The Magdalene Sisters, a film about sadistic nuns. He was involved with Scotland's left-wing theatre movement, which flourished under Margaret Thatcher, and has turned up in blockbusters such as Braveheart and the final Harry Potter movie.
But it wasn’t until his supporting stint in Jane Campion’s award-winning TV series Top of the Lake in 2013 that Mullan sent audiences off to scour IMDB, his Kiwi crime boss Matt seething with understated menace.
Now that more of us are discovering the masterful actor’s back catalogue, we thought it fitting to snap up his commanding turn as a British crime boss who develops dementia in SBS On Demand’s The Fear. Alongside this memorable role, we remember 11 fellow criminals etched into the annals of TV history.
Vern Schillinger, Oz
Oof. If JK Simmons’ sizzling interpretation of a megalomaniacal conductor in Whiplash was enough to put you on edge, his disturbed/disturbing role as the leading white supremacist in Oswald State Penitentiary will hurl you into the void.
Marlo Stanfield, The Wire
Stringer, Avon, Prop Joe. The Wire was brimming with memorable crew leaders, but the dead-eyed, cat-like demon who was Marlo Stanfield (Jamie Hector) never once demonstrated a hint of a soul. This iconic scene demonstrates the power of Hector’s understated performance.
Corrado “Junior” Soprano, The Sopranos
The Sopranos hosted its fair share of memorable villains, but Dominic Chianese as the fading, insecure, perpetual figurehead Junior Soprano deserves more recognition than he's been paid. How the mighty were fallen.
Anthony "Fat Tony" D'Amico, The Simpsons
You don’t need more than a syllable to recognise voice artist Joe Mantegna’s polished growl. Springfield’s resident mob boss is always a welcome addition to any plotline, and a vehicle to satirise tropes of the gangster genre.
Al Swearengen, Deadwood
The surname of Ian McShane’s legendary barkeep contains the word "swear", which is rather fitting considering he never saw a sentence he couldn't improve with a hefty serve of effing and blinding. Don't let the profanity distract you from his mesmerising performance.
Wayne Lowry, Bloodline
Glenn Morshower (at left) made his small but lasting mark playing the sturdy good guy in bit parts in The West Wing and Friday Night Lights, so it was as surprising as it was thrilling to see the man use his affable manner to villainous ends. Lowry’s an unassuming, atypical-looking head honcho who relishes in quiet intimidation.
Gustavo “Gus” Fring, Breaking Bad
A bespectacled owner of a fast-food franchise who tucks his mustard-coloured business shirt into sensible trousers, talks in an almost mannered fashion, and possesses a striking ability to sense oncoming danger. Sounds like a character that shouldn’t work… but we all know what Giancarlo Esposito did with the role.
Nancy Botwin, Weeds
Unfortunately, as Weeds took a considerable dip in quality as the seasons progressed, Nancy (Mary-Louise Parker) is remembered more for her grating inability to curb her narcissism, than for the ground-breaking character she was.
Galina ‘Red’ Reznikov, Orange is the New Black
Kate Mulgrew’s performance as the smartest woman in the room (or at least, the woman smart enough to always act as if she’s the smartest woman in the room) is as radiant as it is ruthless.
Dr Valentin Narcisse, Boardwalk Empire
Just as with Gus Fring, we’re initially enamored with the good doctor Valentin (Jeffrey Wright) despite a lurking suspicion he’s not as he seems, but episode by episode he sheds layers of civility to reveal the monster within.
Floyd Gerhardt, Fargo
An unexpected casting choice for a gangster isn’t always a good idea (such a shame, Vince Vaughn), but when a performer typically restricted by typecasting (Jean Smart) is given the chance to demonstrate the extent of their range, it’s enough to make any TV geek’s jaw drop.
The first series of The Fear is now available on SBS On Demand. Watch the first episode right here: