Robert Gossett: Murder Mystery Actor Par Excellence

I have a soft spot for Robert Gossett. Before I encountered him on The Closer and Major Crimes, I ran across him on Diagnosis Murder. He definitely falls into the category of hardworking character actor.

He excels in The Closer and Major Crimes as being one of my favorite ambiguous good guys.

Yup, an ambiguous good guy.

Usually, I attach "ambiguous" to bad guys, like Spike or Alan Rickman. What makes Gossett so marvelous as Russell Taylor is that Taylor is actually a good guy but has all the ambiguity of the workplace politician with whom we've all had to work at some point.

Political. Given to ladder climbing. Incompetent in some ways but quite skilled in others. "One of the guys"--most of the time. Purveyor of office gossip. Dismissive of the "losing" party but quick to curry favor when that party is back in favor. Ready to grovel . . . but only to a point. Capable of astute assessments. A bit too "us" versus "them" (though not necessarily wrong in his assessment of unfair treatment). Authoritative when necessary. Willing to set aside grievances for the sake of personal investment and sometimes, even, for the greater good.

Real. Human. Relatable--even when he's driving us and the other characters crazy.

Some of my favorite Taylor moments include the following:
  • In "Fatal Retraction" when he gets ready to throw Andy Flynn under the political bus, and Flynn--who starts The Closer with many of Taylor's characteristics--requests permanent transfer to Brenda's squad. Taylor is entirely suave as he turns against Flynn.
  • In "Standards and Practices" when Pope offers Taylor a promotion to quiet his political maneuvering against Brenda. Taylor's surprised pleasure followed by his expression of smug satisfaction is perfect. 
  • In (I believe) "Aftertaste" when Taylor blithely eats the meal Pope brought for Brenda. 
  • In "Strike Three," when the police catch the men who murdered two cops, and Taylor and Brenda exchange expressions of victory.
  • In "Off the Hook," Taylor and Brenda work together (in the face of Pope's near-hysteria) to figure out the death of a woman who worked on the parole board. I especially like Taylor's handling of Detective Verico, calming him and taking his side. 
In Major Crimes, Taylor becomes a much more sympathetic character in part because Raydor can out-patience anyone, even Winnie Davis. Taylor is also in a more secure position--his ladder-climbing days are done. He occasionally plays a political card, but Raydor is entirely respectful and manages to get Taylor to always get her what she needs. Unlike Brenda--another great, flawed character!--Raydor is quite adept at politics.

Gossett deserves kudos for Taylor's ambiguity. It is easy to imagine another actor making Taylor too melodramatically "evil" or too melodramatically cloying and repentant. Gossett makes him human.

No comments: