The thing I always loved about Lance Reddick may not be what first comes to mind for most. I just loved the way he stood and the way he walked. I have never seen a man in person or on film with more perfect posture than Lance Reddick. I swear, it was as if the man had a stiff board running the full length of his spine. While Reddick was listed at 6 foot 2 inches tall, his lean body and erect stance made him seem several inches taller. In a world where most of us slouch or lean forward as we move, Reddick was like a perfectly planted flag pole, even when in motion.
Like many, I first encountered Reddick on David Simon’s television masterpiece, The Wire. As Lieutenant Cedric Daniels, Reddick played a man in charge of a wire-tapping operation trying to keep his small squad of officers in check (especially Dominic West’s brilliant but erratic McNulty) and do good police work while also attempting to further his career.
Looking back now, his character served as centerpiece on a show with a huge cast and many moving parts. Daniels’ efforts to manage his direct reports and his own ambition was a perfect microcosm for a show that always operated in multiple shades of grey. Daniels was on the right side of the law, so to speak, but the line dividing the cops from the criminals was more than unclear, at times it was invisible.
The internal struggles of Daniels illuminated the challenge of doing good for your community while also seeking your own advancement. Daniels was no saint. He wanted promotions and all that comes with that, but he also wanted to be “good police.”
What I found fascinating about Reddick’s performance as Daniels is that he was both conflicted and confident. And sure, a lot of that was on the pages that Simon and his brilliant team of writers came up with, but the extra was Reddick. The sense of exasperation given off by Daniels of having to ride the fence between doing his best work and pleasing the brass was always palpable, and often wordlessly so.
Reddick was an extraordinary physical presence on screen. He was long, lean, and powerful. His walk was full of swagger, even if his character’s head was full of doubt. That shit is not on the page. That shit was Lance Reddick bringing something more to the table.
It’s a dated way to put it, but Lance Reddick was a mood. He changed the energy of every scene he was ever in. Everything heightened when Reddick was in the frame. There was always this sense of authority when he spoke, and when he did lean forward, it always felt like it was going to be somebody’s ass, just not his.
I suppose Reddick’s most well known roles outside of The Wire were his recurring part on Lost, his regular gig on Bosch, and his work in the John Wick films. Aside from those projects, I adored his work in Fringe, which felt like a variation on Daniels. He was the man trying to hold everything together while all that surrounded him was falling apart. You can’t fake command, and Reddick had that attribute in spades.
He was a striking man, and as I’ve been reading the testimonials of those who worked with him, full of kindness when the cameras stopped rolling. It can be hard to get your head around how a person who seemed to take such good care of himself could die at such a young age. Hell, I was struck by the fact that Reddick was into his sixth decade of life when the end came. He just looked so much younger, and he seemed so indomitable.
While there are surely people who knew and loved him that are suffering far more than those of us who simply enjoyed his work, I have to say that I feel cheated. I wanted to see more of Reddick. I wanted him to raise the temperature and the class of more scenes. He seemed to do it so effortlessly, as if he were merely drawing breath.
We all know better though (at least I hope we do). Being that good and authentic does not come without hours upon hours of work and preparation. It didn’t matter if Reddick was a fixture on a show or film, or whether he was doing a small part or a guest spot, when he came, he came correct.
Tall, bold, handsome, and ever so present, Reddick was truly special. And then there was that perfect stance and that gunslinger walk. When Reddick was in front of the camera, you understood what the word “formidable” meant.
But being “formidable” on screen doesn’t mean you get to live forever. It does mean it’s harder to comprehend when someone like Lance Reddick leaves us so suddenly.
If there’s any solace to be had it’s that the work does live forever. At least until we’ve made this planet uninhabitable or an asteroid strikes the earth.
I guess it just seems like Reddick would have been the last one standing before the apocalypse. I’m not so sure that if he were, the apocalypse wouldn’t have backed down.
Lance Reddick died yesterday. He was 60 years old.