Hollywood's character actors
From Maggie Wheeler to Pruitt Taylor Vince, these actors are known for their roles, not their names
While it may seem that sounding just like a certain TV nanny would be a career limitation, for Wheeler it’s meant work, work, work. ”It’s the year of the Fran,” says the married, thirtysomething Wheeler. ”There have been a lot of urbanite, borough chick [TV roles] this year.” A Manhattan native who grew up doing summer stock and ”a lot of theater in basements,” the actress seems a likely candidate for her own series. ”The people who give people shows — I haven’t heard from them yet,” cracks Wheeler. Perhaps they should consider her resume.
Seinfeld (1992): After reading for several guest spots, Wheeler got the role of George’s bulimic girlfriend Cynthia in the Emmy-winning episode ”The Fix-Up,” though she can’t recall why the producers picked her over the model types who tried out: ”As I was telling the story I thought, How did I get that job?”
The X-Files (1994): Ditching her nasal twang, Wheeler did a dramatic turn as a detective whom Mulder and Scully interview about a demonic possession. The last time Wheeler had worked with star David Duchovny, in the 1989 film New Year’s Day, he was nude — no big whoop for the blase Wheeler: ”We were boyfriend and girlfriend for quite a few years before that, so I’d already seen him naked.”
Ellen (1994): She played Ellen DeGeneres’ smart-mouthed sidekick Anita and was squeezed out along with most of the original cast (and the original title, These Friends of Mine) during the first season. ”I don’t know who fired me, either Disney or ABC,” says Wheeler. ”I certainly never held it against [Ellen].”
Friends/Everybody Loves Raymond (1996): Having to play two squawky Noo Yawkers simultaneously — Janice, Chandler’s flashy lover on Friends (below, with Matthew Perry) and Linda, the Jet Ski store owner on Raymond — provided Wheeler’s biggest challenge to date. Her subtle efforts to keep the two straight would have made Lee Strasberg applaud: ”I did Linda as an Italian Queens chick,” Janice as ”a JAP from Long Island.”
PRUITT TAYLOR VINCE
He may have played psychotic killers on The X-Files and Murder One, but there’s no reason to fear Pruitt Taylor Vince. Says Murder One‘s Anthony LaPaglia: ”It’s indicative of how good an actor Pruitt is that you’re convinced he’s scary. In real life, he’s the sweetest man in the world.” n ”Me? Ah, f— him,” the divorced 36-year-old New Orleans native jokes. ”My mama raised a Southern gentleman. This is a mean business, but I hope I’m still that way.” No one knows better than Vince how cruel showbiz can be. He was cut from his first film (Down by Law), got bitten in the crotch by the star of K-9 (”I knew I wasn’t doing theater anymore”), and lost roles due to a birth defect that sometimes causes his eyeballs to jiggle. ”It’s supposed to keep me from doing what I do, but I haven’t let it,” says Vince.
Nobody’s Fool (1994): As Rub, best pal to Paul Newman’s Sully, Vince held the big screen with one of Hollywood’s all-time greatest stars. ”Paul somehow makes you comfortable — not that you ever forget it’s him,” he says. ”I guess he took a liking to me off screen, and that helped.”