With our continuing series on Firefly starting a couple days ago, we figured it might be a good idea to give the Cool Actor of the Week nod this time to Jayne Cobb himself, Adam Baldwin.
I’ve been watching Baldwin since the opening weekend of his first movie, My Bodyguard, way back in 1980. Seems at the time I remember reading an interview with director Tony Bill where he said Baldwin had no acting experience, but you’d never know that from his terrific performance as the feared — and tortured — Linderman. Here’s the trailer (bonus Cheese Magnet trivia: the movie was scripted by Alan Ormsby, co-writer and star of Bob Clark’s Children Shouldn’t Play with Dead Things (1973), and writer of the 1982 Cat People remake).
Baldwin (no relation to the Alec/William/Stephen/Daniel acting clan, by the way) worked steadily in movies and TV before his memorable role as Animal Mother in Stanley Kubrick’s Full Metal Jacket (1987). You can see the roots of Jayne even then — here’s a fan-made video tribute to Mother:
In 1988, Baldwin appeared alongside Roy Scheider in writer/director Eric Red’s little-seen, underrated, and highly recommended Cohen and Tate, the story of a pair of hitmen who kidnap a young boy. Things start to go haywire when the kid begins to play the two killers off each other. The flick is well worth seeking out — here’s the trailer:
Baldwin never slowed down throughout the ’80s and ’90s, appearing in films as diverse as Predator 2 (1990), Radio Flyer (1992), Wyatt Earp (1994), and Independence Day (1996). In 2001-2002 he was featured in the recurring role of Knowle Rohrer on The X-Files, but it’s safe to say his greatest fame came when he landed the role of Jayne on Firefly in 2002. Of that role, Baldwin says:
I had just been trying to do Warren Oates from The Wild Bunch meets Eli Wallach from The Good The Bad And The Ugly. Guys like that. Those are guys I was trying to impersonate, mixed in with some Strother Martin. Those are great Western guys. I just always approached it as a Western, with that sensibility. …And later I saw Alien again, and it turns out I was just doing Yaphet Kotto.
As we mentioned in our first post on Firefly, one of Baldwin’s great talents is very sneakily bringing much more depth to a role than the character might initially seem to have. His performance as Jayne delivers solid tough-guy chops but with subtle shadings that a lesser actor might not have explored. On top of that, Baldwin is a big Led Zeppelin fan, which makes him a-okay in my book.
Baldwin continues to work non-stop and is currently appearing on Chuck as John Casey. We’ll let Baldwin — in cunning hat — sing you out with his rendition of The Hero of Canton: