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The Face and the Voice

In these pages I'll be talking about Steve Ihnat's ouvre as far as his "presence" and acting style go. If you want to dive right in, go to The Baseline: "The Inheritors".

Or read my musings below.

In the 1980s, I was priveleged to be able to spend two years attending plays at the Guthrie Theater when it was under the artistic direction of Garland Wright. At this time, the plays were run in repertory, and each featured member of the company would play differerent roles in each play. Many's the time I'd go see a matinee, with the actors playing their roles, and then go see an evening performance of a different play, with the actors playing completely different characters - from brave to cowardly, from intelligent to dumb, etc. etc. And the next week I'd go see the same play, just to see if they could give the same performance.

That's when you can really see an actor's ability, when they are on stage interacting with other actors, and having to ad-lib their lines should something go wrong (as for example an actor making an entrance who drops the tray of glasses he's carrying, when they're meant to be used as props throughout the next scene). And then, a mere four hours later, to see them completely embodying another character... it's just so impressive when it's well done.

And of course, the same thing happens for television actors who, over the course of time, assemble a body of work where they too play cowards, heroes, just regular people, etc. etc., and it's fun to pop in show after show, with the magic use of the DVD player, and see all their skills and abilities on display.

Here, I'll be dissecting the work of Steve Ihnat. As with any of my favorite actors, I just find it interesting to try to figure out which part of a particular role they are playing is "themselves," and their actual mannerisms, and what part of the role is "put on." And, of course, with actors skilled in accents, it'd be interested to know what the real person's voice actually sounds like...

I've noticed that Steve has a variety of techniques he uses. For example, in the ten episodes I've seen of his within the last week or so, in three of these he is called upon to spend a moment or two thinking before he speaks, and when he does so, he sticks the tip of his tongue out of his mouth. As Tyler in Daniel Boone (1965) he is amused by a spunky woman who dares to stand up to him, as Garth of Izar in Star Trek (1969) he does it in theatrical fashion,in Alias Smith and Jones (1971) he's peering over a table during a gun battle, trying to decide how to get the drop on the good guys.

These are the kinds of things that make watching any actor at work a fun and educational experience.

With Steve, I begin by analyzing what I will call his "baseline" performance, as the mind-controlled Lt. Minns in "The Inheritors" episode of The Outer Limits. He gives a very understated performance in this, just a normal guy with a job to do, with a very calm and peaceful attitude. No great changes of emotion, no "schticks" to hang his hat on.

From there, think of the transition to watching his truly psychotic killer performance as Barney Benesch in Madigan, (for all that he has only about ten minutes of screen time); the theatrical and flamboyant Garth of Izar in Star Trek's "Whom Gods Destroy"; all the self-confident villains he's played in 99% of the shows he's ever been in - as for example his three Mission: Impossible episodes; and contrast that with his one and only sitcom episode, I Dream of Jeannie, when from the instant he pokes his head into the room he comes across as very shy and diffident and sweet.

But let us start with The Baseline: "The Inheritors".

TV Shows & Movies with Steve Ihnat as Guest Star

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