While our society is obsessed with the superficial world presented through their rose colored tv sets, a few of us can take solace in the fact that some of those individuals we are watching are good, humble souls that have not been tainted by the horrors of stardom. Currently starring in The CW’s Nikita, actor Aaron Stanford is one of these rarities.
Despite clutching a copy of The Feast of the Goat by Nobel Literature Prize winner Mario Vargas Llosa, and wearing a slick pair of RayBan Aviators, Stanford is a regular 35 year old that just happens to be lucky enough to love the character he gets to play on tv. He’s a simple guy, grateful for the opportunities to work with directors he admires and respects. I was able to hang out with him recently in Toronto and find out more about his career and solidify one thing I’ve thought for a while now. He deserves more attention.
Though he appreciates highly intelligent literature, including the novels of Bret Easton Ellis, Aaron Stanford would never admit to being above anyone else or even just being famous. After growing up in a small town in Massachusetts where he loved playing make believe as a child, Stanford graduated from Rutgers University’s Mason Gross School of Arts. His break out role came quickly with much luck in 2000’s Tadpole – portraying a 15 year old who is in love with his stepmother – played by Sigourney Weaver. Hastening the Oedipal complexity of the role with talented ease lead to further work including taking on the infamous Pyro in X2 and X-Men: The Last Stand. And even with those big budget blockbusters, smaller independent films like 2005’s Runaway are what stand out in his career.
Runaway, directed by Tim McCann, is about two brothers that take off on the road, escaping from their pedophile father – a sad, powerful story – one truthful to the horrors we see on the evening news. Stanford’s ability to be painfully convincing as Michael Adler, the older brother, within moments of the film’s start is commendable. His portrayal of an unstable individual trying to hold onto his sanity at the same time as attempting to protect the innocence of his little brother is deserving of a second watch of the film.
The horrors of the world in Runaway are more believable than the likes of The Hills Have Eyes, yet Stanford’s aptitude to be convincing in the story he is given holds true. Alexandre Aja’s remake of the Wes Craven classic carries its weight in gore and horrific situations, but the transformation of Doug Bukowski – from passive cell phone salesman to total badass avenging the death of his family – is what steals the movie overall. The storyline would simply not carry the same impact if any other actor had done it. Without Stanford’s knack of getting inside of what it feels like to be an every day person, grateful for what they are given and appreciating what is right in front of them, Doug’s bloody crusade to save his infant daughter from a pack of mutants wouldn’t feel as satisfying in the end.
The same holds true for the short lived 2007 show Traveler which aired on ABC. The show was never able to expand beyond its eight episode run and severely lacked a solid storyline and screen time for its namesake character, Will Traveler. Yet again, with the short moments Stanford is on screen, he captures the reluctant hostile nature of the terrorist he portrays – pulling the story together at weak lulls. A skill to be admired in an age where the majority of bad writing is typically followed up with a case of terrible acting.
Since 2010, Aaron Stanford has been a regular cast member of The CW’s reboot of Nikita. In the latest version, Nikita has vowed to bring down Division, a secret government-funded organization from which she has escaped. Stanford is Division’s resident computer guru, Seymour Birkhoff. He steals his time on screen, throwing out the witty references and one liners given to his character with such ease that you’d think he really was the energy drink swigging sugar addict computer genius he plays. The show, which carries a great deal of social commentary on the horror of our world, our governments, and just our human nature alone, returns for its third season this October.
His capability of remaining in the real world – with admiration for little things like Coen Brothers films, intelligently written television programs and damn, damn good music – while not getting caught up in the twisted celebrity scene we see on tv each day, is what undoubtedly what gives him the extra edge to push beyond the mundane basics of acting – and fully transform into characters that can’t be forgotten.
In the sea of people, mostly all famous for just being beautiful, Aaron Stanford is a rare gem full of real talent that deserves more attention.
Nikita returns to The CW for a third season Friday, October 19th at 8/9c.