This week legendary character actor George Gaynes passed away. Despite his handsome looks and rumbling voice, despite dozens of plays and films, he was never really considered leading man material. Instead he was most known for supporting roles, like that of the photographer/building manager on Punky Brewster.
But I see high value in such roles. Like Samwise in Lord of the Rings, secondary characters sometimes give us a glimpse into what the main character, who is often wallowing around in the quagmire of becoming, might actually become. We needed the kind, wise mentor of Gaynes’ Henry, to believe that Punky Brewster might also grow up to be kind after being orphaned.
Writer’s Digest has a great article on how to write sizzling secondary characters. Primarily though, it comes down to writing supporting characters who, through their own journeys, help us and our protagonists reach a believable end.
I suspect Dustin Hoffman would not have been as convincing as a woman in Tootsie, had it not be for George Gaynes’ character so believably coming on to him as a “her.”
So thanks for the great character work, George. Thanks for the memories, and the laughs. You can see George Gaynes in this Tootsie original trailer around :40.