The same, but different: adjustment and accumulation in television performance

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter


For the performer, the television drama series offers an opportunity to inhabit a character for a greater length of time than on film, for hours and possibly over several years. For the audience, the television drama series permits a familiarity with certain performers and their gestures, ways of speaking and moving. Through close attention to its case study, this chapter will explore the particular possibilities granted performance by the serial nature of television drama, focusing on the way these conditions can foster both familiarity with a performer’s style and a focusing of their range.
Timothy Olyphant is a US actor who has worked in both film and television, but has received particular acclaim and success in two major drama series: Deadwood (HBO, 2004-2006) and Justified (FX, 2010-2015). In both series Olyphant plays a law man (a town Sheriff and US Marshall respectively), and although the series are set in different time periods and regions, there are strong similarities between the characters. Olyphant’s performance is also very similar in both, utilising parallel gestures, facial and vocal expressions, and ways of walking. I would like to suggest, however, that within this restricted performance range there are subtle differences and changes adapted for use with each character, that through the accumulation of time spent in a particular role, the performer is able to intensify the his expressivity. Moreover, I will argue that the refinement of such modifications are noticeable because they are presented through the medium of television, that repeated contact over several years allows the performer’s fine-tuning of their style and enables the appreciation of this by the viewer.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationTelevision Performance
EditorsLucy Fife Donaldson, James Walters
PublisherRed Globe Press
Publication statusPublished - Aug 2019


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