Burn Gorman

Ioan Gruffudd’s Classy Farewell to Forever

It is just not a good week for my TV shows. Wednesday brought news of The Mindy Project’s cancellation, and now another blow has been dealt: ABC has cancelled Forever.

Forever was certainly not the best show on television, but it was original. It also happened to star an underrated favorite actor of mine, Ioan Gruffudd (Yo-an Griffith—it’s Welsh. For more on the man himself, see my gushing post here.)

Ioan is an actor you might recognize but not know why. If you’ve ever seen Titanic (which, considering how many times TBS/TNT/USA/AMC play it throughout the year, it’s impossible not to), he’s the young ship mate with the moral conscious who returns to the sea of bodies to help find any alive ones. His main line, “Is anyone alive out there? Can anyone hear me?” (If you haven’t already, I suggest you take a cruise and bellow this from the deck’s railing. It’s not as morbid as it sounds. I don’t think.) If not for Ioan, Rose would have been lost! There would have been no “Come back! Jack! Come back, Jack!” moment, and that would have been a real loss in greatest cinematic tearjerker moments.

IoanTitanic

                                                      “I saved Kate Winslet, don’t you get that?”

Ioan’s also been in a slew of other TV shows and films, and even had the starring role in Fantastic Four back in 2005 and 2007. And yet his career has just never seemed to take off. Perhaps it’s because he comes across as a little too earnest and eager-to-please—he does practically seem angelic. Maybe he needs a little bit more edge, like Castle or hec even Alicia Florick of The Good Wife. Instead his characters always seem just too perfect and kind-hearted. And I think we prefer a bit more conflict within our characters to add to the relatability factor.

On Forever, Ioan played Dr. Henry Morgan, a man who cannot die and has experienced death and resurrection so many times that he knows more about it than any normal, takes-just-one-death-to-kill-me man. His extensive knowledge of death leads him to team up with the NYC homicide department to solve murders. The show focused on Henry’s life in the modern world and his parallel experiences in past lives, which allowed for a flashback in almost every episode, whether it was to 1954 or 1872. It’s probably these flashbacks that killed the show. While they had the promise of being interesting, instead they played out in an almost farcical-manner. A milky film would cover the screen, as if the show was trying to achieve the glow of a 1940s MGM film. And Henry’s past somehow interrupted his present a little too conveniently. That old wealthy patron of the museum who just died? Henry knew her in the 1950s. That saxophone player whose son died? He just happened to teach Henry’s son to play jazz on the piano in the 1960s. It became formulaic quickly.

A flashback with Henry's wife highlights that milky glow.

                        A flashback with Henry’s wife highlights that milky glow.

Yet for once it was as if Ioan and a character aligned perfectly. Earnest Ioan worked as Henry because Henry was often too earnest as well, too quick to excitement and then concern for others. He was also just a tad bit cheesy, and it all worked, actor-to-character wise. The chemistry between Ioan and his co-star Alana de la Garza was there, too. Was she perfectly cast as a skeptic cop? No, not quite, but her having a soft spot for the eccentric Henry fit. And Judd Hirsch as Henry’s adopted son (who aged normally into an 85-year-old man unlike his pops) was a loveable antiques-collector with a lady’s man streak. The storylines may not have been the best, but the cast itself kept me watching.

Look at these two! They just work!

                                        Look at these two! They just work!

The show’s best quality was the underused Burn Gorman as a Henry-stalking creeptastic psychiatrist. With the same inability to die as Henry, Gorman brought some much-needed level of discomfort to the show. When everything gets tied up into a bow at the end of each episode, it’s not much to compel people to tune in next week. Episodes with Gorman made your spine tingle, but his sporatic appearances were frustrating and too far apart to make much of an impact.

ForeverGorman

                          You creeped me the f*ck out, but I needed more of you.

I suppose I should stop spouting on about the show now and come to the real reason I wanted to write about its cancellation. It turns out Ioan is just as poetic in real life as he was as Dr. Henry Morgan on the show (which just seems fitting). Rather than release a quick statement expressing disappointment and a tidbit of appreciation, Ioan posted the below message to the show’s fans on his Instagram page, and it merits sharing:

“My dear friends, fans, supporters.

Tonight, as you all now know, I received a phone call that I was hoping not to receive, and to be honest I really wasn’t expecting it. I knew the numbers hadn’t been great, but I also knew the studio and the network both loved the show, and of course that it had an incredible fan base…so I thought we were in with a pretty good chance.

But sadly no, this time the cards weren’t dealt in our favor. Show business is like that. Hell, life is like that. You ride to the top of the wave and then you come crashing down again. I asked Alice to send out the sad news because I was a little bit shaken up and needed time to gather my thoughts.

So I sat down and started reading the thousands of Tweets in response to the announcement. And the more I read, the more I couldn’t believe it. The love, the sense of solidarity, the hope, the kindness, the support. Not just for the show, but for each other. And slowly I began to focus on what we had gained in the past year, rather than what we had lost in the last five minutes. I was overcome by a sense of gratitude. To have met you all and to have you all rooting for me and the show. At having a chance to play the role of my dreams, even if it was only for a year. To have been given the chance to bring Henry to life.

Watching the interaction of the FOREVER fans come together and share their love for the show has been breath-taking. It was you guys who held me up when I thought I could no longer go on. (Those days were LONG!) You made me smile when you pointed out the little things I did on screen that I thought had gone unnoticed. You gave me confidence when I accidentally found myself reading less than shining reviews. You were always with me, every step of the way, waving your flags, shouting your support for the show. It’s been an incredible, wonderful year, one that I will never, ever forget.

And guess what? The memories belong to us. We get to keep them ‘forever!’ Thanks again a million times for your unwavering support. Stay strong, be brave, and show kindness as often as you can!
Ioan xxx”

There’s a lot to like about this letter, but my favorite part is, “Slowly I began to focus on what we had gained in the past year, rather than what we had lost in the last five minutes.” It’s a great message from Ioan, and a great message for life. So quickly the bad things become all-encompassing, completely cancelling out anything good that may have led up to them. It’s a reminder to not get consumed by the bad, but to focus on all the overwhelming amount of good you’ve had that in the grand scheme of things, trumps the negative. It just works that Ioan would post something so Henry-sounding at the show’s end. He’s a rarity in an industry fueled by egos and self-serving behavior. He’s a classy man, more 1940s than 2015 (again, perfect casting).

I think Ioan may have been a sought-after star, sort of the moral compass Gregory Peck type, if he had been around in a different era. But in 2015, he’s an unusual sort, too good to be a layered leading man and too handsome to be cast as a secondary character, leaving casting directors at a loss for what to do with him. Forever may not have worked out for him, but if his letter is any indication, he’s certainly worthy of another chance. Here’s hoping some household-name success comes to him soon. If only so I can stop telling everyone how to pronounce his name properly. Now that would be some good.

Forever

           Good bye to this odd couple that somehow worked perfectly. I’ll miss you guys.

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