James Spader : His acting is repetitive, predictable and recycled

His acting is repetitive, predictable and recycled

I just posted this on the Blacklist forums, but I think this will be of interest to most of you and many may share my opinion.

James Spader used to be myh favorite actor but it's getting hard to watch him on The Blacklist. His body language hasn't changed for years.

His mannerism is worn out, he recycles the same things he did from Boston Legal and even The Office. Here's what his "acting" is reduced to on The Blacklist:

-constant mouth twitches. Observe this tick and it will become unwatchable. Playing with his tongue right before speaking and so forth.

-shaking his head, staring with his head on 45 degrees

-Having his hand on his stomach. It's a thing he did back on Boston Legal, then again on The Office.

... and a thing or two I'll need a video to point out. Anyhow:


James Spader's nuanced acting from Boston Legal is gone. The directors of the Blacklist sure don't have anything to teach him, the other actors don't challenge him in any way, but still, doing the same couple of things for months (years, really) isn't even acting. It's habit.

Re: His acting is repetitive, predictable and recycled


I agree on the stomach clutch/pat/whatever it is.

The others I'll watch for.

Re: His acting is repetitive, predictable and recycled

go to the blacklist board for differing opinions on this thread.

Re: His acting is repetitive, predictable and recycled


I agree on the stomach clutch/pat/whatever it is.

The others I'll watch for.


Yes, by all means, watch for anything negative.
If "The Skipper" loves James Spader or he is his fave actor (I can't remember, I'n still trying to air out the room after the steam came out of my ears), I would hate to see what he has to say about actors he hates.

Jealous, nasty people. Just no point.

Re: His acting is repetitive, predictable and recycled

Gee, I'd hate to hear what you have to say about your non-favorite actors.

I do not have attention deficit disor...Ooh, look at the bunny!

Re: His acting is repetitive, predictable and recycled

You do realize iT is his character?
And each actor has iTS body language, you cant take That away.
I think he is one of the best actors on tv.

Re: His acting is so bad, he's been doing it over 30 years! Oh wait :)


You do realize iT is his character?
And each actor has iTS body language, you cant take That away.
I think he is one of the best actors on tv.


You just made my morning, thank you. This site has gotten so hateful and negative, it is getting too rare to find a halfway nice post.

I think Spader is very special - he can play a total jerk and not let it change him. He is still working when a lot of people he started with are sort of flailing - or dead. :( I think he and Rob Lowe were both VERY smart to make at least these two great choices that other actors of both gender have not:

1) Take really good work that is on TV (rather than "I'm holding out for film!"), most of us are watching TV or Netflix and not going to the movies these days) and 2) Be funny! Laugh at yourself, be the butt of the joke.

This is how a guy who was the object of crushes in the 80's is still a working & respected actor 30 years later. The work proves it, not any hateful comment here from someone who is NOT a working actor.

Re: His acting is so bad, he's been doing it over 30 years! Oh wait :)

>>I am SO, SO SICK OF THIS. I miss the old imdb - when we could safely come here to talk about good film and good television and not play two dozen rounds of "he looks exactly like so and so!".

I know, right? When I started coming to IMDb it was mostly positive. Sure, once in a while you'd get the occasional "This guy is so ugly!" post on the board for one of your favorite actors, but then everyone would reply along the lines of, "You are entitled to your opinion, but we disagree." (Sometimes more harshly worded. ) and that was it. Now it's all, he is ugly, he can't act, and he looks exactly like ________ (which seems innocuous enough until they get pissed off when you say you don't see it...and I almost never do see it.)

>> This site has gotten so hateful and negative, it is getting too rare to find a halfway nice post.

I hear that. Every board is like that now.

I do not have attention deficit disor...Ooh, look at the bunny!

Re: His acting is so bad, he's been doing it over 30 years! Oh wait :)

Actually, you are just bullying me for having a different opinion while pretending to be the victim. You insult me personally, but do not respond to my concrete criticisms on Spader's poor acting nowadays.

Re: His acting is so bad, he's been doing it over 30 years! Oh wait :)

I think you have a very ... technical approach to assess an actor's ability. Spader certainly has his mannerisms, but I don't think it's some kind of acting autopilot. It seems to me rather the way he is as a person and reacts as a human being. You will see certain parts of this mannerism also in a film like "Secretary" where his character comes across as very different than Raymond Reddington for example. Or as James Spader himself when he gives an interview.

But what I appreciate about his acting is not if the exact angle of his head tilt varies or anything like that. I rather appreciate the intensity he brings to the role, the incredible ease whith which he makes the lines of the character his own and the detailed nuances he conveys with his face and voice. To me he is one of these actors that can tell a whole story with just a glance or a slight change in tone (and make it seem effortless) and that's quite a gift. I think that's also what makes him (at least for me) so compelling to watch.

Re: His acting is repetitive, predictable and recycled

Just binging this show and the mouth chewing and head tilts and nods kill me! Lol

Re: His acting is repetitive, predictable and recycled

Perhaps to you, but I love every single gesture, expression, and syllable the man utt 111c ers. He is just a lot of fun to watch act. Most actors are really pretty boring, but Spader is always entertaining whether he is doing something snarky, evil, or dramatic.

Re: His acting is repetitive, predictable and recycled

He has had those same mannerisms his entire career, not just since some of those last shows. If you go back and see some of his work as a youth like in Cocaine: One Man's Seduction back in 1983, which may still be on Netflix, he was doing some of the same things with his mouth and head.

Re: His acting is repetitive, predictable and recycled

I kinda like it always makes it seem like he is listening intently.

he is still entertaining as all fawk though

Re: His acting is repetitive, predictable and recycled

Some poeple don't understand it's a character, why would this character for instance suddenly change personality? Makes no sense, therefore he (Red) is what he is.

Re: His acting is repetitive, predictable and recycled

all the things i love about him! and never noticed him touch his stomach.

Re: His acting is repetitive, predictable and recycled

his acting never disappoints, imo. i recently watched slow burn and didn't even recognize him. and when i finally figured out the character spader was playing, i had to check the cover to make sure i'd gotten it right!
and i'm THOROUGHLY enjoying THE BLACKLIST. so, diss him all you want; most people will completely disagree with you - as i do.

Re: His acting is repetitive, predictable and recycled

I respectfully disagree. In my opinion, he is the best actor on television.

Re: His acting is repetitive, predictable and recycled

People tend to talk around each other when it comes to opinions. It really depends on ones definition of "acting" and what qualities a person's values as the best. Spader is a very good character actor. He does what he does well and has a great deal of Charisma. His over all ability to represent different persona's and various degrees/layers of emotions is debatable.

Re: His acting is repetitive, predictable and recycled

There are two different kinds of actors. There are those who disappear so entirely into a role that you can't even recognize them and there are those who are always themselves but they make the part their own. Spader is more the latter than the former but that doesn't make him a bad actor. He is highly regarded as an actor and while who is/isn't good is a matter of opinion/tastes and therefore cannot be said to right or wrong, one can be in the minority. People who say Spader is not a good actor are definitely in the minority.

I do not have attention deficit disor...Ooh, look at the bunny!

Re: His acting is repetitive, predictable and recycled

Have you seen his full body of work, or just his recent work? Over the course of his career he has created many characters who are quite different than the ones he has been playing lately. Currently he is once again being type cast, but at least this time he is being type cast with a type of character he enjoys playing.

Re: His acting is repetitive, predictable and recycled

I have seen much of Spader's work. Pretty much everything he has played that I can recall is a variant of a character with inflated ego.

Re: His acting is repetitive, predictable and recycled

Then I think you haven't seen ever 1908 ything. You are right that he tends to play characters with at least a touch of the alpha male, but any time your character is at least a little successful those individuals are not wilting violets.

Re: His acting is repetitive, predictable and recycled

I haven't seen everything, but have seen a variety of 35 years of his work. Do you have any suggestions of somethings to watch where he stretches beyond this persona?

Re: His acting is repetitive, predictable and recycled

Stargate, Crash, A killer in the family, White Palace - all different characters.
He does "recycle" roles and mannerisms, but all actors do. What makes a difference to me is whether I believe an actor "is" the character he/she plays. For example, when Spader speaks, I believe every word he says, and when Johnny Depp (first came to my mind) speaks, the last 10 years all I can see and hear is Johnny Depp "playing" that character. Both are doing mostly the same role, both are repeating some mannerisms, but to me Spader is a more honest actor.

Re: His acting is repetitive, predictable and recycled

I think you are reaching Jelen. I haven't seen White Palace.

Stargate is a vindication story for Spaders character. He starts out briefly as a nerdy, nervous sort. He quickly falls into an intellectually superior position as his theory's are supported. It is only a slight variance on his normal roles. Intellectually superior,somewhat morally objective, and using that to manipulate those around him (much of the movie is him manipulating the military for his own agenda) and yet still likable. While it may not be as obvious because the character doesn't vocalize his arrogance as much as his usual characters, and mostly gets over shadowed do to the sci-fi elements of the movie; It is essentially the same persona he usually plays, just lower keyed.


"A killer in the family" was one of his early films, just a couple of years into his acting career. He hadn't really developed this persona and was getting by largely off his good looks. Still however he played a strong male, a master-mind gang leader type, with morally questionable character that manipulated his family and yet was still likable.

Crash he again plays a power figure, arrogant, that is morally questionable (mostly sexual morals). It was basically a soft-core and not exactly a great piece that lend itself for great acting depth.

I don't say any of this to say that spader in a bad actor, but he has a pretty defined stick (as most actors do). His strength is playing bullish, manipulative, morally questionable characters that are likable.

I agree he is a very enjoyable actor and like him in most things I have seen him in, but that can be true and still recognize that there is a seemingly lack of depth to what he has given in way of character and emotion. Spader has become very good at taking a character and making it his, but he isn't the type of actor that has shown he can make himself become the character.

Re: His acting is repetitive, predictable and recycled

The problem is that 99% of the leading roles in general are about a strong character, whether he/she becomes strong or is that way from the beginning. Or they wouldn't be the leads.
Concretely Spader has mostly played antagonists, but some of them were likeable, and others were simply despicable (like Pretty in Pink, Two days in the Valley, Wolf...).
Either way, I think that most characters in movies can be put in categories such as good/bad, moral/amoral, likable/not likable, etc., but what makes them different from each other is their personality, background, current situation, desires, etc. It's like saying all college students are the same; they do have a lot of things in common, but they're not really the same.
Don't get me wrong, I'm not saying that Spader is some acting god or that he can play all sorts of characters, I just think that the categories you used are too wide (is that the word?). I do think he could have chosen better roles throughout his career.

Re: His acting is repetitive, predictable and recycled

T 1908 he problem is that 99% of the leading roles in general are about a strong character,

Not true actually. Most certainly are but not nearly 99%. A lot of movies are about over coming in spite of one's flaws/weakness; about people without aggressive personalities. That being said it isn't a strong character that is the defining characteristic, but that in conjunction with other aspects.


some of them were likable, and others were simply despicable (like Pretty in Pink, Two days in the Valley, Wolf...).

So your argument is that he can play the same character and tone down the likability? The point I was making was he hasn't proven to reach beyond, not that he can't manipulate what he can do to various degree.


Don't get me wrong, I'm not saying that Spader is some acting god

Maybe not, but to the original post I was responding to they were stating he was the best actor on television. I was simply saying what he does well, he does well, but he isn't an "acting god." Your disagreement with me seem to insinuate something different then what you are now directly claiming.

Re: His acting is repetitive, predictable and recycled

You asked for some examples: White Palace; Bad Influence; Driftwood; sex, lies, and videotape; Curtain Call; Critical Care; and I too will put Stargate in the equation because for me you were reaching with your analysis of the character. Yes, he has some attributes of strength, but he is not an alpha male character. He has had several roles where he puts his charisma aside and plays a non likable character: New Kids, 2 Days in the Valley, Wolf, and Baby Boom are the ones I can think of off-hand.

Re: His acting is repetitive, predictable and recycled

How about Mannequin No charisma there! in The Music of Chance he is barely recognizable and sounds like Paul Giamatti.

I do not have attention deficit disor...Ooh, look at the bunny!

Re: His acting is repetitive, predictable and recycled

I didn't describe his persona's as alpha male she did. Regardless it's just variation on the same theme.

Re: His acting is repetitive, predictable and recycled

You are missing the point. If they cast James Spader it's because they want James Spader. It's like I explained above; he is not the kind of actor who (usually) disappears into a role. He is the kind that will be James Spader and yet he will make (most) people completely believe that he is thinking and feeling what the character is. He's not a Lon Chaney, he's a Humphrey Bogart.

I do not have attention deficit disor...Ooh, look at the bunny!

Re: His acting is repetitive, predictable and recycled

You are missing the point. If they cast James Spader it's because they want James Spader

Don't know how I am missing the point as that is pretty much is my point.

Re: His acting is repetitive, predictable and recycled

No, not really.

I do not have attention deficit disor...Ooh, look at the bunny!

Re: His acting is repetitive, predictable and recycled

No, not really; what?

Are you trying to say that wasn't my point? Because my original statement was that Spader is a character actor; which by definition is what you described.

Re: His acting is repetitive, predictable and recycled

To me strong doesn't mean aggressive, and I said in my post that 99% are either strong to begin with or become strong through the movie. Like Stargate.
Your argument was that he plays bad/amoral guys who are likable. We're saying he also played good guys and completely unlikable guys.
I don't think he's the best actor on television, because I don't watch much TV. But he's doing more than well.
For me, the only weak part of his acting is comedy (not roles with comedic elements, pure comedy).

Re: His acting is repetitive, predictable and recycled

I agree with you regarding comedies. He is extremely funny and talented using a quip, but he is far from his best at broad comedy.

Re: His acting is repetitive, predictable and recycled

Strong/aggressive that's semantic; I was very clear and it should be obvious the similar personality traits.

Being unlikable is one dimensional. Not to say there isn't a talent to it. As Spader evolved he has been able to go beyond just being unlikable to a persona that presents ambiguity of moral. The ends justifies the means in many cases. I don't diminish that is difficult; just that it is limiting.

I don't think he's the best actor on television which is really all I had issue with, I thought that was over stated.

Re: His acting is repetitive, predictable and recycled

Strong and aggressive are not the same 1908 . Maybe to you, but you can be strong without being aggressive. I just disagree about the similar personality traits, let's just agree to disagree here.
And being unlikable has nothing to do with being morally ambiguous. Being likable or unlikable also doesn't always depend on the talent, because sometimes that's the point of the character and that's what makes them interesting (not likable). And we're all morally ambiguous, so that's just playing a human being.
And now I have to disagree with myself, because if you look at filmography, you could see that he played mostly "good" guys that "bad".
And anyway, all this has nothing to do with acting. You can still be an excellent actor and play mostly the same character. It also doesn't always depend on the actor.
About being the best on television, at this point I believe he must be one of the best. I don't watch many things, so I can't judge. Who's currently the best in your opinion and why?

Re: His acting is repetitive, predictable and recycled

I haven't seen everything, but have seen a variety of 35 years of his work. Do you have any suggestions of somethings to watch where he stretches beyond this persona?

"The Music of Chance",
"Keys to Tulsa",
"2 Days in the Valley",
"The Pentagon Papers

Re: His acting is repetitive, predictable and recycled

I can't stop laughing at part of your post (or at your handle):


I just posted this on the Blacklist forums, but I think this will be of interest to most of you and many may share my opinion.


WHY would you think that? Why come to his page and be a negative, "Look at me! Only I am right! I MATTER!" jerk? Why would you think someone who came here to look for what year one of Mr Spader's films came out, what year he was born, etc, would give a shiz about your opinion? I mean, who is it that you think you are, that your opinion would be of special interest to me or anyone else here? Did I miss the part where you cured cancer??

I am SO, SO SICK OF THIS. I miss the old imdb - when we could safely come here to talk about good film and good television and not play two dozen rounds of "he looks exactly like so and so!".

You sound like a jealous fool. And one with way, way too much time on his or her hands. (I do, I admit it, but I'm also in bed very sick, so here I am) There are people in this world who need a lot of help - I can suggest several places where your time might be better spent.



Maybe I'm missing something - why is this necessary? (Oh and it is "body language" not "languaged" - the latter is not even a word)


Why do you think the world of IMDB and whatever "Blacklist" site it was are in such desperate need of your opinion? I always wonder what the hell is wrong with people like you.

Go put something good in the world, at least attempt to balance your nasty post - oh forgive me, postS, about James. The world is in need, people just lost their homes AGAIN in my town due to tornadoes, people are dying in Nepal due to earthquakes, but you - you are doing the really good work! SO important, you running him into the ground. Your family must be so very proud. Sheesh.

Re: His acting is repetitive, predictable and recycled

You did a fine job at swearing and cursing, but not a good one on pointing arguments against what I'm saying.

The problem with Spader is he's wooden. He is not expressive like a real artist (or actor), he cannot express deep emotion, you can't see real saddness from him. Or sympathy, or shame, or love.

He's just a 55 year old actor who can barely see and is just obsessed with looking bad-ass. In his sleazy, repetitive Spader manner.

Re: His acting is repetitive, predictable and recycled

Maybe YOU can't see those emotions in his acting, but I see them all just fine...in fact I see them better than I see them in most any other actor. I just can't understand how you do not? Evidently you can't, otherwise you are just trolling. I see deep sadness when he portrays it, to the point it tugs at my heart. The same when he shows love, sympathy, pain, the torture of loss...all of those emotions are conveyed through this face, eyes, and body. He is a tremendous actor...even if you are one of the unlucky ones who can't see it.

Re: His acting is repetitive, predictable and recycled

I disagree with the OP. But I lean toward what Franknsense wrote. Do I think his latest fare lacks the pop of his former work (for example: White Palace, Sex Lies & Video Tape, Secretary and The Practice)? Well, yes. But he's getting older and I believe he's set 16d0 tled and in the "I'm enjoying my life, it's whatever" stage of his career. His looks have faded, hair is gone and he's softer around the middle. I still adore him! But I think the powers that be will not offer him another life altering film role role that could show the world what he's made of as an actor, because they already did (Secretary and SLAVT). He may not have gotten an Oscar for either of them, but at least he won an Emmy for his work in Boston Legal. For me (as a fan of his work) he doesn't need to prove he's a nuanced, layered actor. I believe he already has many times over.

I think he's enjoying the fruits of his labor now and I'm fine with that as long as I get to see him in something or at the very least his voice ( Ultron was fun!) As for the debate over his work on The Blacklist, well, it had potential until season two. I don't blame that on James though. He is far from the weakest link on that show.
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