Lance Reddick, a prolific actor who gained fame playing a police commander on the Baltimore crime drama “The Wire” and later had prominent roles in the “John Wick” movie franchise and the Amazon series “Bosch", died on Friday. He was 60.
His death was confirmed by his publicist, Mia Hansen. She did not say where he died or cite a cause.
Reddick was having some success as a stage actor when, in 1996, he began landing small roles on New York Undercover, The West Wing and other television series, as well as some TV movies.
Even then he was often playing law enforcement figures, and he would be doing so when his breakthrough came in 2002: He was cast as Lt Cedric Daniels, the principled head of the investigation unit, on The Wire, the sprawling HBO series that was praised for its realistic and often downbeat depiction of policing, crime, education and other aspects of life in Baltimore.
The series ran for five seasons and is widely regarded as having brought a new level of sophistication to police dramas and television in general.
“Ever since The Wire,” Reddick told The IMDB Show in a video interview, “I’ve played a lot of intimidating authority figures that talk a lot.”
On the Fox sci-fi drama Fringe, which made its debut in 2008, he was Phillip Broyles, a Homeland Security agent. In the crime drama Bosch, which ran from 2014 to 2021, he was a police official. In the movie White House Down (2013), about an assault on the White House, he was vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.
“Intensity is not something I try to do,” he told The Queensland Times of Australia in 2010. “It’s just kind of the way that I am.”
He got away from the law enforcement roles in the John Wick movies, the action franchise that stars Keanu Reeves in the title role. He played Charon, a hotel manager, in all four films, the first of which was released in 2014. The latest is being released this month.
In all those roles and others, Reddick was a distinctive, instantly recognisable presence, even if he was not quite a household name. His voice, too, was distinctive, as players of Horizon Zero Dawn, Destiny 2 and other video games on which he could be heard know.
“Range is always what I’m striving for,” Reddick told the Los Angeles Times in 2019. “I never want anybody to say ‘Oh, this is who he is.’ Although the characters I play, even in all their diversity, tend to be fairly intense. But they’re all very different guys.”
Beginning in 2008 he was in a few episodes of the ABC series Lost, playing a character named Matthew Abaddon. The show had a wide following, and though the character wasn’t around long, Reddick said it boosted his visibility even more than The Wire had.
“I was living in New York at the time, and it seemed like everybody was stopping me to talk about Lost,” he told The Baltimore Sun in 2019. “I went from small, niche notoriety to being completely recognisable.”
Lance Solomon Reddick was born June 7, 1962, in Baltimore. His mother taught instrumental music, and his father was an educator and later a public defender.
Reddick attended the Eastman School of Music in Rochester, New York, where he studied classical composition. He was a skilled pianist and in 2010 released an album of his own works, “Contemplations & Remembrances.”
By the early 1990s, Reddick was in Boston and exploring acting. He soon enrolled at the Yale School of Drama, where he received a master’s degree. He performed at Yale Repertory Theater with Liev Schreiber and other future stars.
“When I went to drama school,” he told the Los Angeles Times in 2009, “I knew I was at least as talented as other students, but because I was a Black man and I wasn’t pretty, I knew I would have to work my butt off to be the best that I would be, and to be noticed.”
In 1995, at Manhattan Theater Club in New York, he appeared in After-Play, Anne Meara’s play about two couples who settle in for dinner after attending the theatre; Reddick portrayed their mysterious waiter. The play had a long run in New York, and in 1997 he reprised the role at the Westport Country Playhouse in Connecticut.
By then his television work was beginning to pick up, although he did not abandon the stage completely. In 2006 he was in Signature Theater Company’s New York revival of August Wilson’s Seven Guitars, putting his musical background to good use portraying a blues musician named Floyd.
“Floyd’s charisma and his anger are all the more impressive for the quietness with which Reddick renders them,” Ben Brantley wrote in his review in The New York Times.
To prepare for his role in The Wire, Reddick told The Australian newspaper, he did a few ride-alongs with police officers in the South Bronx.
“They were saying, ‘This section is OK, that section is bad,” he said. “What we were seeing was block and block and block of abandoned houses and drug addicts wandering around. It was almost surreal.”
Reddick was working on several projects at the time of his death, including a new version of The Caine Mutiny Court-Martial.
He is survived by his wife, Stephanie Reddick; a daughter, Yvonne Nicole Reddick; and a son, Christopher Reddick.
In a 2010 interview with The Miami Herald, Reddick said the role that particularly stood out for him was one of his smaller ones: a guest appearance on Law & Order.”
“I played an army captain from Sierra Leone in 2001 before I was cast in The Wire,” he said, “and I had to learn the Sierra Leone accent. To this day, that’s my favourite character, the character I’m most proud of.”
This article originally appeared in The New York Times.