Archive | 12:52 pm

The Zeljko Ivanek Hall of Fame: Greg Grunberg

17 Aug

(The Zeljko Ivanek Hall of Fame is where we turn the spotlight on a television actor or actress, and it is named after their patron saint, Zeljko Ivanek)

This week we’ll spotlight the career of successful televsion actor Greg Grunberg.

Unlike (probably?) most actors, Grunberg owes a large part of his television success to one man, a childhood friend, J.J. Abrams, with whom he grew up as fellow jews in Los Angeles in the 1970s. Grunberg, born in 1966, didn’t appear in anything until the early ’90s.  Wikipedia sums up his career up to his first big break in 1998 with the short sentence, “Grunberg has had guest roles in television starting in 1990. “ Amongst those guest roles were spots on Murphy Brown, Ned and Stacey, and a one season drama called Relativity (which starred Richard Schiff and Lisa Edelstein amongst others). Finally, in 1998, he got his big break – his buddy J.J. Abrams cast him as Sean Blumberg in Felicity, Abrams’ first TV series. Unlike many of the other characters in the series, Grunberg’s Blumberg (okay, those names almost rhyme right? That’s not just me?) is not in college, but is rather a jobless 20-something who is always coming out with cockamemie ideas for products, including shrimp yogurt, marzipan boxers and “Before and After” – a restaurant that only serves appetizers and desserts (that’s definitely kind of brilliant). Apparently half the characters at some point are roomates with him.

After that, and three appearances in NYPD Blue, he jumped right into Abrams’ next series, Alias, in which he played Eric Weiss, another good natured friend character who does not get involved with the lead. Descended from Harry Houdini, he is initially friends with Jennifer Garner’s Sydney Bristow through her CIA handler Michael Vaughn, and dispenses advice to other CIA characters in the show. Grunberg next guested on a House MD episode, as well as a more notable guest role as the pilot on Oceanic Airlines flight 815, the flight which crashed in Lost – his character died in the, well, pilot. He starred in a series produced by JJ Abrams for him called The Catch, about a bounty hunter, but while the pilot was shot, the series ended up never getting picked up, sadly. He also appeared in an NBC sitcom called The Jake Effect, alongside Jason Bateman and Nikki Cox, which never aired, even though seven episodes were made. Bravo thought highly enough of it, though, to air it in 2006 as part of its “Brilliant But Cancelled” programming.

He appeared in a Monk episode, and then got the third of his three big-time roles, the first not under the auspices of JJ Abrams, in Heroes, as Matt Parkman. Parkman is a telepath, whose powers continue to expand and expand, until they extend to mind control and making others see illusions which aren’t present. He starts as an LAPD cop, and, well, if I even try to explain any of the plot after that, it would take me at least another thousand words (wikipedia does a pretty good job here). After the sad but inevitable demise of Heroes both critically and commercially, Grunberg found a home on NBC midseason replacement Love Bites, which by that time became an anthology series about love stories, but with Grunberg or a couple of other characters always appearing. The show was cancelled after six episodes aired. As that show was cancelled less than a month ago, Grunberg is a free agent at the moment, but he has other talents as well, as a member and creator of Band from TV, a cover band of television actors which records songs for charity. Other members include Hugh Laurie and Adrian Pasdar.