TVLine Actress of the Week: Valerie Mahaffey

THE ACTOR | Valerie Mahaffey

THE SHOW | ABC’s big sky

THE CONSEQUENCE | “I’m falling to pieces” (February 2nd, 2021)

THE PERFORMANCE | Whenever Mahaffey shows up on a series, you know you are about to experience an entertainingly insane run. She’s just so perfect at playing characters that are a little off! That means: Her performance as the smiling but too strict Helen Pergman, which unfortunately came to an end this week when Helen died holding her son’s hand.

The episode showed how adept Mahaffey was at treading the line between posh and gutted. Her primitive body language and soft voice made each of Helen’s barbs all the more surprising; Her crouching in fear made Helen’s horror all the more real. During her run on the ABC series, we loved watching Mahaffey transition the character from commanding and cutting to cowed when she realized how dangerous her son really was. Think of the shed impermeability with which she ordered her son to spend some time upstairs alone in an early episode. (If you know, you know.) And compare that to Mahaffey cringing towards Ronald at the beginning of her final scene in the parlor, gently stroking his shoulder as if he were a ghostly animal, and then retreating physically as his anger exploded.

Mahaffey’s take on the character ran a very tricky needle through her arch: it gave us a glimpse of why Ronald grew up to be the distorted man he is, but it also provided a very welcome comic relief. We will miss you! (Helen, not so much.)

AWARD | The loss of Devon’s father to The Resident has allowed Manish Dayal to do his best job, including an hour on Tuesday in which Devon was alternately reserved, combative, and heartbroken. As the lesson progressed, Devon’s frustration grew noticeably – first with his meddling mother, then with a well-meaning Conrad – and Dayal brought a harshness to Devon’s demeanor as the character refused to acknowledge his grief. Even more convincing, however, was Devon’s silent admission to his mother later in the episode, who admitted with tears that he had acted recklessly to suppress recent guilt. “I always think about dad, you know? And what I could have done differently, ”Devon said, Dayal’s voice barely above a whisper. And when Devon’s mother assured him that death was beyond his control, Dayal displayed a mixture of doubt and relief that captured the chaos that grieves in a great way.

AWARD | Everyone involved in the Legacies meta-musical episode deserves a round of applause, but we’re reserving a separate standing ovation for Chris Lee, the former Hamilton actor who looked at yet another historical role: Damon Salvatore . But while most of the actors in Salvatore: The Musical sought to fully embody their fellow Vampire Diaries, Lee took his performance to the next level, reinterpreting Damon through the lens of his own character. It was very Lee playing Kaleb and Damon playing, and it worked on every level, from the impressive vocals – complete with high pitched and chill-inducing riffs – to the boasting and unpredictability that drives both characters.

AWARD | For our buck, actors Kate and Tully, Roan Curtis and Ali Skovbye were the brightest actors on Netflix’s Firefly Lane. And in Episode 2, Curtis in particular dazzled by first permeating Kate’s explanation of why her street was so named with a wistfulness that suggested that although she didn’t really believe in magic, she appreciated it. Then the actress revealed how much meaning a hug could mean. At first, Kate hugged Tully as if physically trying to keep her in one piece. And that was before she found out her neighbor had been raped. At this point, Kate wrapped her arms around Tully in a very different way. Curtis made it clear how badly her alter ego wished she could protect her buddy. Later, as the girls’ friendship deepened, Curtis Kates played less and less cautious joy with a warmth that felt like nothing but falling in love.

Which performance (s) blew your socks off this week? Tell us in the comments!

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