Spotlight On…Justin Kirk
In honor of the Weeds series finale and the upcoming official premiere of Animal Practice, I thought I’d do a rundown of just how long I have been…pretty obsessed with one Mr. Justin Kirk. I know there are some fellow aficionados out there (especially if you’ve seen HBO’s Angels in America) but I just worry that some people are being exposed to him as a leading man for the first time with Animal Practice and are not giving him a second thought because he is involved with a show that has…that premise.
Jack & Jill
My first exposure to Justin came during a period of time when I literally watched everything that came on The WB. No joke. Ergo, I watched Jack & Jill, and honestly, sometimes I feel like the only person that watched it on the entire planet. But YouTube views prove me wrong. The show definitely thought it was clever with its name play (Amanda Peet as Jacqueline/”Jack” and Ivan Sergei as David Jillefsky/”Jill”). The show also starred Jaime Pressly, Sarah Paulson, and Simon Rex. Justin Kirk played Barto (short for Bartholomew) Zane, a med student who ends up with Jaime Pressly’s character. Besides a trio of wonky names, not much else stands out about the show: a typical will they/won’t they until they finally do, that was probably a little too grown-up for The WB audience. And I imagine that I found it a lot more endearing in the fifth grade than I would now. I’m probably biased at this point, but Justin was definitely a highlight of the show.
Angels in America
After Jack & Jill was cancelled, Justin moved on to bigger and better things as Prior Walter in Angels in America. I loved the mini-series as a whole, but Justin’s performance made it an all-out obsession for me. As AIDS-afflicted Prior, he’s forced to navigate the defection of his boyfriend as well as coping with his illness. The mini-series was marketed with the bigger names in mind (Al Pacino, Meryl Streep, Emma Thompson) but I am still more struck by the performances of Justin, Patrick Wilson, Ben Shenkman, and Mary-Louise Parker. When I got my first iPod, I named it Prior…thereby cementing my obsession with the character.
Perhaps most people know him as Andy Botwin from Weeds; clearly I have been reflecting on Andy quite a lot as the show came to a close. Did Weeds reach a creative high point that it has slowly descended from in its latter run? Yes, definitely. I am not ashamed to admit that if not for Andy Botwin I would have said sayonara to the show a long, long time ago. But I felt an attachment to the character that kept me coming back. In fact, I remember when Weeds initially started, I left the initial episodes saying “meh” and cut it early. But when I realized Justin Kirk had officially joined the cast in episode four, I reupped my commitment and stayed for the long haul. My main takeaways are that Justin was very, very good on the show and is the very reason the show remained grounded for so long (that along with his interactions with Mary-Louise Parker) and that my attachment to Andy caused me a lot of grief. I don’t want to dwell on it, because Andy as a character hurts my heart a bit, but I am still glad that Justin gets to move on.
I didn’t want to ignore the fact that he is now Mitchell’s boss on Modern Family, even though he has only appeared in three episodes. Luckily (?) instead of being relegated to sometimes appearing on Modern Family, he has the new gig at Animal Practice.
As I have said before, I have misgivings about Animal Practice. I mean, who wouldn’t? But I just peeked at his filmography and he seems to have a lot of upcoming projects… so I think he’s alright, regardless of whether Animal Practice becomes a long-term job or just a momentary detour.