Unsung actors: Jonathan Banks

Who’s badder than Jonathan Banks? Nobody.

He’s one of the coolest yet most unsung actors in Hollywood.

Banks is enjoying a little limelight in a recurring role in the hit series “Breaking Bad” these days, but for years he was best known as the creepy henchman of the bad guy … or, infrequently, the offbeat good guy.

Amazingly, Banks’ TV resume goes back to the mid 1970s and appearances on everything from “Barnaby Jones” to “The Waltons” to “Little House on the Prairie!” In the latter, according to IMBD, he played Jed in a 1980 episode.

His career in movies really took off in 1982, however, with his role as a doomed cop in “48 Hours.” He’s a cohort of Nick Nolte’s cop character who gets killed off early.

Two years later, Banks played what I think of as his best henchman role in “Beverly Hills Cop.” He’s the guy who kills Eddie Murphy’s friend at the beginning of the movie and he’s the guy who gets tossed into a buffet table at a tony private club.

Banks brought a dead-eyed menace to the role that sticks with me 30 years later.

For four years beginning in 1987, Banks had his best TV role (sorry, but I haven’t seen him in “Breaking Bad” yet) as federal agent Frank McPike in “Wiseguy.” As McPike, Banks was gruff and no-nonsense as the “handler” for Ken Wahl’s Vinnie Terranova, a federal agent who goes deep undercover in criminal organizations.

Banks’ McPike is the guy who, with more than a little attitude, pulled Terranova’s butt out of the fire during the run of the series. When Wahl left the show, McPike shepherded his replacement.

Here’s to Jonathan Banks, tough guy first class.

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