The “Where Do I Know You From?” Files, Part 5: Susanna Thompson

Stephanie Hall September 29, 2012 Comments Off

Before Arrow premieres, I thought it would be fun to get to know the cast and their past roles, so stay tuned for weekly posts. Today’s entry in the “Where Do I Know You From?” files is Susanna Thompson.

Who better to portray the mother of Oliver Queen than an actress with a knack for playing powerful women. Susanna Thompson has excelled at such characters. Here is a (spoiler-filled) overview of some notable roles you may have seen her in before we get to know her as Moira Queen on Arrow.

ONCE AND AGAIN (ABC, 1999-2002)
Seasons 1, 2, and 3
Character: Karen Sammler

Having divorced Rick and being the mother of their son, Eli, and daughter, Jessie, Karen Sammler worries how the kids will take to their new life and each of their parents dating again. Karen becomes jealous of Rick’s new love interest, Lily Manning, although Karen soon begins a relationship with Leo Fisher, a doctor assisting on a project associated with her work as a public interest attorney. She later breaks up with him because she thinks that they have no future together. The Sammler parents encounter their fair share of awkward moments, including Karen working a school event alongside Lily and having to both attend Eli’s ball games. Because she feels distant from her children, loneliness drives Karen into depression. She is unable to fully recuperate from this before she is struck by a car and must enter physical rehab.

Like any working single mother, Karen struggles to live a balanced life, a fight we can all relate to, even if we are not single or a mother. Karen must deal with rebellious subordinates (her children, especially Eli defying her wishes), trying not to make her work personal (when she is hired as an attorney for the client Rick is fighting against), and keeping up her friendships (when she accuse Lily of exploiting her daughter’s life for her own gain). Whether or not Karen accomplishes this is not as notable as her strong effort.

NCIS (CBS, 2006-2007)
Season 4, Episodes 7, 13, 17, 19, 22; Season 5, Episode 3
Character: Lieutenant Colonel Hollis Mann

Lieutenant Colonel Hollis Mann works for the Army’s Criminal Investigative Division and is brought into a joint investigation with NCIS. She drops by Gibbs’ basement after hours to swap information. They begin to suspect a home-grown terrorist cell, but cannot catch them. A few weeks later, Gibbs runs into her while they are both working on other cases that now appear to lead back to the original one. When Mann brings Gibbs dinner to his basement, he tells her that they will not begin a relationship until the case has been closed. Ducky comments that the two are especially motivated to catch this suspect who has been terrorizing soldiers with a toxic nerve gas. They track the suspect to a train station and Mann shoots him before he can kill the infected Gibbs. Gibbs later calls her and their relationship is officially under way.

When she encounters Gibbs on a new joint investigation, both scold each other for not calling in the past four weeks. After they work things out, she tells Gibbs that she filed for retirement and is looking for something permanent, giving him the “I’m in it for the long haul. Are you?” speech, which he dismisses. She leaves town for one final business trip and tells Gibbs to have an answer when she returns. After a bout of misunderstanding, she realizes that Gibbs will be around for a while. A few months later, the two are still dating when they team up again to investigate a murdered marine on the army base. It turns out that Gibbs’ ex-wife is a witness, which makes Mann question her future with him. Even though Gibbs assures her that he has put the murder of his first wife and daughter behind him, she finds evidence that he has not, and it is assumed that they stop seeing each other.

Colonel Mann is bossy, smart, and bold, not afraid to correct Gibbs or his team. Being attracted to Gibbs’ intelligence and power that rivals her own, she expects him to be as forthcoming with her as she is with him about feelings and case information. Mann slowly gains the respect of Gibbs’ team and blends into the show seamlessly. At one point, Ziva points out that “Gibbs just found his fourth ex-wife,” but I think he values her too much to let it get to that point. There are not a lot of women who can measure up to Gibbs, but Colonel Mann rises to the challenge. Susanna Thompson perfectly portrays a character who stands on a even level with him. I truly enjoyed watching her as this character, and even being someone who is critical of love interests on NCIS, I approved.

KINGS (NBC, 2009)
Season 1, Episodes 1-13
Character: Queen Rose Benjamin

The Queen of Gilboa, Rose is married to King Silas and they have two children, Michelle and Jack. Although she repeatedly states that she does not like to get involved with politics, she is always in awe of her husband’s accomplishments, but also asserts her influence over him and takes credit for what he has built. She organizes a special ballet for the country, but says that their family is the performance that the country wants to see. The secretary gets her hands on media that could ruin both her children’s reputations and gives the Queen the option to save one. Rose chooses to spare Jack, telling Michelle that the release will make her more respected in the end. When Michelle comes to her mother saying that she is pregnant with the child of a man whom the King despises, Rose exiles her for a year so that she can have the baby safely.

Queen Rose exudes confidence and strength, having no difficulty making decisions. She cares deeply about appearances, especially how her family is perceived, and will go to any extreme in order to protect her children, even from their father. Although she loves and admires her husband, the audience gets the impression that she knows that she has more wisdom in ruling. Being an intelligent woman, Rose always has an agenda behind her actions and once tells Michelle that she should always be “playing a card.” The most striking thing about Susanna Thompson as the Queen is how powerful she appears. There is never any doubt that this woman could rule a country with her excellently delivered instructional and slightly motivational speeches.

COLD CASE (CBS, 2010)
Season 7, Episodes 18-20
Character: Diane Yates

Diane Yates, an FBI agent who previously worked for the Philadelphia Police Department, arrives at the PPD asking for information on a recent sniper case. They soon uncover the sniper’s identity to be Paul Shepard and during conversation with his family members, Yates acts unusually aggressive. Detective Lily Rush has had enough of Yates keeping her in the dark and forces Yates to reveal her personal connection to Shepard. When Yates was 18, her boyfriend was shot at the movies by the same sniper and she has been obsessed with this case ever since. Yates adds that she intends on asking Shepard why he did it and then killing him herself. They catch Shepard, but Yates backs down. The FBI later questions and reprimands her for pursuing this case without sanction, so she takes time off to visit her sick mother. Detective John Stillman, whom she is an old “friend” of, stays with her at the hospital.

Yates’ personality is mostly not an admirable one. She is so consumed with her revenge mission that she does not seem to care what others think of her when she verbally attacks or insults them. Speaking abruptly and bluntly, she teeters between rude and offensive. Although she may not follow the most appropriate methods, her drive and dedication is impressive. Due to her past relationship with Stillman, she has become cynical about love, or at least about marriage. Compared to Susanna Thompson’s other roles, such as Colonel Mann and Queen Rose who are well put-together women aware of their relationship with others, Diane Yates is more self-centered and outrageous, which is a nice departure.

Other Filmography:

Star Trek: The Next Generation (1992-1993), Season 5, Episode 24; Season 6, Episode 21; The X-Files (FOX, 1993), Season 1, Episode 8; NYPD Blue (ABC, 1995), Season 2, Episodes 17, 20; Ghosts of Mississippi (1996); Star Trek: Voyager (UPN, 1999-2000), Season 5, Episodes 15, 16; Season 6, Episode 26; Season 7, Episode 15; Dragonfly (2002); Law and Order: SVU (NBC, 2003), Season 5, Episode 3; The Book of Daniel (NBC, 2006), Season 1, Episodes 1-8

See Susanna Thompson next in Arrow – Wednesday, October 10 on The CW!

If you missed last week’s file on Paul Blackthorne, check it out here.



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