“It’s My Gift, It’s My Curse”: A Tribute to Lance Henriksen

Lance Henriksen as "Frank Black"

Lance Henriksen as “Frank Black”

One of the plus sides of being addicted to SyFy and the Chiller channels is that I’m exposed to old TV shows of the supernatural/horror genre that I didn’t catch the first time around. One such show is Millennium, starring Lance Henriksen as Frank Black.

I am completely obsessed with this mesmerizing show! The show’s focus is based on the “end-of-the-Millennium apocalyptic conspiracies” that ran rampant some 10 years ago as we approached the beginning of the 21st century. So, the topic’s not exactly current, and it’s rarely shown in chronological order, making it extremely hard to figure out what’s going on, so why is it that every day at 4pm, I am glued to the TV to watch and re-watch every episode of this hypnotic series?

Why does this show mesmerize me so? Is it the writing? Somewhat. Is it the “conspiracy theory” topics? Likely. But seriously, the one thing this show has that makes me keep coming back for more, again and again, is the star of the show, Lance Henriksen. This guy is the smart man’s “Dirty Harry”! In most of his roles (even beyond “Millennium”), Lance rarely shows signs of emotion, except for a trademark penetrating glare that he directs at any wrongdoer to force them to crack and confess all of their evil deeds.

He doesn’t ever need to express any other emotion because his intense “Don’t mess with me” glare would make any serial killer freeze dead in his tracks. Lance Henriksen has the innate ability to achieve an expression on his face that I would give ANYTHING to be able to flash to customers in the pharmacy when they tell me that they don’t know why it takes me 15 minutes to put pills in a bottle!

On top of his intimidating demeanor, the character Frank Black is incredibly smart. I don’t know about you, but when it comes to most of my pop culture heroes, “smart” and “badass” usually aren’t seen together in the same character…AND, Frank Black has psychic powers! But he does not have the normal psychic powers that you see on your average “supernatural” show. HIS psychic powers are the ability to see what a serial killer sees when he’s killing people! How “badass” is that! It’s off the chart! As Frank Black says, “It’s my gift, it’s my curse.”

As Charles Bishop Weyland in AVP

As Charles Bishop Weyland in AVP

Amazed by his portrayal of the character of Frank Black, I researched a bit into Lance Henriksen’s career and discovered that he has literally been in hundreds of TV shows and movies, most of which get regular play on the SyFy and Chiller channels. What’s crazy is that I’ve actually seen most of these shows, but never realized who Lance was, because he does such a good job of playing the “creepy old guy who could be a serial killer”, or the “possibly shady law enforcement guy” that he literally becomes a part of the movie.

Did you know Lance Henriksen is the guy responsible for the summoning of “Pumpkinhead”? He also was the creepy slimeball of a movie producer in “Scream 3”, the elder leader of the nocturnal undead family in “Near Dark”, and of course, the self-aware android, Bishop in the “Aliens” movies. Digging deeper, I also learned that James Cameron even originally wrote the character of the “Terminator” with Lance in mind, imagining a machine that could “blend into a crowd”, but he ended up re-casting Lance as Det. Vukovich when they decided to take the “Terminator” character more in the direction of Arnold Schwarzenegger.

Like, seriously! How have I never been aware of Lance Henriksen before?! On top of his impressive acting resume, the man himself is even more amazing, in a “normal guy blending into the crowd” sort of way. He is by no means your typical “actor-type”. Lance is originally a painter and currently a ceramicist by trade and hobby and is very philosophical about the spiritual aspects of his art. As a child, his dad was a merchant seaman and his parents divorced when he was 2. Lance dropped out of school at the age of 12, hitchhiked across the US picking up random jobs such as shoe-shining and fruit-picking, and was actually illiterate until the age of 30. As a result of this, he has an extremely serious work ethic which he applies to his acting. It’s also the reason why he accepts most roles and takes them all very seriously. His dedication to acting makes you forget that you’re actually watching a low-budget Sci-Fi B-movie as he mesmerizes you with his intense performance.

Lance has described his dedication in this quote:

“You know something, if you’re not acting, you’re not an actor – you’ve gotta work. No way around it. I remember Andy Garcia – we had done Jennifer Eight (1992) together. And Andy, I think, was probably making a couple of million for that movie, and he looked at me one day and he goes, “Hey Lan, you work too much, you shouldn’t work so much”. And I said, “Alright Andy, if I was making a couple million a movie, I wouldn’t work too much. I wouldn’t need to work ‘too much’!” Everybody has their own life to live, and I love doing the work, so what I am I gonna do? He hasn’t done the same kind of roles I have. But it’s lucky for me, because I’m really having a good time”.

Frank Black action figure

Frank Black action figure

This is just a brief glimpse into the man that is Lance Henriksen. The more I read about him, the more I had trouble limiting the info that I was putting into this “blog post tribute” to him. He is not just the iconic Sci-Fi B-movie/TV actor that I originally saw him as, he’s also your regular “guy next door” who worked his way up through the ranks to become a star and still remains as humble as he was when he used to sell his own handmade pottery out of the back of a truck. He truly enjoys himself when he is acting and it shows in his work. What I consider his greatest role, that of Frank Black in “Millennium” deeply affected me in the intensity of his portrayal, no doubt a direct reflection of his deep love and commitment to each of his acting roles. I hope to meet Lance Henriksen someday and have him sign my “Frank Black” action figure that currently glares at me from a shelf in my closet, so I can tell him just how much I admire him not just as an actor, but also as the “down to earth, blend-into-the-crowd” kind of regular guy that he is.

To learn more about Lance Henrisksen as “Frank Black” and the fan campaign to bring back “Millennium” in TV or movie form, please visit the excellent site, BacktoFrankBlack.com and join the movement!