5 Must-Watch Roles For 'Burn Notice' Fans

June 11th, 2012 1:10pm EDT

Burn Notice If you're a Burn Notice fan going through withdrawl before this Thursday's premiere, don't worry: I've handpicked the five roles where you can see the show's main cast in other parts while you're waiting.

Stars Jeffrey Donovan, Gabrielle Anwar, Bruce Campbell, Coby Bell and Sharon Gless all had considerable resumes before they were Michael, Fiona, Sam, Jesse and Madeline. If you haven't checked out their other work, you're missing out. Click on for the roles you should check out...

Sharon Gless: The State Within

The obvious answer when it comes to Sharon Gless is to say Cagney & Lacey. Yet as much as I enjoyed that series, I'm more partial to her role as Lynne Warner in the Golden Globe-nominated BBC miniseries The State Within. It's a fantastic piece of work, nail-biting and heartwrenching, and Gless is a large part of why it's that good.

She plays Lynne Warner, the Secretary of Defense, and she is one tough lady. If you love Madeline Westen for how she doesn't take any lip from her son Michael, you'll like Lynne - and you may even be shocked by how much tougher she is. Whereas Madeline is someone you'd want to spend time with, there's not necessarily anything nice about Ms. Warner.

Gless more than holds her own with a pair of excellent leading men: Jason Isaacs (Awake, Brotherhood) and Ben Daniels (Law & Order: UK). If you've seen either of those gentlemen in other projects, you know they're both pretty intense actors, and Gless fits right in amongst them - even sometimes overshadowing them. And while Lynne is tough, she's not stereotypically so; she's got thoughts and feelings and seems like she really does belong in power.

The State Within is available on DVD.

Coby Bell: Third Watch

Before he joined Burn Notice, Coby Bell's biggest television role as was NYPD Officer Tyrone "Ty" Davis, Jr. on NBC's police drama Third Watch. It was also the first significant role of his career, but you would never have known that by how he played it. Ty ended up being one of the show's most beloved characters.

Davis being one of two rookies at the beginning of the series (the other paramedic Carlos Nieto, played by Anthony Ruivivar), he was almost the eyes of the audience: we were seeing these people and happenings for the first time and so was he. We got to watch him grow from a wide-eyed new cop to a streetwise veteran who would have made his late father proud.

While Ty and fellow cop Maurice "Bosco" Boscorelli (Jason Wiles) were the two fan favorites, I always leaned toward Ty because he was the one I could identify with. I'd never say half the things that Bosco did, but Ty was the cop that we all wanted out there protecting us. For Burn Notice fans, he's almost the pre-Jesse Porter, as you can see him busting bad guys and building his self-confidence, not unlike Jesse would go on to do in his first season.

Third Watch also gives fans the opportunity to watch Coby Bell build a character, not unlike he's doing right now with Jesse. He was with the series from its first episode to its last, and he got to do a little bit of everything: comedy, drama, vulnerability, toughness. It's a role that should give Burn Notice loyalists a chance to see that he truly is a great addition to the show.

Third Watch is partly available on DVD: season one and season two.

Bruce Campbell: Homicide - Life on the Street

Sure, we know and love Bruce Campbell from his myriad of larger-than-life roles (Evil Dead, Hercules/Xena, Brisco County, even playing himself). But in all of that awesomeness, maybe you might have overlooked that he can be a darn fine "serious" actor, too. His guest-starring role in the Homicide two-parter "Justice" is not to be missed.

Campbell plays Jake Rodzinski, a Baltimore detective whose retired father is killed, which naturally means that Jake pushes to be involved even if it hinders the investigation. It's the kind of role that could, in the wrong hands, be insufferable as it requires him to get in the way of the good guys. But here's Bruce Campbell being the exact opposite of what we know him for: relatively low-key, anguished, making us feel all the chaos that's going through Jake's brain.

In a way, it clues you into why he's perfect in the role of Sam Axe: while Sam is unquestionably Burn Notice's comic relief, he'd get old fast if that was all he was. Campbell has given him history and substance, and that's what you see in this Homicide role. He's not just quips and charisma; he's been a great actor for a long time. He was critically acclaimed for this role, and once you see it, you'll understand why.

Season four of Homicide - Life on the Street is available on DVD.

Gabrielle Anwar: The Tudors

Michael Westen's head isn't the first that Gabrielle Anwar has turned. In 2007, she played Princess Margaret, twice-married sister to King Henry VIII, in Showtime's The Tudors. Those of you used to seeing her wielding a shotgun and so take-charge as Fiona might be a little thrown to see her in period dress and unable to catch a break when it comes to her love life.

It's always fun to see someone playing a completely different role than the one we know them for (see Bruce Campbell on the previous page as another example), and that's the appeal of watching Anwar in The Tudors. It takes a minute to realize she's not going to shoot someone. She's playing someone who isn't as able to control her own destiny as Fiona Glenanne is, and that broadens our appreciation of her acting abilities. Thankfully, Fiona has a better fate than Princess Margaret.

Still, seeing Anwar in a show with such lavish production, acting opposite future Superman Henry Cavill, is a treat in its own right.

Season one of The Tudors is available on DVD.

Jeffrey Donovan: Touching Evil

It's somewhat amusing that Jeffrey Donovan's "big break" role came in another USA Network original series...well before USA was known as the home of quality original programming. Touching Evil, the Bruce Willis-backed American adaptation of the British series that starred Robson Green, died far too young.

Both versions of this show were fantastic, but the US edition had much more wit and verve than the original, thanks to the performances of Donovan and Vera Farmiga. Donovan's David Creegan, forever changed after being clinically dead and brought back again, didn't brood nearly as much as Green's version did. He did, however, wisecrack and shoot the kiddle pool. It was an appreciated streak of lightness in a show that could be dark and shocking well before premium cable made that popular.

And that was what made this show work. Donovan knew how to balance the seriousness of the crimes Creegan was investigating with his sense of humor, and in turn his sense of humor with the character's growing personal woes. He could play every note across the board, much like he does now as Michael Westen. And he was backed by another great supporting cast, including Farmiga and a pre-breakout Bradley Cooper.

The show was quirky but moving, unflinching but also intriguing. It was the perfect predecessor for Burn Notice, an in fact, many BN fans I know tuned in at first because we remembered Donovan from Touching Evil. One wonders how Touching Evil might have done on USA today? It may very well have flourished. But then we'd be looking for another Michael Westen...!

Touching Evil is not currently available on DVD; however, you can check out fan-uploaded clips on YouTube.

If you start digging into these roles now, chances are you'll be done by the time Burn Notice arrives for its sixth season Thursday at 9 PM ET/PT on USA.

For more from Brittany Frederick, visit my Starpulse writer page and follow me on Twitter (@tvbrittanyf).

(c)2012 Brittany Frederick/Digital Airwaves. Appears at Starpulse with permission. All rights reserved. No reproduction permitted.

Related: Burn Notice, Starpulse Exclusives, Television, Action & Adventure, Drama, NBC, Showtime, USA

© 2012

Photo Credits: USA, Google Image Search

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