The actor Lance Reddick, who has died suddenly aged 60, played figures of authority with such panache that no matter how many times he was handed such roles, he never seemed typecast. He is best known on film for his part as Charon, the all-seeing fixer in the John Wick movie franchise, but his image was forged playing two ambitious high-level cops on television, Cedric Daniels in The Wire (2002-08) and Irvin Irving in Bosch (2014-21).
In each case he was contrasted with a main character: his anguish at the plight of Baltimore as portrayed in The Wire was expressed with internal restraint, opposed to the knee-jerk reactions of Dominic West’s chronic screw-up, McNulty. In Bosch, he was the politician tormented by Titus Welliver’s relentlessly uncompromising Harry Bosch.
Bosch author Michael Connelly said Reddick “took a character who was paper-thin in the books and made Irvin Irving”. He used his tall, angular frame to express authority; moving his body precisely, deliberately stiff and controlled, his face echoing that pose, covering up the machinations inside his head. Audiences watched as he took in, contemplated, and finally reacted, in a voice pitched with the deep tone of authority. His work in Bosch’s second season, where the death of his undercover cop son opens huge cracks in his closely controlled persona and makes him the centre of the show, is a lesson in transcending ensemble play.
Reddick’s highlights in variations of authority-figure themes came in the TV series Fringe (2008-13), running a unit of Homeland Security; Corporate (2018-20), as a CEO; and Intelligence (2014), where he was head of the CIA. On film he was head of the secret service in Angel Has Fallen (2019), and he played Albert Wesker, boss of the Raccoon Police special tactics unit, in the Netflix TV adaptation of the zombie video game Resident Evil (2022).
He was so good that the star of Wick, Keanu Reeves, given a day off from shooting for his birthday, told his girlfriend he wanted to visit the set, just to watch Reddick in action. Reeves then handed him a note thanking him for “what he brought to the character of Charon”.
Bosch also afforded Reddick the chance to play the piano, thoughtfully improvising at home as if to sort out his thoughts; this might be seen to reflect his own hard path to acting success. Reddick was born in Baltimore to Solomon, a lawyer, and Dorothy (nee Gee), a teacher. His musical talent was apparent at Friends School of Baltimore, and he went on to study at the city’s Peabody Institute, a secondary school specialising in the performing arts. He took a degree in composition at the University of Rochester’s Eastman School of Music and moved to Boston, intending, in his words, to become a rock star.
But his style of music, influenced by Miles Davis and Sting, never fitted a rock star template, and having married his college sweetheart, Suzanne Louis, in 1986, and had two children, he found himself working odd jobs, including as a singing waiter on a riverboat. Crucially, on a night shift at a newspaper delivery depot, he injured his back shifting bundles of papers. Forced to lie in bed, he contemplated how he could support his family, and decided to turn to acting, where he noticed there were more auditions available.
He wound up gaining a master of fine arts degree at Yale Drama School in 1994, and two years later landed his first television role, on New York Undercover; he debuted on-screen in 1998’s ill-judged modern-set Great Expectations.
In 2000 he was cast in David Simon’s The Corner, which led to his part on The Wire, while he also attracted attention with a memorable role as an undercover police officer gone bad in the prison drama Oz (2000-01). Recurring parts in CSI:Miami (2005-06) and Lost (2008-09) followed, and he played James Baldwin in the 2004 movie Brother to Brother. He was the voice of the Falcon in the animated Avengers (2012), and of the villain Ras Al Ghul in Beware the Batman (2013), as well as voicing Commander Zavala in the Destiny video game series, and Sylens in Horizon Zero Dawn (2017) and Horizon Forbidden West (2022).
Along the way he finally got to be a rock star, playing a cop in the music video of Jay-Z and Beyoncé’s ’03 Bonnie & Clyde. In 2007 he released an album of his own music, Contemplations and Remembrances.
John Wick 4 has just been released, and he also leaves behind a store of work that has yet to be seen. Reddick will appear in a remake of White Men Can’t Jump; as Charon in a Wick spin-off, Ballerina; in the Shirley Chisholm biopic, Shirley, and as Capt Blakely in The Caine Mutiny Court-Martial. He also voiced the ultimate authority figure, Zeus, in Percy Jackson and the Olympians for Disney+.
Reddick is survived by his second wife, Stephanie (nee Day), whom he married in 2011, and the two children, Yvonne and Christopher, from his first marriage, which ended in divorce.
• Lance Solomon Reddick, actor, born 7 June 1962; died 17 March 2023