Copious Notes

Miguel Ferrer’s performances and life were marked with a quiet, quirky dignity

Miguel Ferrer at the 2015 PaleyFest fall TV previews in Beverly Hills, Calif. Ferrer, who brought stern authority to his featured role on “NCIS: Los Angeles” and, before that, to “Crossing Jordan,” died Thursday of cancer. He was 61.
Miguel Ferrer at the 2015 PaleyFest fall TV previews in Beverly Hills, Calif. Ferrer, who brought stern authority to his featured role on “NCIS: Los Angeles” and, before that, to “Crossing Jordan,” died Thursday of cancer. He was 61. Invision/AP

I became a Miguel Ferrer fan well before I moved to Kentucky or knew that he was the son of José Ferrer and Rosemary Clooney.

It was — as I suspect was the case with many people — his portrayal of Albert Rosenfield, an FBI forensics expert in the landmark series “Twin Peaks,” that put me in his corner. Albert was an official from the big city who didn’t suffer small towns, like Twin Peaks, or any incompetence gladly. His brusque manner quickly made him one of the many eclectic characters on the show.

But then he had this scene.

Sheriff Harry S. Truman (Michael Ontkean) had had about enough of Albert’s blithe condescension, and he grabbed the agent by the collar. Albert explained himself, calmly:

“While I will admit to a certain cynicism, the fact is that I am a naysayer and hatchetman in the fight against violence. I pride myself in taking a punch and I’ll gladly take another because I choose to live my life in the company of Gandhi and King. My concerns are global. I reject absolutely revenge, aggression and retaliation. The foundation of such a method … is love. I love you, Sheriff Truman.”

And it made sense. It was as if that particular ethos had been simmering under Ferrer’s performance up until that moment. I knew why I liked Albert and continued to like him as the show played out, and I paid attention to projects Ferrer showed up in. He came from Hollywood royalty, but Ferrer charted his own, distinct career path.

Ferrer, who died Thursday after a battle with cancer,carried with him a quiet dignity that showed in most of his performances, including his last signature role, as assistant director Owen Granger, a by-the-book boss who can subtly look the other way on “NCIS: Los Angeles.” I am not nearly as ardent an “NCIS: LA” fan as I am a “Twin Peaks” fan, but if I stumbled on an episode with Ferrer, that was the excuse to stay with it.

And it was always a thrill when he would show up in things, as reliable a supporting player as you could find, in the films “The Manchurian Candidate” “Traffic” and many, many TV series. Of course, there was his villainous role in “RoboCop” and Jill Hennessey’s boss in the TV series “Crossing Jordan.”

Moving to Kentucky and learning that he was part of the Clooney family was simply icing on this fan’s cake.

I did get to meet Ferrer — as we get to meet many stars in the Bluegrass State — when he came to the Kentucky Derby. You don’t know what to expect from many stars, but Ferrer was what I expected from his on-screen persona and having talked with members of his family over the years, including his mother and his cousin George: affable, respectful, not too close, but a very pleasant experience.

George Clooney issued a statement on the passing of his cousin, saying in part, “Miguel made the world brighter and funnier, and his passing is felt so deeply in our family that events of the day … pale in comparison. We love you, Miguel. We always will.”

Like many stars, Ferrer leaves behind unseen business, and we will have a chance to watch him again later this year as Albert in the return of “Twin Peaks.” It will just be a bit more bittersweet than we anticipated.

Follow Rich Copley on Facebook and Twitter, @copiousnotes.

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