- Photo by Joan Marcus
"British actors are to Shakespeare as American actors are to legal procedurals," writes Washington Post critic Peter Marks in his review of Arena Stage's A Time to Kill, based on John Grisham's first novel about murder and racism. If what Marks says is true, who's the John Gielgud of this new play's debut? While it's not uncommon to see Law & Order listed on an actor's resume, never before has it been so potentially crucial to their development for a role. In that case, who among A Time to Kill's cast has solved, committed or litigated the most fake crimes?
• Brennan Brown plays Rufus Buckley, the smarmy prosecution lawyer angling for a seat in the governor's office.
Crime Cred: Brown's most recent film is I Love You, Phillip Morris, the Jim Carrey movie about a gay criminal con-man who finds himself in and out of jail. He's also appeared in Damages, the Glenn Close show about a law firm's dramas. He's acted in Kidnapped, an NBC drama about – you guessed it – kidnappers. His resume also contains the phrase "All the Law & Orders."
• Rosie Benton plays Ellen Roark, a law student who offers her services, legal and otherwise (wink wink) to attorney Jake Brigance.
Crime Cred: Benton is as green to crime dramas as her character is. She's appeared on Law & Order: SVU.
• Deborah Hazlett plays public defender Drew Tyndale, and Cora Cobb, mother of a murder victim.
Crime Cred: Hazlett recently appeared in Something You Did at Theater, J, as a leader of a Weathermen-like 60s radical group. Nearly the entire play takes place in jail, and Hazlett must testify for her parole. Hazlett's other regional credits include Bryony Lavery's play Frozen, about the disappearance of a 10-year-old girl, and Crimes of the Heart, which isn't a police procedural but sounds like it should be a TV show about a sassy lady-cop looking for love. Hazlett has also appeared on Homicide and Law & Order.
• Jonathan Lincoln Fried plays Stump Sisson, a grand dragon of the KKK, and W.T. Bass, a psychologist who testifies on a defendant's mental state.
Crime Cred: Fried's regional credits include Landscape of the Body, a play that begins and ends with a detective interrogating a woman about the death of her son. He's also been in "various Law & Orders."
• Chiké Johnson plays county sheriff Ozzie Walls.
Crime Cred: Johnson's acted in a trial before – the Salem Witch Trials, subject of The Crucible, which he performed in at Steppenwolf. He's also been in Law & Order, Law & Order: SVU, and Prison Break.
• John C. Vennema plays Lucien Wilbanks, an alcoholic former lawyer who mentors attorney Jake Brigance.
Crime Cred: Vennema appeared in City Hall, a 1996 film starring Al Pacino, about crime, corruption, politics and the mob. He also had a role in Separate but Equal, the 1991 Sidney Poitier TV movie about the landmark Supreme Court case Brown vs. Board of Education.
• Dion Graham plays Carl Lee Hailey, the man who kills the two white men who raped his daughter.
Crime Cred: Graham's got the most impressive legal procedural resume of the bunch. He played a defense attorney in the film Thirteen Conversations About One Thing, but he's been in almost all of the major crime shows: NYPD Blue, the various Law & Orders, Homicide, and Hack. He's best-known for his role as state's attorney Rupert Bond on The Wire, and he narrates A&E's true-crime series The First 48.