If any Hollywood actor working stays on his New York shit, it's Michael Rapaport. Born and raised in Manhattan, the man who's perhaps best known for playing the insecure, neo-Nazi-in-training Remy in John Singleton's Higher Learning has never made any mysteries about his Big Apple jones. He's a lifelong, die-hard Knicks fan, having been seen sitting alongside Spike Lee at Madison Square Garden during games. He's an outspoken advocate for NYC hip-hop, too, a fact made evident when he directed the 2011 documentary Beats, Rhymes & Life: The Travels of a Tribe Called Quest. When Rapaport blasted Macklemore on Twitter after the polarizing rapper swept rap's early pre-Grammy-broadcast awards, you could imagine him riding for Kendrick Lamar while feeling salty over the complete snubbing of Joey Bada$$ or Joey's fellow Brooklyn ascendant El-P's "Run the Jewels" partnership with Killer Mike.
Because of all that, Rapaport has a decidedly all-NYC aesthetic, right down to his energetic, rapid-fire way of speaking. He's the kind of gifted character actor who would be the perfect addition to the next New York movie directed by filmmakers like Spike Lee, Woody Allen, or even lower-level shotcallers on Dito Montiel's level. That street-seasoned persona could even be transferred over to other cities across the nation, making Rapaport a wise choice to play characters deeply rooted in their, say, Philly (Big Fan) and Beantown (Boston Public) backgrounds.
In other words, he's probably the last person you'd ever expect to see in the southern-fried FX crime dramedy series Justified. And based on that unintentionally comical accent of his that's been a distraction throughout Justified's fifth and penultimate season, he's the last person who should be playing a Florida swamp rat causing trouble in the authentic-seeming backwoods world of Timothy Olyphant's Raylan Givens. But there's Rapaport and his fugazi dialect, routinely minimizing each tension as Daryl Crowe, the sugar-smuggling, criminal mastermind cousin of dim-witted, neo-Nazi yokel, Dewey Crowe (Damon Herriman).
Large in physical stature, Rapaport looks the part of a guy who's threatening enough to give Givens reasons to quake in his boots. It's hard, though, to be intimidated by someone who sounds like he's saying serial killer Ed Gein's name whenever he says the word "again." There's no subtlety to Rapaport's countrified jargon. The first syllable of "business," one of Daryl's favorite words, gets stretched into "biz" with at least three Z's. "Idea" becomes "idear." "Dead" into "deed." "Him" is now "hee-yim." You'd think Rapaport is the proud owner of Rosetta Stone: James Van Der Beek in Varsity Blues Edition.
Justified, like other fine TV dramas that patiently dole out their narratives, has a history of keeping its villains-of-the-year around for at least 11 of the season's 13 episodes. Meaning, all of us on Team Olyphant will be hearing plenty more mispronounced names (i.e., "Dee-yuw-wee") and mangled crime-speak ("Pult dat treeger") in the weeks ahead. If only Rapaport had spent less time replaying Midnight Marauders and more time bumping Bubba Sparxxx's Deliverance.
Written by Matt Barone (@MBarone)