This week’s W.Y.O.S.T. subject is Brian Thompson. If you ever watched the original Terminator movie, then you’ve seen him. For a few minutes anyway. In one of the opening scenes, he and Bill Paxton play a couple of street punks who go up against a naked cyborg Arnold … and are promptly killed for their clothes. As first roles go, an actor could do far worse — although from the body of work that’s followed since that movie in 1984, one wonders how exactly Brian Thompson has avoided playing the role of a terminator himself over the years. After all, the square-jawed baritone actor has played just about every other kind of imposing bogey man you can think of — two different vampires, two different Klingons, a shape-changing Gotham City supervillain, an alien bounty hunter, an indestructible demon, and even a vengeful Greek Titan.
A child of two teachers, Thompson broke into Hollywood as a Terminator casualty, but has gone on from there to build a career as either a tough guy or an outright bad guy, mostly in sci-fi/fantasy projects. By the time the 80s were over, he had racked up more than 20 appearances in such shows as Moonlighting, Knight Rider, and Falcon Crest, as well as the classic movies Three Amigos, Miracle Mile, and Alien Nation. In 1989, he landed his first Star Trek role, playing a Klingon officer in The Next Generation, and his relationship with the franchise would persist over the years — he appeared in the Generations movie (1994), in Deep Space Nine (1993 & 1996), and even had a recurring role on Enterprise in 2005.
In the early 90s, he landed one-shot roles on Superboy, Alien Nation (the TV show), Walker Texas Ranger, Hercules, Weird Science (the TV show), and Dragonheart (the movie). He even had a permanent role on the FOX series Key West, alongside Fisher Stevens and Jennifer Tilly — which was sadly cancelled after only half a season. (FOX did a lot of this in the 90s, much to my chagrin … don’t get me started.) But this just meant that he was wide open in 1996 to take on the role of vampire mob boss Eddie Fiori on the FOX series (uh oh) Kindred: The Embraced. This was a great show … or at least so I thought. It was based on the White Wolf role-playing game “Vampire: The Embraced”, starred C. Thomas Howell, and dealt with clans of vampires with wildly conflicting agendas. In fact, I liked it so much that FOX decided to cancel it after 8 episodes. (Again, don’t get me started.) Still, it’s the show that really put Brian Thompson on my radar, and had me recognizing him in everything from then on.
Having apparently not exhausted his range as a vampire, Thompson returned the following year as Luke, the right-hand man to The Master, in the pilot episode of Joss Whedon’s future smash hit, the universe-altering Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Luke died, but Thompson returned the next year for the season finale as an Apocalyptic Big Bad called “The Judge”, who was presumably indestructible … until Buffy destructed him with a bazooka. That same year, he returned to a role on The X-Files that he’d established a few years before — the dreaded Alien Bounty Hunter. It’s a role he’d reprise 9 times in all, from 1995 to 2000, and to this day, I wonder if anybody has ever tried to stab him in the back of the neck with an ice pick, just to see what would happen. I really hope not. But you know how some of these hardcore fans are.
Since 2000, Thompson has continued to work steadily, as Buffalo Bob on Joe Dirt, as the shape-changing Crawler on Birds of Prey, as the titan Cronus on Charmed, and as Romulan Admiral Valore on Enterprise, as well as in a variety of other projects. He currently lives in Los Angeles with his two teenage kids, and recently won some critical acclaim for playing, of all things, a non-bad-guy, in the 2006 film Tillamook Treasure.
Learn more about Brian Thompson …