How do we strongly link these tenuously linked women? Six Degrees of Separation.
How do we strongly link these tenuously linked women? Six Degrees of Separation.

TelevisionMarch 6, 2018

From countess to future princess: playing six degrees of separation with Lightbox

How do we strongly link these tenuously linked women? Six Degrees of Separation.
How do we strongly link these tenuously linked women? Six Degrees of Separation.

It takes a certain kind of obsessive mindset to want to play six degrees of separation – even more so to try and link fictional nobility to soon-to-be-actual royalty. Sam Brooks did it, and did it with Lightbox shows.

You know that game six degrees of separation? No? Well, you probably mostly know it as Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon, which posits you can trace any performer – and potentially any person in the world – back to Kevin Bacon with only five people in between. It’s a fun game to play if you’re someone who has an encyclopedic, and largely useless, knowledge of film and TV credits.

It’s not often I’m afforded the opportunity to use my own encyclopedic and largely useless knowledge of film and TV credits in my day job, so I jumped at the chance to connect some dots. I’m also a secret royalist, so I not-so-secretly jumped at the chance to do one of my favourite things: Link royals together.

Unfortunately, there’s not a lot of actual royalty who do drama shows, because it would probably be frowned upon if Kate Middleton did a stint on Bates Motel or Homeland (but can you imagine that, though?). So I had to improvise.

Thus, I’m going to link TV’s favourite countess with TV’s favourite soon-to-be-princess. Maggie Smith –> Meghan Markle.

Let’s go. First up we’ve got…

Maggie Smith as Violet Crawley aka the Dowager Countess in Downton Abbey

First up, we’ve got the iconic Dowager Countess. Coiner of immortal-in-my-eyes line “what is a weekend?” and winner of approximately three billion Emmys, Maggie Smith’s performance of the Countess became better known than the show itself. Even if you’ve never seen an episode, and why haven’t you, what do you have on that’s been so important, you know that Maggie Smith is on this show and she’s very good in it.

That’s where we’re starting.

From there we go to…

You got some Paul Giamatti in my Downton Abbey.

Paul Giamatti as Cora’s Brother in Downton Abbey and Ritchie in 30 Rock

Okay, it’s six degrees of separation. Some of these links are going to be tenuous – others are going to remind you that, hey! That guy/lady was on that show once. That’s cool. A worthwhile trade-off.

Thus, we’ve got Paul Giamatti, who played Cora’s playboy brother Harold on Downton Abbey, and even got nominated for an Emmy for it!

And we’ve also got Paul Giamatti, who played the bitter editor who lies to people about having slept with Liz Lemon, which is a bad thing to do! He’s sad and funny on 30 Rock, a show that’s often more funny than sad, thankfully. (However, if you’re finding yourself slowly turning into Liz Lemon like I am, you might find it more on the sad side than the fun side.)

Onwards and upwards though!

Dennis Duffy or The Vulture? (It’s The Vulture.)

Dean Winters as Dennis Duffy in 30 Rock and The Vulture in Brooklyn Nine-Nine

Dennis Duffy! The worst of Liz Lemon’s boyfriends, the one who adopted a black child because he could make the child go to college and be great at sports, the one who called Liz Lemon ‘dummy’ and the one she got together for a terrifying episode. He showed up at least once a season, and was always a reminder that even someone as smart and vaguely put-together as Liz Lemon could have legendarily terrible taste in men.

And from there, we’ve got The Vulture. A recurring villain on Brooklyn Nine-Nine, and a reminder that even the NYPD can have bureaucratic nightmares in middle management that keep them from doing their jobs. What fun.

Is it Ron Swanson? It’s not, but it’s the same guy.

Nick Offerman as Frederick in Brooklyn Nine-Nine and Ron Swanson in Parks and Recreation

There have been roles that Nick Offerman has done without facial hair. He looks terrifying and not quite right, like when you see a dog walk on its hind legs or a teacher outside of class. Thankfully, his guest starring role as Frederick, Holt’s petty ex-boyfriend on Brooklyn Nine-Nine is neither of these. He has a full beard, and he shows a completely different side of himself.

And then we’ve got Ron Swanson. If you don’t know who Ron Swanson is, or why Nick Offerman is so great, firstly you need to just go watch Parks and Recreation. It’s one of the best, most kind-hearted comedies out there, with a concrete-strong ensemble cast, and Offerman is one of the best things about it.

To display that, I give you this YouTube clip, which also links together this degree of separation and the next:

Lucy Lawless as Diane in Parks and Recreation and Three in Battlestar Galactica

New Zealand’s version own warrior princess, Lucy Lawless! Remember when she was on Parks and Recreation, with a surprisingly decent American accent and even more decent flair for the specific kind of sitcom humour that Parks and Rec thrives on? You know what to do if you don’t. (She’s from season five onwards.)

She also has a great role as one of the cylons (this isn’t a spoiler, this show is 15 years old) in Battlestar Galactica, which leads us right to…

Lucy Lawless and Tricia Helfer as Three and Six in Battlestar Galactica.

Tricia Helfer as Six in Battlestar Galactica and Evan Smith in Suits

To digress briefly for a bit: Tricia Helfer’s performance as Six on Battlestar Galactica is one of the best, most unheralded performances on television. It didn’t get the kudos it deserved when it was on (and really, none of the performances on Battlestar Galactica did), and what she does with Six is so key to a lot of the show working. She makes every individual Six both specific the same, playing variations on the same notes in really beautiful ways. This show sticks with me a lot, and one of the things that sticks with me most, even though I haven’t seen the show for ten years, if Helfer’s work on it.

And she also has a brief guest role in Suits, as one of the myriad opposing counsels that Harvey goes up against. Which leads us to the end of the six degrees…

Meghan Markle in Suits

Future Princess Markle herself. Thanks for playing, everybody.

Play your own obsessive six degrees of separation on Lightbox right here:

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Mad Chapman, Editor
Aotearoa continues to adapt to a new reality and The Spinoff is right there, sorting fact from fiction to bring you the latest updates and biggest stories. Help us continue this coverage, and so much more, by supporting The Spinoff Members.Madeleine Chapman, EditorJoin Members

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