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Why Charlene Cooper From The Blacklist Looks So Familiar

Over the past couple of seasons, there have been some pretty substantial shakeups on NBC's long-running thriller series "The Blacklist." But the more things change in the world of special agents, double agents, and international baddies, the more they stay the same. And heading into "The Blacklist" Season 10, criminal mastermind turned FBI informant Raymond "Red" Reddington (James Spader) plays puppet master in his endeavors to do, well, whatever the heck it is he's actually trying to do these days. 

Hard as Red's comings and goings may be to keep track of, he continues to be backed by former FBI big boss Harold Cooper (Harry Lennix), who's seen his own share of ups and downs in recent seasons. One of the most significant involved killing his wife's former lover, a plot line that ran through much of the series' ninth season. As it did, watching Charlene Cooper navigate her and her husband's turmoil was often every bit as intriguing as watching Cooper himself try to crack the case. That's in no small part due to the work of the actor who portrays Charlene on "The Blacklist." Here's where you've seen the woman behind Charlene Cooper before.

Half & Half put Valarie Pettiford front and center

That actor's name is Valarie Pettiford, and she's been a regular presence in both the film and television realms for the past few decades. According to IMDb, Pettiford earned her first screen credit with a minor role in Francis Ford Coppola's 1984 gangster musical "The Cotton Club." In the ensuing decades, Pettiford has been tabbed for minor roles in major primetime hits like "The Equalizer," "The X-Files," "The West Wing," "Frasier," "Bones," and "Criminal Minds" among many others.

In the early 2000's Pettiford was most regularly seen on the small screen in the UPN blended family sitcom "Half & Half." That series follows the lives of half-sisters Dee Dee Thorne and Mona Thorne (Essence Atkins and Rachel True) as they forge a late-in-the-game friendship while navigating their young adult lives in San Francisco. Those lives are regularly thrown into flux by the actions of their father, Charles Thorne (Obba Babatundé), and their larger-than-life mothers, Phyllis Thorne and "Big" Dee Dee Thorne.

The pivotal roles of the Thorne mothers were played by "Family Matters" alum Telma Hopkins and, you guessed it, Valarie Pettiford, respectively. While Hopkins was the higher-profile hire on "Half & Half" at the time, one could easily argue she was upstaged at every turn Pettiford, whose razor-sharp timing made the snooty Big Dee Dee a legit scene-stealer during the show's four-season run.

Pettiford was a regular player on A Discovery of Witches

Though "The Blacklist" continues to rank as the most prominent series on Valarie Pettiford's impressive screen resume, she's only logged 16 episodes of the series as Charlene Cooper during its ongoing primetime tenure. And it's currently unclear in what capacity she'll be back for the show's upcoming 10th season. As it happens, Pettiford's multi-season stay on "The Blacklist" overlapped with her recurring role on another small screen hit, the bewitching supernatural drama "A Discovery of Witches."

Said series was a very different sort of hit than "The Blacklist," erring more on the side of cult sensation than network blockbuster. However, a case could be made that "A Discovery of Witches" offered a far more intriguing role for Pettiford, whose presence is beyond limited in that latter series' often over-stuffed landscape of characters.

As for the recently ended "Discovery," it found Pettiford portraying a powerful witch named Emily Mather. Emily is, of course, the longtime partner of Sarah Bishop (Alex Kingston) and thus a significant presence in the life of its central player Diana Bishop, portrayed by the ever-underrated Teresa Palmer. All in, Pettiford portrayed Emily in 16 of the series' 25 episodes, imbuing her character with a soulful stubbornness that made her as fascinating as she often was infuriating. The character's death indeed played a significant role in the series' perpetually twisting narrative. And in some ways, the show never quite got over it.