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Why Driscoll From Spenser Confidential Looks So Familiar

The Netflix original film Spenser: Confidential reboots a character that will be familiar to anyone who had a television set in the '80s and '90s. The ex-military man and Boston cop-turned-private eye (whose first name was never revealed) first debuted in a series of novels by author Robert B. Parker, the Edgar Award-winning fourth entry of which, Promised Land, was adapted into a pilot for a television series in 1985. That series, Spenser: For Hire, ran for three seasons on ABC, and starred Robert Urich in the title role. Even after its 1988 cancellation, Urich's version of the character would return to the small screen in a series of TV movies adapted from Parker's novels throughout the '90s.

After Parker's death, the Spenser torch was picked up by author Ace Atkins, who has contributed eight more entries in the series. One of those tomes, 2013's Wonderland, served as the inspiration for Netflix's modernized take on the character, who is portrayed in the new flick by none other than Mark Wahlberg. This action-packed, winkingly comedic new take has proven to be a hit with audiences, thanks in no small part to the capable supporting cast assembled by director Peter Berg (who has directed Wahlberg in no fewer than four previous features).

Of that cast, we think it's a safe bet that the face of the actor who portrays Spenser's former partner Driscoll probably rings a few bells. His name is Bokeem Woodbine, and he's been appearing on screens big and small for the better part of two decades — including a couple of recent appearances that we're positive have popped up on your radar. Here's why Driscoll from Spenser: Confidential looks so familiar.

Bokeem Woodbine was closely associated with hip hop in his early career

Woodbine made his screen debut in the 1993 film Strapped, which was among an early slate of original films produced by HBO. The directorial debut of the great Forest Whitaker, the movie was an unflinching look at inner city violence. Woodbine starred as Diquan Mitchell, a teenager (and already an ex-convict) who finds it unrealistically difficult to turn away from a life of crime following his release from prison. Cast in supporting roles were a number of rap legends like Busta Rhymes, Kool Moe Dee, Chi-Ali, and Yo-Yo. This hip hop trend would continue throughout the actor's early career.

Woodbine went on to appear in 1994's Jason's Lyric along with Naughty By Nature rapper Treach, before popping up in a number of music videos by Staten Island icons the Wu-Tang Clan, including stone-cold classics like "Protect Ya Neck II" and "Gravel Pit." In a 2016 interview, Woodbine would reflect fondly on this period, calling Wu-Tang producer RZA his "big brother," while acknowledging that he didn't recall quite as much of his hard-partying time on the Wu's video sets as he would like (via Uproxx).

The actor also appeared in the videos for TLC's smash hit "Waterfalls" and Tupac Shakur's "I Ain't Mad At Cha" — a gig which led to a friendship with the legendary rapper (via Variety). The two appeared onscreen together in the feature film Gridlock'd, which was released the year after Tupac's 1996 murder.

Bokeem Woodbine kept extremely busy in the 2000s

Woodbine built up his resume in the latter half of the '90s with small roles in features like the Hughes Brothers' Dead Presidents and the Michael Bay actioner The Rock. It wasn't long before he would become a ubiquitous presence on the small screen as well, thanks to a one-off role as gangster rapper Massive Genius on a 1999 episode of HBO's hugely influential drama The Sopranos. The following year alone, he nabbed recurring roles on two separate series: as Detective Derek Finley on the NBC police station sitcom Battery Park, and as Dr. Damon Bradley on the CBS medical drama City of Angels.

Casting directors took notice, and Woodbine would go on to guest on a number of network dramas over the next decade, including such venerable series as CSI: Miami, Bones, and Law & Order: Criminal Intent. Woodbine landed his first major recurring role on the TNT crime drama series Saving Grace in 2007, appearing as Leon Cooley in 28 episodes over the show's three-season run. That led to a five-episode stint as Officer Jones on another TNT crime serial, Southland.

While Woodbine's face was quickly becoming a familiar one among viewers of TV dramas, it wasn't until 2015 that the talented actor was cast in a role that he could really sink his teeth into. As it happened, said role was on one of the most acclaimed cable series of the last decade — and it was one that would finally earn Woodbine some serious name recognition.

Bokeem Woodbine was nominated for an Emmy for his role on Fargo

In 2015, Woodbine was cast in a supporting role in the second season of the twisty, blackly comic FX anthology series Fargo as Mike Milligan, a Kansas City mobster who comes to town with the goal of strong-arming the heads of the local crime family, the Gerhardts, into relinquishing control of their operation after the family patriarch suffers an untimely stroke. In an interview with The Hollywood Reporter late that year, the actor gushed that although the offer to appear on the series had seemingly come out of nowhere, it seemed as if he had finally found a role custom-made for his imposing yet genial presence.

"Every time I read a new script, there were moments where I said, 'I can't believe that I get to play this character. This is a dream come true,'" the actor said. "I literally couldn't have conceived or conceptualized such great moments for a character, such unique and wonderful dialogue and such bizarre yet completely, in my mind, realistic scenarios. It was almost as if I went to the future and I said, 'OK. I'm gonna write you the perfect part for you that you'll never forget and you'll always look back on fondly,' and then I sent it somehow into the past and into my own hands. It was like I'd written it for myself."

For his work on the series, Woodbine received the first Emmy nomination of his long career, and he followed up Fargo with two meaty dramatic small screen roles: as Daniel on season 2 of the WGN historical drama Underground, and as Officer Daryn Dupree — a cop helping to investigate the murder of Christopher Wallace, a.k.a. Notorious B.I.G. — on the first season of USA's true-crime anthology series Unsolved

Bokeem Woodbine has appeared in some major features in the last few years

The last few years have been particularly kind to Woodbine on the feature front, as well. In 2017, he got to join the Marvel Cinematic Universe as Herman Schultz, a.k.a. the Shocker, in Spider-Man: Homecoming. He also appeared on the big screen as Tim Pitt in 2018's Billionaire Boys Club, as Sergeant Rensin in Julius Avery's bonkers World War II horror flick Overlord that same year, and as Uncle Earl in the star-studded crime drama Queen & Slim in 2019.

As for what's next, Woodbine has a couple of anxiously awaited projects in the pipeline — one of which has been nearly two decades in the making. After a number of false starts (including a proposed feature adaptation that spent years in Development Hell), Halo is finally coming to the screen, courtesy of Showtime. Woodbine has been cast in a co-lead role alongside Orange is the New Black's Pablo Schreiber, Designated Survivor's Natascha McElhone, and The Witcher's Natasha Culzac (via Deadline).

Also on tap for the actor: an appearance as a small-town sheriff in the upcoming Ghostbusters: Afterlife, which is set for release on March 5, 2021. Oh, and if they get around to making a sequel to Spenser: Confidential — which everybody involved says they're totally up for — we'd bank on Woodbine coming to that party, as well.