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Why Sam Roche From Snowpiercer Looks So Familiar

How do you know when enough is enough? How do you draw the line when your job goes against your conscience?

Sam Roche (Mike O'Malley) serves as Lead Brakeman on the eponymous train of TNT's Snowpiercer series, a position that's less focused on the workings of the train itself and more on maintaining order within it as a security force. Somehow his group of crisply-attired cops represent a kinder, gentler alternative to the axe-wielding, private army-esque Jackboots. He meets Andre Layton (Daveed Diggs) when Layton is deputized to help solve a series of murders on the train. Later in season 1, when Layton leads the Tailies in a revolt to take control of the train, Roche decides to support it, letting them pass his men and assisting them in their fight against the Jackboots. 

It's the kind of role actor Mike O'Malley has been preparing for his whole career: Many of the biggest parts in the 54-year-old's career have played with the tension between authority and sympathy. Sometimes he comes down more one way or the other, but often, what you end up getting is that pairing of a gruff demeanor with a soft heart underneath.

Mike O'Malley was the high-energy host of Nickelodeon Guts

If you were young enough in the early 1990s, or spent enough time watching television with someone who was, then there's a good chance O'Malley first came to your attention as the host and announcer on the kids sports competition show Nickelodeon Guts.

The show was pretty transparently intended to be a children's version of American Gladiators, with all of the chaotic potential of these made-for-television sports but significantly less of the "smacking each other around with giant Q-tips" parts. Instead, events made extensive use of the studio's bungee harnesses, obstacle courses, and wave pool, slapping an extreme sports veneer in place of its older inspiration's focus on contact sports. O'Malley already had experience as a Nickelodeon host on the short-lived trivia and guessing game Get the Picture, but Nickelodeon Guts was an ideal outlet for his gregarious older brother energy, explaining the rules of these new and strange contests and talking up each competitor's performance, including the final race up the Aggro Crag.

Mike O'Malley played a hard-to-get-rid-of brother-in-law on Yes, Dear

After Nickelodeon Guts ended, Mike O'Malley turned to sitcoms, starring as the title characters in Life with Roger and The Mike O'Malley Show in 1996 and 1999, respectively, but neither show was renewed after its first season. 

In 2000, O'Malley landed the part of Jimmy Hughes on the CBS sitcom Yes, Dear. The show traces the family, parenting, and class conflicts that arise after Jimmy and his wife Christine (Liza Snyder) move into the guest house of her sister Kim (Jean Louisa Kelly) and Kim's husband Greg (Anthony Clark). Jimmy works as a security guard at the movie studio where Greg is an executive, but always seems to have a scheme to improve his fortunes, or at least to keep himself and Greg entertained. Often enough, he convinces Greg to go against his better judgment –– like when they took their kids to the casino in the series pilot –– but he could also convince Greg to go against his worse judgment as well, providing a grounding and stabilizing influence against some of his brother-in-law's neuroses.

Mike O'Malley ran for Congress on Glee

From 2009 to 2015, Mike O'Malley had a regular recurring role on Glee as Burt Hummel, the car mechanic-turned-congressman father of glee club member Kurt Hummel (Chris Colfer). Though Kurt is initially fearful at the prospect of coming out as gay to his father, Burt proves supportive, and unsurprised, once Kurt finally does so, doing his best to help his son navigate both the typical challenges of teenage sexuality along with the added obstacle of homophobia from some members of the community.

Kurt helps set Burt up with the mother of his classmate, and crush, Finn (Cory Monteith), but grows jealous when Burt and Finn bond over sports. Burt suffers a serious heart attack in the show's second season, but recovers and eventually marries Finn's mother Carole (Romy Rosemont). Burt is inspired to run for office to counter Sue Sylvester's campaign of cutting funding for the arts, and wins a surprise write-in victory after the campaign turns nasty. 

His work in Washington leads to fewer appearances after his win, but in the show's final season, he officiates the joint wedding of Brittany (Heather Pierce) and Santana (Naya Rivera) as well as the surprise addition of Kurt and his longtime love interest Blaine (Darren Criss).

Mike O'Malley played the made-up bad guy in Sully

Any adaptation of the story of hero pilot Chesley Sullenberger was going to have a big problem: Everyone knows how it ends. Everyone knows who wins. What director Clint Eastwood realized when asked to come onboard the project that became Sully was that it needed somebody to be the villain, unless he was going to build an entire movie where the big bad guys were the flock of geese that hit the plane's engine.

Enter O'Malley's Charles Porter, an investigator with the National Transportation Safety Board who, along with his coworkers, harasses Sullenberger (Tom Hanks) and his co-pilot Jeff Skiles (Aaron Eckhart) after the crash, haranguing them with questions about drug and alcohol abuse and providing simulations that show they could have gotten the plane back to one of the airports around New York City instead of taking the risk of ditching in the Hudson River. 

However, Porter wasn't real. The NTSB investigation was far more cordial and in fact deferential, the actual lead investigator Robert Benzon told Condé Nast Traveler, since by the time it was taking place, Sully was already a national hero. But that doesn't help you stretch 200 seconds in the air into a 96-minute movie, hence the addition of Porter.

Mike O'Malley played an afterlife Doorman on The Good Place

In 2018, O'Malley began a small role as an extra-dimensional gatekeeper on the NBC afterlife comedy The Good Place.

Jeff the Doorman initially appears as a humorless bureaucrat solemnly guarding the door that leads from the afterlife to Earth and the only key that can open it, which he has attached to a frog keychain due to his love of frogs. Michael (Ted Danson), with his eons of Bad Place experience, knows the value of buttering up a bureaucrat, and so when he needs to return to Earth to check on the show's four central humans, he does so by bringing Jeff gifts: a mug with a picture of frog and an antimatter beverage. The act of kindness leads Jeff, like some other O'Malley characters we could name, to help them escape their foe, in this case the omniscient yet television-obsessed Judge Gen (Maya Rudolph) at a crucial moment.

By the finale of the series, the paths between the different areas of the afterlife are getting a lot more use, and as such, Jeff has gotten a lot busier, guiding people from one part to the other and amassing quite the collection of frog collectibles. But Michael outdoes everyone once again, bringing Jeff a real frog in a terrarium, which Jeff names "Mr. Jumpy Legs." Sounds like a Guts event.