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Why One Chicago's Alvin Olinsky Looks So Familiar

In the tough world of "Chicago P.D." and NBC's greater "One Chicago" universe, it can be good to have a friend you can count on. 

Officer Alvin Olinsky, stakeout and undercover expert of the CPD Intelligence Unit, is loyal to a fault, both to family and to his old partner Hank Voight (Jason Beghe). This loyalty does not transfer to the code of conduct or moral standards of the force. Like Voight, Olinsky is not afraid to get his hands dirty in the name of enacting either justice or revenge on someone who has wronged him, though, to his credit, he did stop himself shortly before he and Voight deposited a cement-laden crook in Lake Michigan.  

Being hard to recognize is part of the point of being undercover, but it doesn't have to be the case for the actor who plays Olinsky. Elias Koteas has worked as a character actor in film and television for decades, and here are a few specific films and TV shows where you may have seen him before.

He fought punks and ninjas with the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles

The One Chicago television universe isn't Koteas' first experience with a gritty urban multimedia franchise. To a certain audience, the man will always be legendary for his portrayal of Casey Jones in the 1990 live-action "Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles" movie.

Koteas gives some much-needed definition to Jones' dim-witted stereotype. He realizes that no one would fight purse-snatchers and gangs of ninjas with a baseball bat if he wasn't having a lot of fun doing it. He treats all of his fellow heroes as peers, be they human or turtle or giant rat, and he balances out Jones' meathead tendencies with surprising, but natural moments of intelligence. He doesn't know what "claustrophobic" means, but he knows a thing or two about the rules of cricket. His introductions to both Raphael (Josh Pais) and April (Judith Hoag) are rough, but they come around eventually. Furthermore, he shows some surprising acuity when verbally dismantling the threat posed by the Foot Clan's gang of juvenile delinquents, puncturing their claims that the group is a family.

Koteas would return for "Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles III," playing both Jones and Whit, a character who helps the Turtles when they travel back to feudal Japan.

Elias Koteas played a reluctant commander in The Thin Red Line

In 1998, Koteas was cast in the role of Captain James Staros in Terrence Malick's poignant war drama "The Thin Red Line."

Captain Staros is a man who's arguably too good for war; he cares too much. The deeply religious company commander has been with his men throughout training and the war, and the responsibility he feels for their safety has come to outgrow his sense of duty to the mission or his superiors. So when he's ordered to make a frontal attack on a heavily defended Japanese bunker during the campaign to retake Guadalcanal, he refuses, arguing that he won't send his men on a suicide mission.

That earns the ire of his commander, Lt. Col. Tall (Nick Nolte), who storms up to his position to order the attack himself. It succeeds, in part because the resistance at the bunker has lessened, and Staros' failure sees him removed from command. 

Koteas' performance as the quietly tortured leader drew special commendation from reviewers in Variety and less effusive praise, but positive notes nonetheless, from Roger Ebert. It was selected by IndieWire as one of the best performances ever given in a Malick film.

He played a nightmare of a patient in Shutter Island

That's not the only time Koteas proved to be a secret weapon for a celebrated auteur. He had a small part in Martin Scorsese's 2010 psychological mystery "Shutter Island," as Andrew Laeddis, an arsonist who investigator Teddy Daniels (Leonardo DiCaprio) believes killed Daniels' wife, and whose presence on the island supposedly lures Daniels into taking the case that spark's the film's mystery.

Koteas-as-Laeddis is striking, with a still-red gash held together by staples that runs from one temple across the bridge of his nose and down nearly to his cheek. He also has one cloudy eye and his teeth are capped with silver. He's sitting in an armchair in front of a roaring fire, striking matches to keep himself company. When he speaks to Daniels, it is as old friends, calling him "buddy," lighting his cigarette and offering him a flask. Even in the hallucinatory dreamscape that the film conjures, this scene stands out. It's a performance that's dissonant with everything the viewers know about him, and with his own appearance.

The audience would eventually find out why, as Daniels is a projection created by Laeddis. The vision of Daniels is how Laeddis sees himself, or at least the part of himself that got him committed to a facility for the criminally insane.

Koteas followed the bloody trails of Let Me In

The same year that Elias Koteas played a nightmarish vision of a name for Scorsese, he also starred as a prosaic police detective for Matt Reeves in his youthful vampire romance "Let Me In." Throughout the film, the Policeman, as he's known, slowly unravels the truth behind a series of murders in Los Alamos, New Mexico, circa 1983. The evidence seems to point to them being ritual killings, which, given the blood drainings and strange mutilations, is not an unreasonable assumption.

But it's still the wrong one. The truth is that the killer he's been searching for — the young girl (Chloë Grace Moretz) he eventually realizes is at the heart of his case — is a vampire. He corners her at her apartment but is distracted by her new boyfriend (Kodi Smit-McPhee), which allows her to overpower him.

In an interview with Film School Rejects, Koteas acknowledged that his character's failure meant it was almost as if the movie could proceed without him since he does little to affect the outcome. The challenge for him as an actor was grounding him, turning him into someone more than just a ghost flitting through the story, and he said that meant playing him as "somebody that has gone through his whole journey and at the end of the day he's retracing his steps looking for where he went wrong and what he missed."

Elias Koteas was a Seattle PD veteran on The Killing

In 2013, Koteas joined another Nordic thriller remake, coming aboard AMC's "The Killing" for its third season as James Skinner, the head of the Seattle Police Department's Special Investigations Unit and the former partner — and lover — of series protagonist Sarah Linden (Mireille Enos).

Linden has dropped off the force after the conclusion of the Rosie Larsen investigation but is brought back in when a new murderer seems to tie into an old case she worked. She and detective Stephen Holder (Joel Kinnaman) realize a serial killer seems to be targeting teenage runaways. Linden and Holder suspect that the killer is a cop, but hone in on Holder's new partner Carl Reddick (Gregg Henry). That is, until Linden notices a ring belonging to one of the killer's victims on the finger of Skinner's daughter. 

Enos told The Hollywood Reporter that it made sense in the end for the killer to be Skinner because "that's the person that would be the most painful for Sarah." The actress thought that the pair's complicated past likely prevented her intuition from picking up on something wrong with Skinner. This was something the showrunners clearly meant to happen because Enos wasn't told who the real killer was until shortly before the finale starting shooting. She said in the interview that even Koteas didn't know he was the killer until the week before work on the finale began. Now that's an expert at being undercover.