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Why Baz From Animal Kingdom Looks So Familiar

For the past several years, TNT's bracing crime drama "Animal Kingdom" has been one of the best, and most egregiously overlooked series on television. And with the show's upcoming fifth season tabbed as its penultimate run, time is indeed running out for you to discover its pulse-pounding thrills. 

Adapted from David Michôd's marvelous 2010 Australian drama of the same name, "Animal Kingdom" transports the story to Southern California, and follows a wayward teen named Joshua "J" Cody (Finn Cole) who goes to live with estranged relatives in Southern California after the death of his mother. Once he moves in with the extended Cody clan, "J" soon discovers their freewheeling lifestyle is funded by decidedly less than legal activities — primarily plotting and pulling off high risk, high reward heists of all kinds.

Equal parts high-octane crime thriller and searing family drama, TNT's "Animal Kingdom" has delivered an utterly engrossing, and endlessly re-watchable affair. Like the Aussie film that inspired it (which boasted the talents of Guy Pearce, Jackie Weaver, and Joel Edgerton), the series also fronts an impressive cast, with Ellen Barkin, Shawn Hatosy, Emily Deschanel, and Dichen Lachman having been featured prominently throughout the first few seasons. Of course, the actor who portrayed the adopted Cody "Baz" prior to his unfortunate demise surely stood out to most viewers as he's worked on screens big and small for years. His name is Scott Speedman, and he's a fully vetted star who's appeared in a handful of hits. Here's why Baz from "Animal Kingdom" looks so familiar.

Felicity found Scott Speeman playing one of television's more memorable romantic leads

If Baz's face does look familiar, it's likely because you're a fan of late-90s WB Network shows. Speedman's first big break came on such a series, as the beloved J.J. Abrams and Matt Reeves created college drama "Felicity." That series debuted in the fall of 1998, and became a breakout hit for the fledgling WB, making an overnight sensation of its central star Keri Russell, who promptly won a Golden Globe for her work as the titular high school grad who impulsively follows her crush to New York instead of attending college at the much closer to home Stanford.

While Keri Russell was the clear breakout star of "Felicity," the series also made a legit sex symbol out of the actor portraying her crush Ben Covington. That was indeed Scott Speedmam portraying Felicity's not so obscure object of desire on the series. Along with Russell and co-star Scott Foley (who played the stout-hearted Noel on the show), Speedman's lovably complicated (and often infuriating) Ben would eventually become a key player in one of the most enduring, and tenderly-observed love triangles in television history with Russell's Felicity perpetually tipping her affections between the two. 

The infamous endgame of that triangle, of course, remains intensely divisive among "Felicity" fandom. Outcomes aside, even those on Team Noel couldn't really argue with Ben finally getting the girl. And that's mostly thanks to Speedman's endearing, and often fiercely internalized work in the role, and not the fact the he and Russell actually dated while starring on the series.

Scott Speedman played a different kind of wolfman in the blockbuster hit Underworld

"Felicity" remains a calling card for Scott Speedman even 20 years after it ended. While it didn't prove quite the star-making breakout for Speedman, the actor still leveraged his small screen visibility into big screen roles, appearing alongside Kurt Russell in 2002's crime drama "Dark Blue." A year later Speedman scored what remains the biggest hit of his movie career, trading lines and punches with Kate Beckinsale in the blockbuster vampires vs. werewolves hit "Underworld."

Directed by Len Weisman, "Underworld" found Beckinsale portraying an ass-kicking, death-dealing vamp named Selene who, after an intense clash with her Lycan enemies, finds herself watching over (and unexpectedly falling in love with) Michael, the seemingly average human her wolfen foes were searching for. Michael was portrayed by Scott Speedman with stoic intensity, though it's soon revealed the character is anything but an average man. In fact, Michael is a direct descendant of an ancient line of beings who share both vampire and lycan genetics, which makes him uniquely suited to endure bite-induced transformations from both.

That fateful twist comes late in the film's third act, with Michael becoming a sort of vampire-lycan super beast with nearly unstoppable power. And as silly as this all sounds, "Underworld" remains a stylish, absurdly entertaining bit of  "vampires meet "The Matrix"" styled bombast that unexpectedly launched a full-blown franchise. Speedman only returned for the first "Underworld" sequel, however, making his last official franchise appearance in 2006's "Underworld: Evolution" ... even though his character wasn't actually killed off until 2016's "Blood Wars."

The Strangers found Scott Speedman on the wrong side of a terrifying home invasion

Though Scott Speedman has often gravitated toward more character-driven indie fare, with titles like "Underworld" and 2005's "XXX: State of the Union" to his credit, he's clearly got an affinity for genre cinema too. In 2008, Speedman found a film that perfectly married both his high-brow and low-brow leanings, with the actor claiming a co-lead opposite Liv Tyler in a bone-chilling pseudo slasher flick crafted with distinctly indie film flavor. 

That film was Bryan Bertino's white-knuckle home invasion chiller "The Strangers," which found a young couple in Speedman and Tyler, who were tormented by masked villains who can seemingly enter and exit the couple's home at will. To date, much has been made of the comings and goings of those masked baddies, with one particular scene (you know which one) instantly ranking among the most terrifying in horror movie history despite its complete lack of jump-scary tactics, shrieking musical cues, or bloodletting insanity.

And in truth, "The Strangers" remains a high mark in indie horror largely because of its masterful subversion of those a-typical slasher movie tropes. But at the heart of the film, are a pair of powerful performances from both Speedman and Tyler, who bring a uniquely flawed humanity to their roles that all-but ensures viewers connect with each on a personal level. And yes, as horrifying as "The Strangers" becomes, it's that personal connection to both character and circumstance that makes the film's grueling, nihilistic finale all the more devastating.