Cookies help us deliver our Services. By using our Services, you agree to our use of cookies. Learn More.

Why Pops From Bruised Looks So Familiar

Since becoming the first African American woman to win the Academy Award for Best Actor with 2001's "Monster's Ball" (per Vox), Halle Berry's career has been a bit of a roller-coaster ride. Berry, of course, followed that historic win with notable turns in tentpole properties "Die Another Day, and "X2: X-Men United," but things went sideways soon after with the infamous cinematic misfire that was 2004's "Catwoman." The ensuing decade found Berry fronting more misses than hits, but she's been very much on the rebound of late thanks to a string of solid performances in "The Call," "Kingsman: The Golden Circle," and "John Wick: Chapter 3 — Parabellum."

Berry is looking to continue that upward trend with her new MMA drama "Bruised," which sees her starring as a fallen UFC fighter getting one last chance at glory. It also finds Berry claiming the director's chair for the first time in her career, and from the looks of the official trailer for "Bruised," she's put together a gritty drama that'll pack an emotional punch both in and out of the ring. You might've noted in that trailer Berry has assembled an impressive supporting cast for the film as well. Among the most prominent faces in that cast is no doubt that of her fighter's new cornerman Pops, as it belongs to the great character actor Stephen McKinley Henderson. Here's where you've seen him before.

Stephen McKineley Henderson stole scenes in Dune

Stephen McKinley Henderson's screen career now spans more than four decades, but prior to the early 2000s, he was largely known for his work in theater. Starting in the early aughts, Henderson began splitting his time between stage and screen, delivering memorable turns in lauded indies like "Keane," and becoming a regular in the "Law & Order" universe with stints on the flagship series as well as "Criminal Intent" and "Special Victims Unit."

Since 2010, the actor's screen profile has raised dramatically, with Henderson working with some of the biggest names in Hollywood, including legendary directors like Steven Spielberg ("Lincoln"), Spike Lee ("Da Sweet Blood of Jesus"), and Kenneth Lonergan ("Manchester by the Sea"). In 2021, Henderson added the name of Denis Villeneuve to that list with his turn in the director's epic adaption of Frank Herbert's "Dune." Henderson appeared in the film as Thufir Hawat, aka the human-computer Mentat and right-hand man of House Atreides. And by most accounts, Henderson's deft work in the role is the very definition of "standout." As it is, his return in "Dune: Part Two" is currently uncertain, though even if Henderson does make it back, "Dune" fans can confirm Thufir's days are still very much numbered. 

Devs found Henderson waxing poetic on the fates of man

"Dune" was hardly the first mind-bending sci-fi marvel Stephen McKinley Henderson has stolen scenes in as of late. In fact, he did that and more just a year prior to his "Dune" appearance when he appeared in Alex Garland's critically-adored, and criminally-underseen tech drama "Devs." If you're wondering why Garland's name sounds familiar, he's the cinematic mastermind behind such modern classics as "Ex Machina" and "Annihilation." As for "Devs," it marked Garland's first foray into serialized television, and most agree the gifted writer, director, and producer knocked it out of the park with his first small-screen venture.

That series told the tale of a tortured tech giant (Nick Offerman) who'll stop at nothing to see that his secretive, world-altering new project is brought to fruition. Naturally, he needs a crack team of elite computer engineers to do it, and that's just where Henderson worked his way into the twisty "Devs" narrative. He did so as the crew's snarky elder statesman Stewart, an emotionally conflicted super-coder who realizes all too late the potentially devastating nature of the work he's been involved with. He's also the guy who delivered that heart-rending recitation of Philip Larkin's poem "Aubade" in the series finale. It can be argued that Henderson deserved at least an Emmy nomination or two for that scene alone.

Henderson played a troubled theater director in Lady Bird

On the topic of Oscar-worthy moments in the career of Stephen McKinley Henderson, he probably should've won a statue for his supporting turn in Greta Gerwig's breakout 2017 indie hit "Lady Bird." While that film remains a calling card for Henderson, he sadly wasn't even nominated for his performance in the film. 

As it was, Henderson turned up early in the action when Saoirse Ronan's titular character decided to join her Catholic high school's theater troupe. There, she met her soon-to-be crush Danny (Lucas Hedges), and the school's teacher, Father Leviatch. That was indeed Stephen McKinley Henderson portraying the enthusiastic, theater-loving holy man in the film. And given the man's obvious passion for his work, his disappointment in the immediate aftermath of the opening night of "Merrily We Roll Along" ends up making for one of the film's most wrenching scenes as his beleaguered priest agonizingly laments "they didn't get it."

Like his "Devs" soliloquy, Henderson's subtle, yet emotionally-charged work makes the moment absolutely devastating, so much so it felt like a legitimate snob when the Academy didn't recognize him for it. Short of Academy recognition, Henderson was instead rewarded for his efforts with his heartbreaking "Lady Bird" scene becoming an insanely popular meme, which is a sort of reward in its own right these days.  

Fences found Henderson trading lines with Denzel Washington

"Lady Bird" is likely the film in which most movie lovers first took notice of Stephen McKinley Henderson. For a lucky few, however, that moment came a year prior in Denzel Washington's Best Picture nominated drama "Fences." Based on the Pulitzer Prize-winning play by August Wilson, "Fences" told the tale of Troy Maxson, an embittered, working-class Pittsburgh man struggling with his lot in life while trying to keep his family afloat. "Fences" was adapted for the big screen by Wilson himself, and found Washington not only playing the lead role but acting as the film's producer and director as well. 

Washington pulled off that trifecta after having portrayed Troy in a Tony-winning 2010 Broadway production of "Fences." He wasn't the only original cast member from that production to reprise their role in the "Fences" film adaption either, with Viola Davis, Mykelti Williamson, Russell Hornsby, and Stephen McKinley Henderson all returning for the film (per Deadline). Henderson appeared in both the play and the film as Jim Bono, Troy's best friend and regular drinking buddy. And while he didn't receive quite as much screen time in the film, Henderson more than left his mark on "Fences" in a few key scenes with a performance as charismatic as it is low-key heartbreaking.