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Why Red John From The Mentalist Looks So Familiar

Fans of the CBS mystery series "The Mentalist" are very familiar with the notorious serial killer Red John, who tormented the show's hero Patrick Jane (Simon Baker) across six seasons of sinister cat and mouse intrigue. Many different individuals, at various points in the series, are suspected of being Red John, but his ultimate identity is eventually revealed to be Napa County Sheriff Thomas McAllister, who uses his job in law enforcement to conceal his murderous activities — a possible allusion to the real-life notorious BTK Killer, who performed a similar deception as a suburban dogcatcher.

While Red John remains a shadowy off-screen presence for much of "The Mentalist," the eventual reveal of his identity features an actor who is almost impossible not to recognize for any regular viewer of movies and TV, even if you don't know his name. One of the great Hollywood character actors, the performer who brings Thomas McAllister to life has had an incredible career in show business, with too many memorable roles to name — but we'll give it a try anyway. Here are some of his most recognizable characters.

Xander Berkeley made his screen debut in the notorious Mommie Dearest

If you're a film and TV fan, there's really no telling where you might recognize the great Xander Berkeley from. 

However, it's possible you may have seen Berkeley in his very first screen role (per IMDb), as he appeared in the notorious "Mommie Dearest" starring Faye Dunaway as screen legend Joan Crawford. Based on the tell-all memoir by Crawford's daughter Christina, the film was not a critical success (even today, it still has a Rotten Tomatoes score of 49%) but it has grown into something of a cult classic, thanks largely to Dunaway's infamously over-the-top performance as Crawford.

Berkeley appears briefly in the movie as Crawford's now-adult son, Christopher, in the film's final scene, in which both Christopher and Christina find out they've been disinherited by Crawford following her death. It's a small role, but it would set the pattern for much of Berkeley's career going forward, as he continued popping up all over the place in similarly memorable bit parts – often in movies that went on to become classics — before taking on some of his biggest roles in the past decade.

Xander Berkeley was the charming drug dealer Bowery Snax in Sid and Nancy

Xander Berkley continued to work regularly in episodic TV following his screen debut, popping up on "MASH," "Remington Steele," "The A-Team" and so on, but his next big and recognizably role was that of Bowery Snax, the charismatic but casually cruel heroin supplier for punk rocker Sid Vicious (Gary Oldman) and Nancy Spungen (Chloe Webb) in "Sid and Nancy." 

The poetic biopic by director Alex Cox is one of the greatest rock and roll movies ever made, albeit one of the saddest as well. Berkeley certainly makes an impression in a part that showcases his facility for subtle, dry humor. It certainly doesn't hurt that once you've heard a name like "Bowery Snax," you're likely to remember it for the rest of your life. Nonetheless, even if Berkeley hadn't had the advantage of such a memorable name, he truly dialed up his acting abilities for this role, forecasting some of his even more iconic parts in the future.

Xander Berkeley was the annoying foster father in Terminator 2

Xander Berkeley continued to work regularly throughout the 1980s (with 247 credits and counting to his name, he's always been consistent about booking movie and TV appearances, to say the least), but if there's one high-profile science fiction role that you'll never forget, it's the time he got murdered by a liquid metal robot from the future.

In 1991, director James Cameron cast Berkeley as Todd, the annoying foster father of future resistance leader John Connor (Edward Furlong) in "Terminator 2: Judgment Day." If you don't remember anything else about his performance in the movie, you probably remember his death scene, in which the T-1000 (Robert Patrick) skewers him in the mouth through a carton of milk. It is the lot of the working character actor to die on-screen over and over again, but luckily, "T2" gives Berkeley one of the most memorable deaths of all time. The role also showcased Berkeley's knack for playing somewhat scummy and contemptible authority figures, a character type he grew to master over his four decades in the acting business.

Xander Berkeley played Virginia Madsen's husband in Candyman

One of Xander Berkeley's most prominent roles came a year after "T2" in the horror classic "Candyman." Berkeley played Trevor Lyle, the slick and leather-jacketed husband to Virginia Madsen's grad student Helen Lyle. If you've seen the film, you know that Helen gets sucked into the urban legend known as the Candyman, brought to menacing screen life by Tony Todd, and Berkeley could almost be called the third lead after Madsen and Todd in the film. The character could have been a thankless role — that of the slightly slimy and disloyal husband in a horror movie — but once again, Berkeley managed to make it his own, and in the process, he racked up yet another genre classic on his filmography. 

With multiple sequels and a recent big screen reboot, Berkeley will continue to be rewatched in the original "Candyman" by horror-craving audiences for many more years to come.

What might be Xander Berkeley's signature role came in 2001

While Xander Berkeley has always been a prolific TV actor, most of his highest-profile performances have been in big-budget genre flicks. But what may ultimately go down as his signature performance was on the TV series "24," on which he played gruff CTU middle manager George Mason. 

In the first season, Mason is a typical dunderheaded authority figure and foil for Jack Bauer (Kiefer Sutherland), but over the course of his time on the series, Berkeley's own sense of humor begins to inform the role, and his sarcastic witticisms and eyerolls eventually make him one of the most memorable characters in the show's run. In fact, in Season 2, which depicts Mason in an "Ikiru" predicament — learning of his impending death from radiation poisoning and trying to straighten his earthly affairs as his own personal clock ticks down — he was the foremost talent fronting what may have been the greatest storyline the show ever produced.

In an interview with the fan site 24 Spoilers, Berkeley revealed that he only agreed to become a series regular on "24" after learning of producers' plans to kill him off. " I couldn't have asked for a better way to exit the show," he says of his unforgettable sacrificial flight — that is, of a plane holding a nuclear bomb, about to detonate deep into the desert.

You loved to hate Xander Berkeley as Gregory on The Walking Dead

Xander Berkeley has shown no signs of slowing down in recent years, continuing to work prolifically, with a larger focus on TV series like "Justified" and "12 Monkeys" since his memorable run on "The Mentalist." But his most prominent recent TV role has certainly been that of the cowardly Hilltop leader Gregory on "The Walking Dead." 

Berkeley made his "Walking Dead" debut as a guest star in the show's sixth season, was upgraded to series regular for Season 7, then bowed out in Season 9 following his character's grisly execution by hanging. Berkeley's appearance on a makeup-heavy show like "The Walking Dead" was something like kismet for the actor, since as he explained in a Yahoo TV interview he started his film and television career in the makeup department. "I started out in the theater early on doing makeup," the actor said, citing opportunities he's had throughout his career to keep his old skills handy — like designing the makeup for his character's slow degradation from radiation poisoning on "24."

He also elaborated more on how he saw Gregory as a character, defining him with two simple words: "Empty bravado. He's just this obvious sense of outward self-importance, but with something missing within." Despite what a spineless scoundrel Gregory proves himself to be, though, the character managed to possess an unforgettable charm and sense of humor that can be entirely credited to Berkeley's talent.