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Their Best Role is a weekly series here on Cinematical where we select an actor or actress and the role we think is their all-time best. You can find it here every Wednesday.

Alan Cumming is currently fighting off a Shakespearian 'Tempest' on screens across the country as Sebastian, son of the King of Naples. This isn't the first time he's gotten involved with director Julie Taymor's twist on the Bard's thrills -- he also played the ridiculous and flamboyant Saturninus in Taymor's 1999 film, 'Titus.'

In fact, for the most part, we know Alan Cumming as the outstandingly flamboyant funny man. It has been that way since his early acting days. After a stint as a wood cutter in 'Take the High Road' all the way back in 1980, Cumming entertained a number of television and indie film stints that finally brought him to fly the skies and complain about sweat in the short-lived Scottish comedy, 'The High Life' in 1995.

That same year, he appeared in the role that brought him Stateside recognition and a Hollywood career. However, while UK audiences were becoming familiar with his pizazz and charisma, one role -- his best -- required him to bottle it up and replace his camp leanings with disgusting lasciviousness -- Sean Walsh in 'Circle of Friends.'

Raise your hand if Cumming's Sean Walsh creeps you out. It's hard not to recoil every time the actor steps into the frame. As the assistant to Benny's (Minnie Driver) father, Walsh is the slimy and sinister lurker eager to slip his hands into the company coffer as well as ... pardon my Sean Walsh rudeness ... the boss' daughter. His ulterior motives ooze from every look and smirk, from the way he watches her walk down the road after her first day of university, to his audacity to try the "yawn - stretch - grope" when he takes her to the movies.

He loves to add inappropriate and sleazy sexual innuendo to every phrase that he can, almost purring when he says he's never seen "a more succulent bird," while looking at Benny. Walsh's lonely and pent up world revolves around sex, and with no release valve, it slips into every part of his being. When he wants to talk about the future, he wraps his hands around fence posts, breathing in deeply, as if he's graping a woman rather than cold spikes. (Skip to roughly 6:50 in the below clip.)



Even the manner in which Cumming's Walsh unfurls his pinky as he sips tea speaks to his character, not to mention his inner thoughts as he remembers peeping on Nan having sex in the cottage. From beginning to end, Alan Cumming is Sean Walsh -- all hint of his charisma removed. He's so good at hiding it, in fact, that back then -- before North American audiences were made aware of his other talents -- it seemed unfathomable that he could be a successful actor. He was too good as the sleaze; so perfect that it was impossible to imagine him with the charm he naturally exudes.

Though he's traveled to a lot of cinematic worlds since, in no other film has Cumming shown quite this level of subtlety and talent, of erasing the real man for the fictional character.



Unfortunately, Cumming didn't get a lot of recognition for his role, probably because we first saw him as the perfectly creepy supporting player, and we didn't have a solid frame of reference. Playing Sandy Frank in 'Romy and Michele's High School Reunion' allowed him to break out beyond that potential type casting, and 'Plunkett and Macleane' helped even more as he wore snazzy whites and sashayed as Lord Rochester. But not these moments, nor scene-stealing gigs in 'X-Men 2,' have been enough to push him past here-and-there supporting man -- not even his blissfully indie collaborative effort with Jennifer Jason Leigh, 'The Anniversary Party.' His Joe Therion is charming, and has a nice undercurrent of depth, but it's more workshopped and intimate, pieces of his self intermingled with his character.

And now I can't help but wonder -- and hope -- that things might change. He's currently on 'The Good Wife,' and he's not playing some spunky performer like his stint as Billie Blaikie in 'The L Word.' He's Eli Gold -- at once sarcastically smart and forcefully serious. Could it be that Hollywood might embrace his talents more fully after 'Wife,' and that his all-time best role is yet to come? As great as Sean Walsh is, one can only hope that Hollywood finally embraces his talent and gives him more chances to shine.