Susan Tyrrell has crossed over.
She was the type of actor who just had to step into the frame and you knew she was from the wrong side of the tracks. She didn’t even need a line of dialogue. That’s magnetism.
Sometimes when actors get called home, I wish that they could have done just one more project, one that summed up their career or maybe gave them the dignity they never had before.
For Susan Tyrrell, I’m opting for career summation.
Dignity was just not her line.
And my career-capping wish: Breaking Bad – as the mother of meth mess Wendy. Wendy is a rather one-dimensional character, more or less summed up in the opening below from season 3, episode 12.
That’s Wendy’s life, set in astonishing discordance to the bouncy 1967 hit Windy by The Association! We sang this with heavily forced smiles in my third-grade music class. A little part of me – the bad part – hopes that our music teacher, a dour, glum woman who stood almost as much a contrast to Windy as Wendy, somehow got to see this brilliant bit.
Wendy (Julia Minesci) is a meth whore. But she’s so much more!
We just don’t see it because we haven’t met her family, namely her mother, portrayed by Susan Tyrrell: Oscar nominee, Warhol star, Herve Villechaize’s real-life lover, and cult film favorite – Tapeheads, Forbidden Zone, and Raúl’s very personal choice, the eighties Angel franchise, at least the first two films, in which Tyrrell is a wonder as the foul-mouthed, cigar-chomping lesbian landlady who helps save the day in the end. There weren’t too many queer characters who got to pull that off in the 1980s. Susan Tyrrell could take on Reagan-era teenagers as she tore up the sexploitation screen: Don’t fuck with Solly.
Well, a turn as Wendy’s mother on Breaking Bad could have served as a sort of composite of her career. I see her as a lifelong lowlife, unapologetic and unappeasing, tougher and more unbreakable than her daughter, and Wendy is pretty fucking tough. Tyrrell could have held her own in a room alone with Saul Goodman (Bob Odenkirk), and I wouldn’t say that about too many performers.
And she might have made Wendy into more than we get to see during the Windy montage.
That’s my wish. So…
so long Solly, my secret subversive heroine. You made the early eighties more survivable for Raúl. For real.