or How Chris Perfectly Pulls Off A Bad Guy
….. by TeeJay
The Showtime series Huff centers on psychiatrist Dr. Craig “Huff” Huffstodt (Hank Azaria) who gets a wake-up call after one of his patients commits suicide in his office. Huff struggles with guilt, inadequacy, and the legal consequences in connection with the boy’s death. At home, Huff must deal with the conflicting personalities within his own family, including his brother Teddy, a schizophrenic living in a locked facility. Huff’s whole existence–as a doctor, husband, father, son, and brother–goes through a reawakening, and life will never be the same again.
A typically offbeat and iconoclastic dramedy from the folks at Showtime, Huff starred Hank Azaria (best known to contemporary fans for his many vocal characterizations on the animated The Simpsons) as Dr. Craig “Huff” Huffstodt, a successful L.A. psychiatrist. When his well-ordered existence and sense of equilibrium were shattered by the suicide of a teenaged patient in his office, Huff embarked upon a difficult and often treacherous journey of self-discovery and re-examination. Unfortunately, he didn’t receive too much moral support from his dysfunctional family: Huff’s hypercritical, self-absorbed mother, Izzy (Emmy winner Blythe Danner), was going through a divorce and was having enough troubles of her own; his brother, Teddy (Andy Comeau), was not what one could call dependable; his son, Byrd (Anton Yelchin), was experimenting with drugs; and his wife, Beth (Paget Brewster), had her hands full coping with her gravely ill mother, Madeleine (Swoosie Kurtz). Only Huff’s attorney friend Russell Tupper (Oliver Platt) was willing to offer advice and comfort, but Tupper too was weighed down with his own personal hang-ups, not least of which was his insatiable sexual appetite. Distinguished by its mordant sense of humor and some truly outrageous plot twists, Huff was created by Robert Lowry (Profiler, Any Day Now), and began its weekly, 60-minute run on November 1, 2004.
James Cullen. The first time you see him, you don’t really know what to make of him. But it very soon becomes clear that he’s not the kind of kid you would want your own kid to hang with if you were a decent parent. He’s intelligent, manipulative, menacing and mysterious, and he’s definitely up to no good. A rich kid with a twisted mind who loves messing with people’s heads out of boredom simply because he can.
The James Storyline
Chris guest-starred as James in three season two episodes: 2×04 “Sweet Release”, 2×10 “Bethless” and 2×11 “Tapping The Squid”. He has a pretty spectacular opening scene as he tackles Byrd from behind, throwing him to the floor when Byrd breaks into his house to spy on the Cullens. James learns from Byrd that he never steals anything when he breaks into people’s homes, that he just enjoys finding out about how other people live and what that tells him about these people’s behavior and character.
James is immediately intrigued, especially when Byrd mentions that his uncle is a schizophrenic. James asks Byrd if he can meet him, and Byrd takes James to meet Teddy in the halfway house where Teddy lives. Byrd is shocked to find that James plays directly into Teddy’s schizophrenia and fuels his paranoia. He tells Teddy that he works for some secret organization that recruits children for dubious purposes and Teddy is immediately leery of James, feels threatened by him. Byrd is shocked to realize that he should never have taken James to meet Teddy, how easy it was for James to see through Teddy and push his buttons.
A few weeks later, Byrd receives a package with a photo of James in front of Teddy’s halfway house and Teddy’s journal inside. Byrd’s comment, “Oh shit!” exactly covers it. Byrd confronts James about what he’s doing with Teddy and tells him not to mess with him, otherwise Byrd will come after James. When James asks if that’s a challenge or a warning, Byrd simply says, “It’s information. No more, no less.”
It’s not long after that Byrd finds a dead rat in his bed, which obviously came from James as a “friendly reminder” that he’s still out there. The rat has a note around its head that says, “You’re next… Rat Bitch.”
Byrd’s no angel himself when he realizes that he can’t let himself be pushed around by James, so he and his friend Ely decide to put an end to James’ mind games. They lure him to his grandmother’s guest house where they tie James to a chair and strap duct tape over his mouth. Byrd threatens him with a lighter that he holds next to James’ face, and James squirms in fright.
Byrd wants James to stop messing with his uncle, apologize and make amends. When Byrd removes the duct tape from James’ mouth, James just looks at him slyly and spits in Byrd’s face. It is then that Byrd loses it and beats James until he’s barely conscious. Ely stops him before he does any more damage.
That’s the last we see of James. We do not learn what Ely and Byrd did with him afterwards as James is gone from the guest house when Izzy goes there to see how her grandson and his friend are cramming for a science test. And since the show was unexpectedly cancelled after season two, we will never learn what became of James and what he would have been up to in season three, possibly seeking his revenge.
James’ coldy calculating and menacing behaviour towards Teddy in episode 2×04 when we start to realize that he’s toying with both Teddy and Byrd.
“Second of all, you wouldn’t do sh** to me. Because however you f****d me, I will come back at you tenfold. It is biblical what I would do to you.” (episode 2×10)
The expression of pure rage, spite and disrespect on James’ face when Byrd rips the duct tape off his face in episode 2×11.
This wouldn’t be the first time that Chris worked with Anton Yelchin. They shot Alpha Dog together in 2005 and had a lot of scenes together in it. We’re pretty sure that both enjoyed working closely together again.
We interviewed Chris in 2006 and also asked him about his role as James. He had quite a few interesting things to say, so read for yourselves:
“They dimmed it down. You know, it was a lot darker originally and they dimmed it down. Yeah, it was this great— Like the first scene I ever had in there, I did this insanely creepy thing and it was great and they cut it all out. I show him this little thing in my hand, and I have him touch it and pick it up, and he smells it, and he’s like, “What is this?” Uh, and Byrd sits there, smelling it, and he’s like, “What’re you doin’?” So I’m just eyeing him this whole time. And um, I forgot what exactly I was saying but it was all creepy stuff, and I finally admit to him it’s my umbilical cord. Yeah, like my mother kept my umbilical cord. And he just freaks out and throws it down, and I get all upset at him and I start— you know, we have this argument.
“And it was this great scene, and they cut it all right before that. I tackle him, and it goes away from the scene when it comes back to the scene, I’m sitting there talking to him on the couch, like I offer him a Coca Cola or something. Originally, about ten seconds after that, fifteen seconds, I give him my umbilical cord.”
We asked Chris if he knew what happened to James after Byrd beats him up and disappears. Chris said, “I don’t know! I have no idea! They didn’t write it. They were supposed to do one more episode, and then they never wrote it and they said don’t worry about it, you know? And that was it. Originally there was supposed to be something else, and I left to go shoot something. So they couldn’t get me back to get together, so they sort of picked up that other character, the guy, his name is Jesse Head, I forget the name of his character [Ed.: Jesse played Ely.].
“I think to be honest, they were just expecting that they were definitely gonna have a third season, and so they didn’t. And that’s where they were gonna tie everything back in. ‘Cause for the third season they were talking to me about doing a few more episodes.”
It’s a shame that we never got to see what would have become of James.