Sunday, October 31, 2010

"I'm not a violent convict, but I've played one on TV, and now I'd like to sell you various types of insurance."

This has already been noted on another blog, but I do find it interesting that two of the stars of HBO's tough-as-nails prison series Oz (1997-2003) are now hawking insurance on TV. Dean Winters and J.K. Simmons have appeared in other TV series and movies since Oz went off the air seven years ago, of course, and they've both excelled in comic roles—Winters as Dennis, Liz Lemon's walking disaster of an ex-boyfriend on 30 Rock, and Simmons as J. Jonah Jameson in the three Spider-Man movies—but it's hard to shake the image of them as violent criminals. Nevertheless, two major insurance companies separately decided, "Here's a face potential insurance buyers can trust."

Winters, who played Irish-American gang member Ryan O'Reilly on Oz, currently stars in commercials for Allstate auto insurance as "Mr. Mayhem":



And Simmons, who portrayed white supremacist Vernon Schillinger, headlines ads for Farmers Insurance as a professor named Nathaniel Burke.

This curious casting reminds me of commercials in which actors known for playing gangsters reprise their roles, albeit in a more cuddly fashion suitable for TV advertising. Winters and Simmons obviously aren't playing off their Oz personas in their Allstate and Farmers ads, but does this mean Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje, a.k.a. Oz's Simon Adebisi, will soon be selling State Farm insurance with a wink and a smile (and a tiny hat, of course)?