Actor David Rees Snell gained notoriety on one of the most acclaimed television dramas of the new millennium, going from uncredited extra to permanent cast member over the course of its run. The Wichi...
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Born on Aug. 20, 1966 in Wichita, KS, David Rees Snell aspired to become a performer from an early age. Upon graduating high school, he attended Kansas University, where he studied theater. It was during this time that Snell met and befriended fellow actor Jay Karnes, with whom he later joined in a move to Hollywood in the late-1980s to pursue their mutual ambitions. In a story as old as Hollywood itself, the friends struggled to find acting work during those first several years, performing infrequently in small theatrical productions, but little else. However, another acquaintance during this lean period, aspiring writer-director Shawn Ryan, would also prove instrumental to not only Karnes' future as well as Snell's.
Other than a minor role in the made-for-TV thriller "I Can Make You Love Me" (CBS, 1993) starring Brooke Shields, little screen work came the struggling actor's way. Snell eventually moved back to Wichita where he appeared in several plays, as well as industrial and promotional videos for retail outlets and auto parts stores. Soon after, he moved again, this time to Kansas City, where he landed a bit part in the presidential biopic "Truman" (HBO, 1995), starring Gary Sinise as Harry S. Truman. Unfortunately, Snell's one ad-libbed line of dialogue was excised from the finished film. Despite ending up on the cutting room floor, a still determined Snell decided to give acting another go and returned to Los Angeles, where fortune soon favored him.
Having added little to his résumé, other than another minuscule part in director Ang Lee's Western "Ride with the Devil" (1999) and a few short films, Snell was thrilled to hear from his old friends Karnes and Ryan. Ryan, who had enjoyed some success as a writer on "Nash Bridges" (CBS, 1996-2001), had been contracted to create a gritty police drama for the fledgling cable network FX. As part of his decision to cast unique character actors rather than typical Hollywood pretty-boys for the integral cop roles, he selected Jay Karnes for a major role as Detective Dutch Wagenbach on the crime drama "The Shield" (FX, 2002-08). Snell was offered a much smaller role as well, that of Strike Team member Ronnie Gardocki, although Ryan lamented that it was the best he could do, as the show's meager budget did not allow for another speaking part. However, once "The Shield" was picked up and began gaining popularity, the storyline involving the show's controversial police anti-gang Strike Team was expanded and Snell's Ronnie became a regular on the series.
After a rash of Emmy nominations, "The Shield" became a cult smash and transformed veteran actor Michael Chiklis, who starred as corrupt Strike Team leader Det. Vic Mackey, into a late-blooming TV star. Internet message boards were soon buzzing about characters and plotlines - enthusiasm was so intense that even smaller-profile characters like Gardocki developed loyal followings. Snell's profile was upped considerably with each season - first, by having his face burned on a stove grill by a local drug lord in the second season, followed by his character formulating a doomed plan to steal money from the Armenian mob in the third season. By the fifth season, the show's popularity was at its peak and in a season that saw the death of a major character - Snell's fellow Strike Team member, Detective Curtis "Lemonhead" Lemansky (Kenneth Johnson) - Snell was made an official full-time cast member with his name in the opening credits at long last.
In the meantime, Snell began building a profitable side career as a voice actor on several prominent video games - "Call of Duty 2" (Activision, 2005), "Ghost Recon Advanced Warfighter" (Ubi Soft, 2005) and his role as Gardocki for the game adaptation of "The Shield" (Aspyr Media, 2007). To the delight of "Shield" fans, he appeared with his co-star from the show, Kenneth Johnson, in the made-for-television western, "Desolation Canyon" (Hallmark Channel, 2006). Johnson may have received the above the title billing, but for once, Snell was handed the majority of the dialogue, playing a prim Boston banker who helps co-stars Stacy Keach and Patrick Duffy track down a group of outlaws, led by Johnson. Other work of the period included the direct-to-DVD thriller "Exit Speed" (2008), starring Fred Ward and Lea Thompson. After "The Shield" had completed its seven season run, Snell jumped into a recurring role as terrorist Leon Drake during the final season of "The Unit" (CBS, 2006-09), a drama about the personal and professional lives of the members of a top-secret military unit, created by David Mamet and Ryan. Several guest spots on series like "Numb3rs" (CBS, 2005-2010), "Lie to Me" (Fox, 2009-2011) and "Leverage" (TNT, 2008- ) preceded another recurring role as FBI Agent Grad Nicholas on the biker gang drama "Sons of Anarchy" (FX, 2008- ), a smash hit created by former "Shield" writer Kurt Sutter for their old network home that surpassed even the ratings enjoyed by "The Shield."
By Bryce Coleman
From classic movie palaces to the state-of-the-art IMAX screens.