Who Would Play the Film Version of Sean Coleman?


Which actor would play Sean Coleman if your novels were turned into movies?

It’s one of the most common questions I’m asked by interviewers and fans of then Sean Coleman thrillers, and I understand exactly why. When people read fiction, they form images in their minds of what the primary characters look like, and there’s a natural inclination to want to identify them with actors and actresses who they’ve seen portray fictional characters onscreen.

I think the same is probably true of a lot of fiction writers as they invent their characters. When describing protagonists and antagonists for readers, some draw upon images from television and movies. I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t one of those people.

Thus, when someone asks me who would make a good film version of Sean Coleman, I do have a few individuals in mind. Some actors even helped inspire the creation of Sean Coleman, while other suitable performers have been suggested by readers over the years.

So, purely for fun, I’ve decided to work through the list.

Frank John Hughes isn’t a household name, but many of you have likely seen this actor’s work on popular television shows including 24 and Justified.

Physically, Hughes doesn’t match up well with Sean Coleman. He’s a relatively small guy. Sean, on the other hand, is a large man — a very large man. I describe him in my books as standing around 6′ 5″, and the lightest he’s ever come in at is 235 pounds.

Yet, there’s an association between these two that I’ve never written about until now: Back in 2004, Hughes played a character (in a short-lived television series) who served as a precursor of sorts to Sean Coleman.

Stop the presses! What?

Frank John Hughes

Let me explain…

LAX starring Heather Locklear and Blair Underwood wasn’t a particularly good show (cancelled after one season), but there was a character named Henry Engels that intrigued me from the very first episode.

Engels (portrayed notably well by Hughes) was a gritty, alcoholic security officer with a propensity for getting into physical altercations. He strove to do his job well, and be the kind of man that others could depend on, but his personal demons often preventing him from doing so.

Sound vaguely familiar?

I felt that a character with such traits would work well with the ideas I was formulating at the time for From a Dead Sleep (which is ultimately a story of redemption). Readers would be hard-pressed to pick up on additional similarities, as there really aren’t any. After all, Sean — like most fictional characters — is a product of his creator’s life experiences.

But you never know when (and from where) inspiration is going to strike.

One of my favorite movies is L.A. Confidential, in large part because of the memorable performances. This of course includes Russell Crowe’s great portrayal of police officer Bud White. While there are some obvious similarities between White and my protagonist (mostly in attitude), it was actually the physical appearance of this character that I had in mind when initially describing Sean Coleman. Well, to some extent anyway.

Russell Crowe as ‘Bud White’ in L.A. Confidential

While the hair and imposing builds are similar, Crowe is much shorter than Sean, as are virtually all Hollywood actors. This would make any casting of my character a bit challenging.

Still, I think Crowe would have made an excellent Sean Coleman…about ten years ago. He’s a bit old for the part now.

Then again, I describe the 40-year-old Coleman as looking older than he actually he is. Maybe with the right makeup, who knows?

Denis Ménochet from Spotless

Last year, my wife and I got into the Netflix show, Spotless. It was well written and well acted, with a standout performance from French actor, Denis Ménochet (whom I previously wasn’t familiar with).

Ménochet’s a big guy with the rough look of Sean Coleman (though he cleans up pretty well in his promotional photos), but it was his brilliant portrayal of the no-nonsense, impulsive Martin Bastière that sealed the deal for me.

The only question I have is: Can he do an American accent? If so… he’s hired!

Speaking of Netflix, multiple readers have told me that they were reminded of Sean Coleman while watching the iconic Netflix original, Stranger Things. And it wasn’t because of all the 80’s references.

David Harbour
David Harbour from Stranger Things

Believe me, the similarities between Sean and Police Chief Jim Hopper weren’t lost on me. I recognized them from that opening scene in the first episode, where Hopper wakes up on his couch, drinks a beer after brushing his teeth, takes a hard look at himself in the mirror, and then slips on his uniform and badge. The comparisons only grew from there.

I’m pretty sure David Harbour would make a great Sean Coleman. He has the right look, and he certainly has the talent.

Ray Stevenson

I hadn’t heard of Ray Stevenson until a reader sent me a photo of the actor, and asked if he was how I envisioned Sean Coleman. Physically, the answer was yes.

I later became familiar with the Stevenson’s work, and he impressed me with both his screen presence and the range of characters he can pull off.

Holt McCallany
Holt McCallany

I’m sure he’d do fine in the role, but like Russell Crowe, he’s probably a bit too old.

The same could be said of Holt McCallany, who is excellent in Mindhunter, and would otherwise fit the part to a tee…if Sean weren’t just turning 40 in the series.

Josh Holloway

A friend of mine once told me that she couldn’t stop picturing Sawyer from Lost as she read From a Dead Sleep.

The remark gave me a chuckle, as I suppose there are some comparable characteristics there, most notably when it comes to toughness and sarcasm. But as I much as I enjoy Josh Holloway’s work, Sean Coleman doesn’t exactly look like a catalog model.

Who else?

Have an idea of which actor you think would make a good Sean Coleman? Send me a message and let me know!

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