Comedy Central’s Corporate Proves Just How Talented Lance Reddick Was

Comedy Features Lance Reddick
Comedy Central’s Corporate Proves Just How Talented Lance Reddick Was

When character actor Lance Reddick unexpectedly died at the age of 60 on March 17, television and film fans weren’t just mourning the man who’d embodied The Wire’s Lieutenant Daniels and Broyles on Fringe. Over the past 20-plus years, Reddick had proven himself game for just about anything on screen. His rich baritone and natural stature often got him cast as stiff-shirt, seemingly upstanding authority figures. But as he acknowledged to The AV Club in 2008, he had a lot of range even in drama school. He may have been known best in pop culture for “My office” bosses, but he avoided typecasting in part thanks to his incredible understanding of body language and large, expressive eyes. The actor was as good at playing desperation and terror as he was offering warmth and steely gravitas. (If anyone said to me “You’re a piece of shit” the way he does McNulty, I’d simply flee the room.)

After all, anybody who was watching cable television in the 2010s, including Always Sunny and the Fringe where Broyles accidentally takes acid, knows Reddick was funny. He could be down to earth in a small part on Key & Peele, but he sank his teeth into the weirdness of Comedy Bang Bang and Adult Swim spots, clearly relishing the chance to show his over-the-top side to curious stoners surfing Xfinity. Nowhere was this more evident than in his role as Christian DeVille (yes, that’s correct) on the underrated Comedy Central series Corporate

The sitcom only aired from 2018 to 2020, and had at best pretty lousy ratings. But as a temp employee at the time, the first season of Corporate was like tasting a strong, solid beer after a crappy work day. I’d rarely seen the casually bleak, fatalistic conversations my friends and I had about neoliberal life actually depicted on TV. Broad City tried and still wildly misread its audience by fawning over Hillary Clinton. Yet here were these depressed office employees Jake (Jake Weisman) and Matt (Matt Ingrebretson) saying things like “In the end, I’d rather be stuck in a dead-end job and a one bedroom than chase my dreams in a studio.” The sage response: “Capitalism is a prison.” It was funny and even exciting, though subsequent seasons couldn’t quite match the venom of the initial first 10 episodes.      

Speaking as a television nerd, I was also watching the series for Reddick’s performance. CEO of the evil conglomerate Hampton DeVille and boss to the show’s cowed main characters, Christian DeVille really does live up to his name. My friend once described the performance as “playing him as Judge Holden from Blood Meridian” and no one put it better. To get a hold of the character, Reddick did research on similar corporate heads, including another Black businessman, Reginald Johnson, as well as, of course, psychopaths. 

But compared to actual corporate sharks, Christian is as sinister and otherworldly as his Satanic namesake, an avatar of capital and constant acquisition who even knows how to wield a sword. Tech billionaires like Mark Zuckerberg and Elon Musk, dragging a sink into Twitter headquarters, have actively embarrassed themselves in public lately, incapable of not being whiny, awkward nerds when the chips (and the feed) are down. DeVille, in contrast, is always impeccably well-dressed, formidable, and gleefully performative. The guy genuinely loves terrifying his employees and ruling his corporation with an iron fist. Where Jake and Matt are burnt out by the petty, tyrannical requirements of corporate life, every great Reddick line delivery (“In the meantime get a food truck down there, idiots love trucks”) is fueled by palpable joy. 

Much like Vic Mackey on The Shield, Christian finds appalling pleasure in crushing media companies and manipulating anti-capitalist protesters, with the audience getting off on his sheer ruthlessness. But the show and Reddick’s performance also knew how to explore DeVille’s long dormant humanity. In a Season 2 episode, he’s surprised to find he has a crush on someone, and even more surprised to be distracted from work as a result. In “Remember Day,” a TV crew member who chastises DeVille for making up nonsense holidays so his company can profit makes him consider if he’s actually satisfied with his life. Of course, how he eventually responds after a heart-to-heart with Jake (no one has ever said “I like cats” as contemplatively as Reddick does) is by giving managers Kate (Anne Dudek) and John (Adam Lustick) stacks of cash as a bonus. Heartwarming? Maybe?

But that was Corporate in a nutshell, a product of one of Comedy Central’s most daring, groundbreaking program slates which also included Nathan For You and Review. The show wasn’t perfect – as this insightful piece on the series finale suggests, the satire could have been even stronger. But it was also ruthless, portrayed capitalist life with absolute, cynical clarity, and (most important) was hilariously funny. If Reddick can’t get the lion’s share of credit for what makes Corporate work, it’s also impossible to imagine it without his truly commanding, scene-stealing performance. At least the sitcom, as well as Lance Reddick’s other films and shows, stand as a testament to the character actor’s enthusiasm and incredible grace as a performer, and why he’s so thoroughly missed. 

C.M. Crockford is a Philly-based neurodivergent writer with poems, articles, stories published in various outlets. You can find him on Twitter and find his other work at

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