Charlie DeSalvo

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Charlie DeSalvo
Highlander character
Charlie DeSalvo.jpg
First appearance "Turnabout"
Portrayed by Philip Akin
Born July 7, 1956[1]
Death August 21, 1995(1995-08-21) (aged 39)[1]

Charlie DeSalvo is a fictional character from Highlander: The Series, portrayed by actor Philip Akin. He is mortal. He is introduced in the third episode of the second season, "Turnabout", and appears in twelve episodes, the last being the season four episode "Brothers in Arms", in which he is killed. He is a friend of protagonist Duncan MacLeod and Richie Ryan.


Charlie is first introduced in the season two episode "Turnabout" (1993), as the owner of a martial arts dojo for sale in the fictional city of Seacouver, Washington, United States. In this episode, Charlie accepts Duncan MacLeod (Adrian Paul) and Richie Ryan (Stan Kirsch) as members after realizing he is unable to beat MacLeod at martial arts.

In "Eye For An Eye" (1993), Charlie accepts to stay to run the dojo for MacLeod and also becomes the coach and sparring partner of Richie, who has just been challenged by Immortal Annie Devlin (Sheena Easton). Charlie is amazed when he sees Richie, who has come home beaten and bruised after a close encounter with Devlin, perfectly able to resume training the next day. Charlie's youth is also revealed in this episode, when he tells Richie during a sparring session how he was beaten up by both Italians and Blacks in his youth because his father was Italian and his mother black. Charlie then recounts how he became a Navy SEAL and turned his martial art skills into a trade. This episode shows that Charlie considers being discriminated against by two different ethnic groups a good reason not to get assimilated at all in a particular community, because, he claims, his problems "come from being unique".[2]

In "The Zone" (1993), Charlie attempts anew to beat MacLeod at martial arts and fails. When Charlie hears that Joe Dawson (Jim Byrnes) has asked MacLeod to enter the Zone, his old neighborhood, Charlie is concerned that MacLeod could get killed and insists on accompanying him. Charlie muses, "I'm getting to hate this place. I didn't spend this much time down here when I lived here. (...) If you're dumb enough to come down here, least I can do is be dumb enough to keep you company."[3] Then Charlie sees Canaan (Santino Buda), the Zone leader, giving guns to some boys and goes to talk to them. When he comes back, he realizes MacLeod has been knocked out by Canaan's henchmen and thrown over a dock. Charlie dives to save him but fails to find him; MacLeod has revived and gone out of the water by himself. Realizing what is going on in the Zone, Charlie decides to gather the residents for a meeting: "This kind of stuff's been going on in the Zone for years and I've just been shaking my head."[3] At the meeting, he tells the crowd, "I know you're afraid. That's what this is all about. You don't have to be afraid. (...) You make the choices, not him."[3] before being interrupted by Canaan. Charlie is about to be killed by Canaan when MacLeod saves him. Charlie later tells MacLeod, "When I was in the SEALS I saw guys with eyes like yours. The lifers, the ones who'd got in too many battles and never came all the way back. (...) One day I'm gonna find out what you're all about."[3]

In "Revenge of the Sword" (1993), Charlie has a small role in the movie his former pupil Jimmy Sang (Dustin Nguyen) is filming in the dojo. Charlie likes Jimmy because "he came up like me,"[4] but when Jimmy offers him to go to Los Angeles with him, Charlie refuses saying, "No stunt work... No Malibu... No stars, man. (...) I like where I am."[4] Charlie also reckons he does not need to own his own place to be somebody.

In "Run For Your Life" (1993), Immortal Carl Robinson (Bruce A. Young) steals Charlie's car. Later they meet and Robinson asks him, "DeSalvo... Now what kind of name is that for a black man ?"[5] The script remarks, "It's a thorny issue."[6] Charlie answers "It's a name for someone who's half black and half Italian. (...) I am both."[5]

In "The Fighter" (1993), Charlie says, "when I was a kid, all I ever wanted to be, was like Ali. (...) 'Float like a butterfly, sting like a bee.'"[7]

In "Bless the Child" (1994), MacLeod and Charlie help Sara Lightfoot (Michelle Thrush) and baby Jamie who are chased by Jamie's father (Ed Lauter). Charlie tells Sara about the baby, "he and I, we've got something in common. (...) We carry the blood of two different worlds. (...) I'm half Italian."[8] Charlie claims to be a "liberated male"[8] who can feed the baby, though he refuses to change his diapers. Ignoring that MacLeod cannot have children, Charlie tells him, "A man like you, I mean, you got to have a kid of your own, man, someone to share things with, you know, to love, to teach all this stuff you know, I mean, who you can pass that on to ?"[8]

In "Unholy Alliance" (1994), Charlie thanks MacLeod for not closing the dojo, although it barely makes a profit. MacLeod suddenly catches a man following them, who turns out to be Charlie's friend Rick Davis, a retired soldier. Charlie wonders what got MacLeod, saying, "You always say it's nothing and it's always something."[9] Later, Xavier St. Cloud (Roland Gift) and his mercenaries storm the dojo to try to kill MacLeod and Charlie, but fail and have to flee, heavily damaging the dojo in the process. Charlie is angered when MacLeod asks him to trust him, saying, "How the hell can I trust you if I don't even know what's going on ?"[9] Charlie reckons the mercenaries are professionals; they decide to visit Davis for help. They find Davis dead in his flat and leave quickly. Charlie recalls about the dojo, "I used to dream about this place, MacLeod. Took me five years to get a down payment together."[9] He has some serious issues with MacLeod not telling him what is going on: "You asked me to trust you before. When are you gonna start trusting me ?"[9] MacLeod talks him into staying and rebuilding the dojo. Later, Charlie notices MacLeod is planning something and insists to come with him: "This is not just about Xavier St. Cloud, this is about a Special Ops team, and that is something that I know about ! They nearly killed me, and they did kill Davis. Now he and I served together. And that means something to me. Now whether you like it or not, I can't get in much deeper than this."[9] MacLeod still refuses to take him along, so Charlie follows him to Xavier's hiding. MacLeod knocks him unconscious and hides him, but Charlie recovers and witnesses the fight between MacLeod and Xavier. MacLeod eventually is about to behead Xavier when he is shot by James Horton (Peter Hudson), who turns out to be Xavier's accomplice. Charlie sees MacLeod mortally hit and is in turn shot by Horton. After Xavier and Horton leave the place, Charlie is rescued by a FBI team. Charlie awakes in intensive care and demands MacLeod to tell him how he could survive. Then Charlie goes into cardiac arrest and MacLeod has to leave the room.

In "Unholy Alliance Part Two" (1994), MacLeod visits Charlie in his hospital room to tell him that he is following Xavier to Paris and that if he does not come back, the dojo will belong to Charlie. Charlie insists on MacLeod telling him how he survived the shots, to which MacLeod answers: "What if I told you it was magic ?"; Charlie says, "Oh, I'd almost believe you."[10] Charlie is next seen back in the still-demolished dojo, walking with a cane as MacLeod calls him from Paris to tell him he will not be back in a while.

In 1977, Charlie joined the United States Navy and became a Navy SEAL, and his military career lasted 12 years. After his career in the Navy, he opened DeSalvo Martial Arts.

His friendship with Duncan grew, and though Duncan never told him he was an Immortal, Charlie knew he kept a secret. He also befriended MacLeod's young Immortal protégé, Richie Ryan as well as MacLeod's Watcher, Joe Dawson. With MacLeod around, he always seemed to get in trouble with other Immortals, although Duncan tried to keep him in the dark as much as possible. In late 1994, he fell in love with Balkan revolutionary Mara Leonin, and he decided to travel with her to her homeland to help her in her quest to free her people. Upon Charlie's departure, management of DeSalvo's Martial Arts passed to Richie Ryan. The following year, Mara and Charlie were set up by Immortal arms dealer Andrew Cord, who purposely sold them defective weapons. When confronted by Mara, Cord shot and killed her. Charlie arrived on the scene moments later and Cord nearly succeeded in killing Charlie. Charlie followed Cord to Seacouver to avenge Mara's death. Ignoring Duncan's and Joe's (who was a friend of Cord's) warnings, Charlie was mortally wounded by Cord. MacLeod found Charlie's body lying in an alley just outside Joe's Blues Bar but realized nothing could be done to save his friend. Before Charlie died in his arms, Duncan kept his promise and revealed his true nature. MacLeod then avenged Charlie's death by defeating Cord.


Charlie is described in the script of "Turnabout" as a black man in his late twenties and moving "like a street-tiger. His heritage is black-Italian : when black guys weren't beating on him for being Italian, the Italians stomped him for being in the wrong neighborhood. Fed up, Charlie took a stint as a navy SEAL, and forged his street-moves into martial arts mastery. He's realized his dream of owning this dojo by hard work and sweat. He's friendly but tough as hell."[11] Charlie hates heights.[8]

Character development[edit]

Executive Producer Bill Panzer explains, "We realized that Alexandra Vandernoot, who played Tessa wanted to return to Europe for personal reasons, and we thought MacLeod needed another mortal to talk to and to interact with. And (...) Charlie DeSalvo's character was a very good foil for Mac."[12]

Actor Adrian Paul says about Philip Akin that Akin studied martial arts a lot and had a different style than his own. There also are several occurrences of MacLeod throwing Charlie hard on the mat in the series, and Paul comments that Akin "never liked the idea of me throwing him".[13]

The dojo is described in the script of "Turnabout" as "spare but clean : a testosterone-shop in the old style".[14] MacLeod is supposed to buy the dojo in this episode, according to the script,[15] but a "sold" sign is seen on screen only in the next episode Charlie appears, "Eye for an Eye", in which the dialogue makes clear that MacLeod is the new owner as he asks Charlie to stay and run the dojo for him.

Creative Consultant David Abramowitz says that he likes "Brother in Arms": "I liked that one because I thought it was a great story. It was vivid emotionally and it was wonderful."[16] Abramowitz comments about "The Fighter" though, ""The Fighter" was a take off on the old Cinderella story, where a character is in love with a beautiful young woman, and can't find the words to speak to her, to speak of his love. So we had Phil Akin, who played Charlie DeSalvo, talk to Bruce Weitz who played the fight manager who's in love with the young girl, and to watch the two of them together (they aren't exactly the slickest characters in the world), was like the blind leading the blind."[17]


  1. ^ a b Episode "Turnabout", Bonus Material, Article: "Charlie DeSalvo", in Highlander: The Series (season 2) (DVD, Anchor Bay Entertainment, 2003), disk 1.
  2. ^ Episode "Eye for an Eye", in Highlander: The Series (season 2) (DVD, Davis-Panzer Productions and Gétévé, 2003), disk 2.
  3. ^ a b c d Episode "The Zone", in Highlander: The Series (season 2) (DVD, Davis-Panzer Productions and Gétévé, 2003), disk 2.
  4. ^ a b Episode "Revenge of the Sword", in Highlander: The Series (season 2) (DVD, Davis-Panzer Productions and Gétévé, 2003), disk 3.
  5. ^ a b Episode "Run For Your Life", in Highlander: The Series (season 2) (DVD, Davis-Panzer Productions and Gétévé, 2003), disk 3.
  6. ^ Episode "Run For Your Life", Final Shooting Script, p. 31, in Highlander: The Series (season 2) (DVD, Davis-Panzer Productions and Gétévé, 2003), disk 3.
  7. ^ Episode "The Fighter", in Highlander: The Series (season 2) (DVD, Davis-Panzer Productions and Gétévé, 2003), disk 4.
  8. ^ a b c d Episode "Bless the Child", in Highlander: The Series (season 2) (DVD, Davis-Panzer Productions and Gétévé, 2003), disk 5.
  9. ^ a b c d e Episode "Unholy Alliance", in Highlander: The Series (season 2) (DVD, Davis-Panzer Productions and Gétévé, 2003), disk 5.
  10. ^ Episode "Unholy Alliance Part Two", in Highlander: The Series (season 2) (DVD, Davis-Panzer Productions and Gétévé, 2003), disk 5.
  11. ^ Episode "Turnabout", Final Shooting Script, p. 5, in Highlander: The Series (season 2) (DVD, Davis-Panzer Productions and Gétévé, 2003), disk 8.
  12. ^ Episode "Turnabout", Bonus Material, Bill Panzer's interview, in Highlander: The Series (season 2) (DVD, Davis-Panzer Productions and Gétévé, 2003), disk 1.
  13. ^ Episode "Revenge of the Sword", Bonus Material, Adrian Paul's video commentary, in Highlander: The Series (season 2) (DVD, Davis-Panzer Productions and Gétévé, 2003), disk 3.
  14. ^ Episode "Turnabout", Final Shooting Script, p.4, in Highlander: The Series (season 2) (DVD, Davis-Panzer Productions and Gétévé, 2003), disk 8.
  15. ^ Episode "Turnabout", Final Shooting Script, p.52, in Highlander: The Series (season 2) (DVD, Davis-Panzer Productions and Gétévé, 2003), disk 8.
  16. ^ David Abramowitz, in Maureen Russell, Highlander: The Complete Watcher's Guide, Warner Books, 1998, ISBN 0-446-67435-4, p. 7.
  17. ^ Episode "The Fighter", Bonus Material, David Abramowitz's interview, in Highlander: The Series (season 2) (DVD, Davis-Panzer Productions and Gétévé, 2003), disk 4.

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