Fred Melamed

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Fred Melamed
FredMelamed (cropped).jpg
Melamed in 2013
Born (1956-05-13) May 13, 1956 (age 65)
EducationHampshire College (BA)
Yale University (MFA)
OccupationActor, writer, comedian
Years active1981–present
Spouse(s)Leslee Spieler (1999–2021)
Children2

Fred Melamed (born May 13, 1956) is an American character actor, comedian, and writer. He is best known for portraying Sy Ableman in A Serious Man (2009), Sam Sotto in In a World... (2013), Bruce Ben-Bacharach in Lady Dynamite (2016–2017), and for appearing in seven films directed by Woody Allen. Outside of this, Melamed has appeared in numerous films and television shows.

Early life[edit]

Melamed was born to a secular Jewish family[1] in New York City, New York. His biological mother is actress/director Nancy Zala and his biological father, British psychoanalyst Stan Silverstone, was a relative of the prominent Adler acting family, including Luther and Stella Adler.[2] He is the adopted son of Louis, a New York television producer, and Syma (Krichefsky) Melamed,[3] a sometime actress and housewife. He attended the Hunter College Elementary School, a primary school for gifted children, and Riverdale Country School.[citation needed]

His father worked with TV pioneer Nat Hiken on such shows as Car 54, Where Are You? and The Phil Silvers Show. When he was sixteen, his family had financial difficulties, and was forced to move to Hollywood, Florida. Melamed has said that he was raised in a non-believer Jewish family who never went to synagogue, except to attend a cousin's bar mitzvah. When he was asked if he wanted to attend Hebrew school, he said no, and thus had no religious training. However, he credits his non-religious upbringing as helping him to develop a belief in God later in life, as he had no "forced dogma to overcome."[1]

Career[edit]

Early career[edit]

He began his theatrical training at Hampshire College, where he worked with (and was heavily influenced by) Tina Packer, Jean-Claude van Itallie, and members of The Living Theatre. Melamed then entered the Yale School of Drama. At Yale, he was a Samuel F. B. Morse College Graduate Fellow. He was also a nominee for the Irene Ryan Award, a prize conferred upon the most promising young actors in the United States. While still at Yale, he was an instructor at the well-known performing arts camp, Stagedoor Manor. After his training, he appeared on stage with several resident theatre companies, including The Guthrie Theater, the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, The Yale Repertory Theater, and on Broadway in the Tony Award-winning Amadeus. Following Amadeus, Melamed entered what he called "a period of personal darkness", during which he effectively stopped acting on stage. At the same time, with an insider's understanding of the industry and assistance from his agent, he became established as a voice actor, and continued to do film work.[4]

Melamed's voice became a familiar presence on television, serving as the sound of the Olympics, Mercedes Benz, CBS Sports, USA Network, the Super Bowl, and numerous commercials and television programs. He became known within the industry as a voice actor, appearing in the Grand Theft Auto series, and dubbing several actors' entire performances in films.

Melamed's feature film debut was in Marshall Brickman's 1983 romantic comedy starring Dudley Moore and Elizabeth McGovern. Melamed's second film was in Woody Allen's comedy-drama Hannah and Her Sisters (1986). In addition, Melamed has prolifically appeared in Allen's films. He has acted in more Allen movies than any other actor besides Diane Keaton and Mia Farrow (and Allen himself). He has appeared in Radio Days (1987), Another Woman (1988), Crimes and Misdemeanors (1989), Shadows and Fog (1991), Husbands and Wives (1992), and Hollywood Ending (2000). During the 1980's Melamed played significant supporting roles in Roland Joffé's religious epic The Mission (1986), Elaine May's comedy Ishtar (1987). Also in 1987, he appeared in Peter Yates' legal mystery thriller Suspect (1987) starring Cher, Dennis Quaid, and Liam Neeson as well as the romantic comedy The Pickup Artist starring Robert Downey Jr. and Molly Ringwald. The following year he appeared in The Good Mother (1988), opposite Diane Keaton and Liam Neeson.

2010s[edit]

For his portrayal of "sensitive" villain Sy Ableman, in Joel and Ethan Coen's 2009 film, A Serious Man, which was nominated for Best Picture at the 2010 Academy Awards, that he became most widely known. About that character, Film Confessional said, "Sy Ableman is as great a contemporary movie villain as The Joker, Hans Landa, or Anton Chigurh.... The character Fred Melamed contrives is the year's most brilliant force of destruction." For his performance in A Serious Man, Melamed, along with the Coen Brothers, and the film's Ensemble and Casting Directors won Film Independent's Independent Spirit Robert Altman Award. New York magazine listed Melamed's work as among the Best Performances of the Decade, and Empire called Sy Ableman "One of The Best Coen Bros. Characters of All Time". Several leading U.S. critics, including A. O. Scott of The New York Times, Michael Phillips of the Chicago Tribune, and Roger Ebert all said his performance was worthy of an Academy Award nomination.

On television, Melamed starred with Maria Bamford in the Netflix comedy Lady Dynamite, on FX's Emmy Award-winning Fargo, Hulu's Golden Globe Award-nominated Casual, the Fox comedy New Girl, and Verizon Go90's sports send-up Now We're Talking. He is a present or past recurring guest star on USA Network's Benched, Showtime's House of Lies, HBO's Girls, Childrens Hospital, Blunt Talk, FX's Married, and Trial & Error. In previous seasons, he played Larry David's smug psychiatrist, Dr. Arthur Thurgood, on Curb Your Enthusiasm, tough-guy jurist Judge Alan Karpman on The Good Wife, and played himself in the CBS situation comedy The Crazy Ones with Robin Williams and Sarah Michelle Gellar. In 2017, he appeared as a special guest star in the acclaimed Fargo episode "The Law of Non-Contradiction". He also appeared in 2 episodes of Brooklyn Nine-Nine as author D.C. Parlov.

Melamed appeared in the Sundance film Lemon (2017), a collaboration with Brett Gelman and Janicza Bravo, Brawl in Cell Block 99 opposite Vince Vaughn, Sean McGinly's Silver Lake, which he stars in with Martin Starr, and Dragged Across Concrete. Melamed recently starred as Sam in Lake Bell's In a World..., winner of the Waldo Salt Screenwriting Award at the Sundance Film Festival, opposite Kurt Russell and Richard Jenkins in Bone Tomahawk, and re-teamed with the Coen brothers and co-stars George Clooney, Tilda Swinton, and Ralph Fiennes in Hail, Caesar! (2016). He starred previously in Get on Up (2014), a bio-pic about the life of James Brown, and opposite Elliott Gould, as auteur/director Bob Wilson, in Fred Won't Move Out, a film about the decline of a stubborn patriarch and his family. Other recent films include The Dictator (2012), with Sacha Baron Cohen and Sir Ben Kingsley, where Melamed appears in a cameo as the Director of the dictator's Nuclear Weapons Program, and Some Kind of Beautiful, where Melamed plays a villain, opposite Pierce Brosnan and Jessica Alba.

On Broadway in 2011, after a long hiatus from the theatre, Melamed originated the roles of The Father in Ethan Coen's Talking Cure, and Thomas Moran in Elaine May's George Is Dead, two of the one-act plays that comprised Relatively Speaking. Subsequently, Melamed took on the role of Vanya in the Guild Hall production of Uncle Vanya, about which The New York Times said he gave "an excellent (...) multi-layered performance (...) Mr. Melamed easily inhabits the comic, awkward lover, but also brings out Vanya's vast loneliness".

As a writer, he has produced screenplays including Girl of the Perfume River, A Jones for Gash, The Asshat Project, and is currently at work on a long-form, television version of The Preservationist, a fictional drama inspired by the case of Melamed's college friend, Edward Forbes Smiley III, a renowned cartographic expert and dealer, who admitted to having been the most brazen and prolific map thief of all time.

In 2019, Melamed acted in the crime thriller Lying and Stealing alongside Theo James and Emily Ratajkowski. The film was a modest critical success with Dennis Harvey of Variety writing, "'Lying and Stealing' manages to be a retro escapist pleasure — one whose cleverness might actually have been muffled by flashier surface assets."[5]

2020s[edit]

Melamed joined the Marvel Cinematic Universe in WandaVision as Arthur Hart, Vision’s boss. In 2020 he appeared in Emma Seligman's directorial debut Shiva Baby. The film premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival and received critical acclaim. The following year he appeared in Nikole Beckwith pregnancy comedy Together Together starring Ed Helms, and Patti Harrison. The film received critical acclaim.

Personal life[edit]

Melamed moved with his wife, Leslee, and twin sons to Los Angeles in 2013. Both of the Melamed children were born with autism and he and his wife have been involved in advocacy for persons living with autism spectrum disorder and their families.[1] Melamed and his wife separated in 2021.

Filmography[edit]

Film[edit]

Year Title Role Notes
1983 Lovesick Psychoanalyst
1986 Hannah and Her Sisters Dr. Grey
The Mission Cabeza Voice; Special Thanks
The Manhattan Project Assay Technician
1987 Radio Days Bradley Uncredited
Ishtar The Caid of Assari
The Pick-up Artist George
Suspect Morty Rosenthal
1988 Sticky Fingers The Cop Voice; Uncredited
The Good Mother Dr. Payne
Another Woman Engagement Party Guest / Patient Voices
1989 Crimes and Misdemeanors The Dean Uncredited
1991 Shadows and Fog Undesirables Onlooker
1992 Husbands and Wives Mel Uncredited
2002 Hollywood Ending Pappas
2009 A Serious Man Sy Ableman
2012 The Dictator Head Nuclear Scientist
Fred Won't Move Out Bob
2013 In a World... Sam
Hair Brained Benny Greenberg
Blumenthal Jimmy Basmati
2014 Get on Up Syd Nathan
Adult Beginners Story Book Reader Voice
Some Kind of Beautiful Victor Piggott
2015 Bone Tomahawk Clarence
2016 Hail, Caesar! Communist Writer
Passengers Observatory Voice
2017 Lemon Howard
Brawl in Cell Block 99 Mr. Irving
2018 The Spy Who Dumped Me Roger
Silver Lake Howard
Dragged Across Concrete Mr. Edmington
2019 Lying and Stealing Dimitri
The Vigil Dr. Kohlberg
2020 Shiva Baby Joel
2021 Together Together Marty
Marzipan James Post-production
2022 Rumble The Mayor Voice; post-production
2022 Fuzzy Head The Quadruped Post-production

Television[edit]

Year Title Role Notes
1981–82 One Life to Live Alberto Cervantes Soap opera
1989 Another World Crazed Homeless Man 1 episode
1990 America Tonight Announcer Voice; Unknown episodes
1991–93 Silk Stalkings Announcer (voice) 54 episodes
1992–96 FTL Newsfeed The Alien Presence Voice; Unknown episodes
1998–03 The NFL Today Announcer Voice; Unknown episodes
2000–01 Courage the Cowardly Dog Spirit of the Harvest Moon
Various characters
Voice; 12 episodes
2005 Wonder Pets! The Magician Voice; Episode: "The Amazing Ollie"
2010 Law & Order Judge Bertram Hill Episode: "Steel-Eyed Death"
Law & Order: Special Victims Unit Dan Goldberg Episode: "Merchandise"
2011 Curb Your Enthusiasm Dr. Thurgood Episode: "Mister Softee"
2011–14 The Good Wife Judge Alan Karpman 3 episodes
2012 30 Rock Jack Episode: "There's No I in America"
2013–14 The Crazy Ones Himself 2 episodes
2014 Benched Judge Nelson 5 episodes
2015 Girls Avi Mensusen Episode: "Tad & Loreen & Avi & Shanaz"
House of Lies Harvey Oberholt 4 episodes
Childrens Hospital Leonard Hillman Episode: "With Great Power..."
Married Professor Donald Holt Episode: "1997"
2015–16 Blunt Talk Dr. Mendelson 3 episodes
2015–18 Casual Charles Cole 8 episodes
2016 New Girl J. Cronkite Valley-Forge 3 episodes
The Detour Conquistadors' Announcer Voice; Episode: "The Restaurant"
2016–17 Lady Dynamite Bruce Ben-Bacharach 20 episodes
Brooklyn Nine-Nine D.C. Parlov 2 episodes
2017 Trial & Error Howard Mankiewicz 2 episodes
Fargo Howard Zimmerman Episode: "The Law of Non-Contradiction"
2017–18 Adventure Time Gumbald Voice; 7 episodes
2018 Life in Pieces Dr. Dave Collins Episode: "Parents Ancestry Coupon Chaperone"
Please Understand Me Dr. Rick Episode: "Dr. Rick"
2018–20 Superstore Richard Simms 2 episodes
2019 Black Monday Not Michael Milken #2 Episode: "Not the Predator's Ball"
Room 104 Narrator Voice; Episode: "Drywall Guys"
The Morning Show Neal Altman 2 episodes
Summer Camp Island Monk Receptionist
Additional voices
Voice; Episode: "Radio Silence"
2020 Medical Police Dr. Richard Waters 6 episodes
Viral Vignettes Neal 2 episodes
2021 WandaVision Todd Davis / "Arthur Hart" 2 episodes
F Is for Family Dr. Erwin Goldman Voice; 4 episodes
The Harper House Roderick Shipdown Unknown episodes
The Boss Baby: Back in Business Russ Tisdale 4 episodes

Theatre[edit]

Year Title Role Playwright Venue
1981–83 Amadeus Priest
Count Orsini-Rosenberg
Peter Shaffer Broadhurst Theatre, Broadway
2011 Relatively Speaking Father
Funeral Director
Woody Allen
Elaine May
Ethan Coen
Brooks Atkinson Theatre, Broadway
2012 Uncle Vanya Vanya Anton Chekhov John Drew Theatre at Guild Hall

Video games[edit]

Year Title Voice role Notes
1998–2003 NCAA Football series Announcer
1999 The Multipath Adventures of Superman Lex Luthor
2004 Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas Cris Formage
2013 Grand Theft Auto V Cris Formage
2013 Grand Theft Auto Online Cris Formage
2014 Diablo III: Reaper of Souls Male Atarias
2018 Adventure Time: Pirates of the Enchiridion Gumbald
2019 Fallout 76 Senator Joel Chambers, Red Nuclear Winter DLC

Awards and nominations[edit]

Year Award Category Nominated work Result Ref.
2009 Village Voice Film Poll Best Supporting Actor A Serious Man Nominated
Gotham Awards Best Ensemble Performance Nominated
Boston Society of Film Critics Best Ensemble Cast Nominated
2010 Independent Spirit Awards Robert Altman Award Won

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c Elgot, Jessica (2009-11-16). "A Serious Man's Fred Melamed: Fred Melamed talks about working with two Jewish powerhouses, the Coens and Woody Allen". The JC. Unlike the Coens, I was raised by non-believers who found most of Judaism either incomprehensible or off-putting. They had a certain nostalgia for family holidays, but we never went to temple except to attend the bar mitzvah of a cousin, and when I was asked if I wanted to attend Hebrew School, I said no, and thus had no religious training.
  2. ^ Feinberg, Scott (March 29, 2010). "2009 Unsung hero: Fred Melamed (aka Sy Ableman)". Archived from the original on 2016-06-22. Retrieved 2019-03-31.
  3. ^ "SYMA MELAMED Obituary". The New York Times. Retrieved 2019-03-31.
  4. ^ Gross, Terry (2013-08-08). "In 'A World,' All Voice-Overs Are Not Created Equal". Fresh Air. WHYY Radio. Retrieved 2019-03-31.
  5. ^ Harvey, Dennis (12 July 2019). "Film Review: 'Lying and Stealing'". Variety.

External links[edit]