For over 20 years, comedian and actor Connor Ratliff has been haunted by Tom Hanks. Not that Tom Hanks is dead – or even cruel and unjust. He just fired Ratliff from a minor role in his 2001 award-winning miniseries Band of Brothers for his “Dead Eyes.”
What else was Ratliff supposed to do when the Tom Hanks, who would be directing the episode in which his small role appeared, uncast him from what turned out to be one of the greatest cultural phenomenons of the 21st century? Now, two decades later, he has decided to mend this wound by speaking with his actor friends about rejection and show business, and also reopen the wound by talking about Tom Hanks and Band of Brothers.
You may not recognize Ratliff right away, but he’s been in plenty of shows you have heard of: he plays Chester in The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel and served as Black Cindy’s lawyer in Orange is the New Black. He has had solid work as a comedian, writer, and actor through the decades since he was written off by Hanks, but he needs to know if it was just his “Dead Eyes,” or something more.
Helping him chase this ghost is a cast just about as exemplary as the show that he was cut from that went on to win a Primetime Emmy for Outstanding Casting. We are immediately met by Zach Woods (Silicon Valley, The Office) standing on the street describing Ratliff’s appearance, right down to his more or less “Dead Eyes.” The Good Place‘s D’Arcy Carden tells Ratliff her own Tom-Hanks-cut-me-esque story (not really Hanks, but a school theater director), and encourages him to keep pushing for Hanks and get him on the podcast.
It’s an unexpectedly brilliant podcast. What could be indulgent and verging on unbearably self-absorbed is actually a genuine vehicle for humor, storytelling, self reflection and, above all, dealing with disappointment. Ratliff’s wit makes the narcissistic but undoubtedly funny premise thoughtful and surprisingly addictive. His guests are supportive and narratively relevant, creating a cohesive timeline of Ratliff’s life.
Ratliff works through his early theater years with Jon Hamm, creates an alternate timeline with Bobby Moynihan in which he was not cut, commiserates with Seth Rogen about being cut from great projects and asks singer-songwriter Aimee Mann how she made a soundtrack that so accurately replicates his experience with the show. With the return of “Dead Eyes” for its third season, Ratliff dives deeper and deeper into the world of casting, Hanks’ projects, rejection, and more. Should the mystery of the “Dead Eyes” be let to stay a mystery? Or will Tom Hanks answer for his crimes?