No more "House of Lies": Some words on the show's progressive aspects and What Are All These Great Actors Going To Do Now?

Sad cancellation news abound! We’ve already posted about The Muppets, Agent Carter and other shows being cancelled—now House of Lies can be added to the list. House of Lies is perhaps not a geeky show, but it lands in our sphere of interest thanks to a) and excellent cast—and I do mean excellent, and b) the way it weaves issues of gender, sexuality, race and good ‘ole bigotry into its storylines of Machiavellian power play and personal drama.  

As previously noted, it’s always been a show about bad people, but it hasn’t resorted to the idea that is so prevalent in some pop culture that “This isn’t about race or gender—everyone’s an asshole!” Marty is a grade A asshole, but when he’s subjected to racial profiling and beaten up by the police, it’s still clearly an issue of racism. Jeannie is no angel either, but the sexism she faces is real.

And then there’s Marty’s son Roscoe, who’s an all around decent person, a star shining bright in an otherwise pretty dark universe. A challenger of gender norms from the first episode, Roscoe’s identity is never treated stereotypically, and the character is allowed to be both undetermined and open about it: ambiguity isn’t mistaken for confusion or denial. The show also resists simplicity in its depiction of Roscoe’s relationship with Marty, whose initial lack of understanding and support changes as he learns from his son, but most of all: as the parental protection instinct and desire to see his son happy kicks in. “Don’t fucking mess with my kid” is a very healthy reaction to your child being discriminated against, and it suits the character in a way that vague notions of tolerance and Disney-fied morality would not. 

The way Marty changes his attitude, while remaining the same person at the core (no miraculous personality change there) is the kind of nuanced story that parents who aren’t already enlightened—or who don't have a high enough emotional quotient to be good to their children when they don’t fit the cis- and hetero-normative mold—might benefit from. It shows that you don’t have to be either a saint or a genius to be there for your kid—just willing to challenge your preconceived notions and evolve.

Unfortunately, the show itself didn’t evolve as much and the cancellation isn’t a huge surprise (not to me, at least). There’s only so much you can do with characters that are all hell-bent on manipulating their way to the top in a very specific, confined setting (the world of management consultants), and House of Lies didn’t quite seem willing to tap the full potential even of that limited world, opting instead to put the characters back in similar positions again and again. Still, it has moments of greatness - and did I mention the amazing cast? One positive effect of the cancellation is that it frees up all of those great actors for other projects. So to finish on a positive note, let’s see what some of them are up to, and speculate about the rest!

Kristen Bell will continue to play a Bad Person™, though her new show sounds less depressing. She’s starring in The Good Place as a woman who dies and, being mistaken for a much better person than herself, goes to heaven (the “good place” of the title). It’s basically a sitcom/comedy of errors/black comedy/fantasy show about the afterlife. If I can get over my disappointment that this is not a Dead Like Me revival, I think I will enjoy it! 

Don Cheadle doesn’t seem to have any projects coming up, except for possible super secret ones. He recently directed and starred in the Miles Davis biopic Miles Ahead, and had some (but not enough) screen time on Captain America: Civil War. Cheadle’s future in the Marvel Cinematic Universe is unknown, and when asked by Associated Press about whether he’ll be part of the coming Avengers movies, he replied “I can’t talk about it. Do you want me to walk out of this door and get bludgeoned to death by Marvel security?” Yikes. And no we don’t, so we’ll have to wait and see instead! I personally think Cheadle should follow wherever Iron Man goes, but I suppose that’s an unreasonable request. As for directing… No news there either. If you've seen Miles Ahead—do you think Cheadle has a future in directing?

Ben Schwartz was a vocal consultant for BB-8 on Star Wars: The Force Awakens which, together with his time on Parks and Recreation and the fact that he’s dating Jane Gina Rodriguez, means he can pretty much retire now. He might be a poor retiree, but he would be a happy one. Of course, money and having something to do is neat too. Schwartz is still going strong with his comedian/writer career, doing sketches, performing with the Upright Citizen's Brigade, and having his script for El Fuego Caliente (a remake of the 1991 movie Soapdish) made into a movie with Seth Rogen. And hey—he apparently voices the main character on an animated TV show called Randy Cunningham: 9th Grade Ninja! I’ve never heard of it before, but it’s Disney and it has a brilliant sounding name, so… Schwartz is doing good.

Similarly to Cheadle, Josh Lawson did double duty as director and actor on The Little Death in 2014. Since then it’s mostly been House of Lies, and two episodes of Superstore. This is probably the time for speculating, but I have to admit I’m not fascinated enough with Lawson for my imagination to start running wild. Does anyone else have an idea? Are there any characters who oscillate between being dorky, pathetic and idiotic in need of an actor to portray them? Perhaps a neurotic art dealer or an elementary school teacher with anger management issues? I’m just riffing here. 

Donis Leonard Jr. appears to have a blank schedule after House of Lies. The most recent project outside of the show is Wannabe, a short film that was nominated for best narrative short at Tribeca 2016 (but didn’t win). There’s not much to go on here, so some more spitting out of ideas is in order: Maybe Leonard will snatch a role on Gotham, since he knows one of the actors on the show? Or maybe Wannabe will be developed into a full-fledged feature film? Hang on, that last one is actually true (I’m psychic!). Yes, we can look forward to seeing more of Leonard in the full-length version of Wannabe, which is being filmed this summer. Considering the guy’s talent, I think there will be more after that. And considering my talent for making correct guesses (or divination, if you will), you should believe that too. 


Dawn Olivieri hasn’t had a big role in the 5th season of House of Lies, but she did some good (disturbing) acting before that, and I for one am curious to see what she does next. She was in a couple of episodes of Lucifer, as a Lieutenant who gives Lucifer permission to work with Chloe on her cases after sleeping with him—hopefully her next roles will be more substantial. The IMDB pages for her upcoming movies A Change of Heart and Behind the Curtain of Night doesn’t tell us much, except that neither film appears to be a future blockbuster. So instead of a picture from a current project, let's end with this GIF of Olivieri from her House of Lies glory days:

dawn olivieri.gif

Cheers to that!
Tova Crossler Ernström is a bisexual Swede, feminist, socialist, INFJ, Hufflepuff, HSP and Taurus. She is fond of personality tests, labels and lists.