It takes a driven and pragmatic person to be a character actor. They are a special breed. They don’t get the big paychecks or large trailers. They don’t get top billing. They are often referred to as “that guy” or “the mom from that one movie.” Sometimes, they don’t get remembered at all for the great supporting work they have done.
If you grew up a child of the 80s, you knew Mary Ellen Trainor. You might not know her by name , but when you saw her on screen you said, “Oh yeah, her!” It was announced yesterday that Trainor had passed away on May 20th after a courageous battle with pancreatic cancer. She was 62.
My mom is also 62. So maybe that’s why she has a special place in my heart. She hit it “big” during my formative years playing moms in movies that helped shape who I am today. I remember first seeing her as Mikey and Brand’s mother in the 1985 classic “The Goonies.” She also played Sean’s mom in the 1987 horror comedy “Monster Squad.” Commercially, she might be best known for her role as Stephanie Woods, the police psychiatrist, who does her best to “mother” Mel Gibson’s Riggs throughout all four Lethal Weapon films.
She also had small roles in “Romancing The Stone” “Die Hard” “Scrooged” and “Lil Giants” as well as working in television in the 90s on “Relativity” and “Roswell”. She was even the title characters mom on “Parker Lewis Can’t Lose.”
Just last week, I was flipping through the premium cable channels and landed on “Kuffs” the 1992 comedy starring Christian Slater and Tony Goldwyn. I kept it on for a few minutes, having not yet decided if I was going to invest my time in revisiting this forgettable flick. And just when I was ready to change the channel, Trainor showed up. I ended up watching the rest of the movie.
Character actors are the backbone of the TV and movie business. The good ones bring just as much cache to a project as the A list star, usually with just a lot less fan fare. Whenever I saw Trainor on screen, I knew I could trust that her performance would be earnest and honest.