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More flashbacks may mean a brighter future for young actors

Bill Heck as young Dan Chase in "The Old Man."Prashant Gupta/FX

Casting directors must be mighty busy these days.

Why? Because the flashback has become an increasingly popular TV storytelling trope, and that means battalions of young actors have to be found who can convincingly play youthful versions of the older ones.

It’s a tricky challenge for a young performer to approximate not just the look but the mannerisms, vocal inflections, and general demeanor of well-known actors.

Flashback scenes can provide crucial bits of information that help flesh out a story line or a character, and can even sometimes explain the psychological underpinning of their behavior.

Take a recent episode of “Better Call Saul,” in which we saw a very young Kim Wexler, played by Katie Beth Hall with the controlled composure of the adult Kim, being trained in the art of deceit by her mother after being caught shoplifting jewelry. Does that partly explain why Kim (Rhea Seehorn, and what a season she is having, by the way) would later be so attracted to life with a scam artist like Jimmy McGill (Bob Odenkirk)?

On a recent “Only Murders in the Building,” we saw flashback scenes of a very young Mabel Mora, played by Caroline Valencia, with her father (Mark Consuelos). Their shared love of puzzles, their closeness, their camaraderie, and then the loss that no one prepared her for: Does her unresolved grief partly explain the adult Mabel’s (Selena Gomez) guarded demeanor and aura of sadness, and perhaps even the curious holes in her memory?


As the younger, rugged version of Dan Chase, a former CIA operative now on the run in “The Old Man” and played by Jeff Bridges, Bill Heck does not try to mimic Bridges but is quite plausible in the derring-do department. Hiam Abbass plays the older Dan’s deceased wife, seen by him in visions, and Leem Lubany brings a similar sense of measured equilibrium to her portrayal of the younger Abbey.


Of course, few series in TV history have ever relied more heavily on flashbacks than the just-concluded “This Is Us.’’ Teen, pre-teen, or child actors were always cropping up to play younger versions of the “Big Three” Pearsons — Randall, Kate, and Kevin — in family scenes set back when dad Jack was still alive.

I was particularly impressed by Hannah Zeile’s soulful, inward performance as teenage Kate. I’m betting Zeile has a bright career in front of her. So, surely, do some of the other young actors all over TV whose experience taking characters back to the past will lay a solid foundation for their own futures.

Leem Lubany as young Abbey in "The Old Man."Raymond Liu/FX

Don Aucoin can be reached at donald.aucoin@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @GlobeAucoin.