If you've been listening to me at all in March, was there any doubt who this month's member of People Who Are Awesome was going to be?

I know that I've already used a lot of superlatives to heap praise on The Chicago Code star Jason Clarke, but when he's vaulted himself from "that guy I ran into once" to one of my favorite actors of all time, I have to recognize that. After all, that in and of itself is fairly awesome.

Let me get the shallow part out of the way first. He's good-looking, and I can personally attest that this is not one of those cases where the camera flatters. He has that whole "tall, dark and handsome" thing going on. Not to mention the physical size that made me look elfin standing next to him. I'm not sure I came up to his shoulder. It's no surprise why he's so intimidating on screen. And with that Australian accent, I'd listen to him read the phone book.

But being awesome has nothing to do with being eye candy. Far from it, in fact. The reason why I'm taking even more column space than I already have to talk about Jason Clarke is because I'm still picking my jaw up off the floor from watching him act. That is not an exaggeration. Over the last two months, I have caught myself with my mouth hanging open, staring at my television screen, thinking "Why did it take me so long to notice this guy?" The question actually comes with a dose of remorse.

I talked about some of the many things I love about Clarke's performance as Detective Jarek Wysocki in my column devoted to The Chicago Code last week, so I won't repeat myself here. I will say that since that feature was written, I'm still finding things to add to that list. For example, the show's most recent episode, "Black Hand and the Shotgun Man," saw him stun me speechless yet again. It dragged up the one part of the series I don't like - Jarek's affair with his ex-wife while engaged to another woman. Yet by episode's end, I went from wanting to hit him in the face for it to wanting to hug him as I watched him struggle with the ramifications. That's not because of the writing, either. While I love the Chicago Code writers, my change of heart was entirely motivated by Clarke's performance, which ripped my heart out by episode's end.

Needless to say, I wasted no time checking out his other projects. I've spent the last week and a half marathoning all three seasons of Showtime's Brotherhood, in which Clarke played ambitious Rhode Island politician Tommy Caffee. Once I got started, I couldn't put the discs down. Brotherhood is a fantastic show that ended too soon, and Clarke's performance is phenomenal. I know an actor is good when they can provoke a reaction out of me, and no one's ever compelled emotional reactions out of me so consistently as Clarke did in that show. I cried, I cursed, I threw the remote once, I cried some more, and then I railed against it being over, because I'd become so attached to Tommy and his family that I didn't want to let go. Shows like Brotherhood are what I live for: television that isn't just entertainment, but that touches us personally. I would never have taken that journey if it wasn't for Jason Clarke.

I'm not alone in those sentiments. Several of my friends are fans of The Chicago Code, and Clarke's performances are usually the first thing that we discuss every Monday night after the credits roll. A few of them have mentioned to me that they tuned in specifically because of him, having watched him in Brotherhood and subsequently following his career.

I'm definitely a fan now. I know that because I've reached that point where I'm interested in all of his performances, regardless of how sizeable they are or what the material is. I sat through all of Death Race on FX this week just to see him do little more than stand next to Joan Allen and look menacing. I just wanted to watch him work. There's a small group of actors that I'd sit through anything for, and in a very short time, Clarke has become one of those.

Here's an actor that I already aspire to work with, although I'd be thrilled enough just to hear what he has to say. I have not yet had the pleasure of talking with him, unless you count that we briefly met in a hallway two months ago. At the time, I just thought it was neat that I'd run into one of the actors on a show I was going to be covering; I had no idea who he was. As you can expect, I've looked back on that moment a few times since then. I deeply regret that I didn't take the time to properly converse with him, not knowing that he'd become one of my all-time favorite actors. I can't help but feel a bit ridiculous.

But if anything, my egregious oversight proves one thing: this man's something special. I couldn't even name him before January, and now I couldn't imagine anyone else leading The Chicago Code. Jason Clarke is most definitely awesome.

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