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Hit Man: Why Jasper Looks So Familiar

Netflix's "Hit Man" has lived up to its name as a hit, seeing much success on the streaming platform after its premiere on June 7. Richard Linklater's action comedy stars Glen Powell as Gary Johnson, a New Orleans professor who ends up posing as a hit man to help police investigations and becomes romantically involved with a prospective client, Madison (Adria Arjona). Apart from the obvious complications that come from a relationship between a man who's posing as a killer using a fake identity and a woman who's soliciting an assassination, Gary's police support team isn't particularly happy about the situation, either.

The most prominent police officer in the movie is the corrupt Jasper, who has Gary's undercover job before he gets suspended and becomes a constant thorn in the protagonist's side after he returns. The intense Jasper is the closest thing the movie has to an antagonist, and he's an instrumental part of the ending of "Hit Man." The character's very specific vibe meant that Powell and Linklater had only one person in mind for the role: Austin Amelio. 

Fortunately for them, the actor was intrigued by the role's potential. "Even though Jasper is sort of the bad guy, you've always got to find something, a point of view, that will back up the character and justify why he's doing what he's doing," Amelio told Netflix's Tudum website. "You could feel his anger and he was erratic, and the unpredictability of him had me turned on." 

It's no coincidence that the makers of "Hit Man" homed in on Amelio for the role. After all, he's proven himself a very capable portrayer of complicated characters over the years. Let's take a look at some movies and shows you might know him from. 

Everybody Wants Some!! (2016)

When a filmmaker only has eyes for one actor when it comes to a certain role, it implies that they're already familiar with said actor's work. Such is the case with Austin Amelio, who became familiar with Richard Linklater and Glen Powell while filming Linklater's 2016 comedy "Everybody Wants Some!!" Critics loved the 1980s-themed college comedy that featured both Powell (as Finnegan) and Amelio (as Nesbit) in supporting roles — and Linklater and Powell were highly impressed by what Amelio brought to the table with his performance, which directly led to them casting him in "Hit Man."  

"As Rick and I were writing, there was no one we ever talked about or considered for the role of Jasper other than Austin Amelio," Powell told Tudum. "We wrote this character for him. We had both worked with him on 'Everybody Wants Some!!' and he's just one of those special actors who are fun to watch thinking and scheming. This character is very tough to play, but he makes it look so effortless."

The Walking Dead (2015-2018)

Speaking of complex, conspiracy-minded characters, fans of AMC's "The Walking Dead" franchise are no doubt very familiar with Austin Amelio — and have grown accustomed to both liking and hating his character. Amelio's Dwight enters "The Walking Dead" Season 6 as a complicated, backstabbing villain who runs with Negan's (Jeffrey Dean Morgan) Saviors. However, it's soon obvious that he's a far deeper individual than one might initially assume, and indeed, he eventually crosses over to team Rick Grimes (Andrew Lincoln), spying and sabotaging Negan's forces from within.

Dwight's extensive burn scars required Amelio to spend two hours in the makeup chair every day before filming, and in an interview with Thrasher, he revealed that he was largely unaware of the show and its vast success before landing the role of Dwight after "Everybody Wants Some!!" However, by the time a particularly big plot twist — a scene where he brutally betrays Daryl (Norman Reedus) — came, he knew more than enough to correctly anticipate a major fan backlash.

"There haven't necessarily been weird interactions on set, but I remember at some point I shot the main character of the show on 'The Walking Dead' – Daryl, played by Norman Reedus," Amelio said. "When I read in the script that I was going to be shooting him, I was like, 'Oh, man, I'm gonna be f***ing hated after this episode.' And so I'd go do these conventions and people would just walk by and give me the middle finger and yell, 'F**** you!'"

Fear the Walking Dead (2019-2023)

Daryl ultimately gets the better of Dwight by effectively kicking the character out of "The Walking Dead," but as fans of "Fear the Walking Dead" know, that's not the last we see of the former Savior. Lovelorn, desperate, and on a seemingly impossible quest to find Sherry (Christine Evangelista), Dwight returns to the fold during Season 5 of "Fear the Walking Dead" and soon establishes himself as an instrumental part of the spin-off show. 

While the show doesn't downplay the danger a desperate Dwight poses to others, it also doesn't hesitate to elevate him to full protagonist status and offer him a chance at redemption. In fact, "Fear the Walking Dead" even handles Sherry and Dwight in a way that gives them a shot at a real family life. Fans found Dwight to be a surprisingly sympathetic "The Walking Dead" villain, and this chance to explore the various benevolent sides of the character at more depth fascinated Austin Amelio. 

"Even on 'The Walking Dead,' Dwight was already on this path," Amelio told Tripwire Magazine. "He wanted to get rid of Negan and put some good back in the world. To come across people who are actually doing it is enticing to him. Along with finding Sherry, one of his main objectives was getting rid of evil and making the world a better place. Now, he's with a group of people who are so gung-ho about it. It's something that he wants to grab onto — and he can."

Austin Amelio's other roles

Austin Amelio has spent much of his screen acting career in the "Walking Dead" universe and is an avid skateboarder and artist outside acting. As such, he hasn't accumulated quite as many high-profile roles as you might expect from a guy who's praised by people of Richard Linklater's caliber and whose first screen credits are from 2010. Still, there are a fair number of works that haven't been mentioned above where you can check out Amelio's talents. 

Apart from a number of short films, Amelio played Frankie in "The Free World," a 2016 romantic drama starring Boyd Holbrook and Elizabeth Moss. In 2017, he starred as Billy in Dino Maglaris' misfit adventure film "Cabin Crew" and also had a small role as one of BV's (Ryan Gosling) brothers in Terrence Malick's star-studded musical drama "Song to Song." 

You may also have seen him in the 2019 Netflix horror movie "Mercy Black," the award-winning 2020 Nicole Riegel indie drama "Holler," and the acclaimed 2021 drama "No Future," in which he appears opposite Catherine Keener, "Stranger Things" star Charlie Heaton, Rosa Salazar, and Jackie Earle Haley.