*Warning: This article contains spoilers for Eric.*


There's absolutely no denying that Benedict Cumberbatch delivers one of his best performances to date in Netflix's Eric, let's get that out of the way first.

The Sherlock and Marvel star comes into his own portraying the pained and complicated Vincent, as well as expertly voicing the role of Eric.

A major name like that, an Academy Award winner no less, will of course draw in viewers - and rightfully so. But I'm here to tell you that, while you may be tuning in for Cumberbatch, there's another actor in Eric that steals the show in more ways than one.

Starring as one of the series's main characters, Detective Michael Ledroit, McKinley Belcher III delivers such a stellar performance as the determined NYPD officer that he surely deserves much of the praise that will continue to be heaped on the new programme.

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At first, Belcher's Ledroit is a bit of an enigma.

He's quiet, keeps himself to himself, visits The Lux pretty much every evening for no apparent reason, and starts asking one too many questions - to his boss's frustration.

Quickly, though, you realise that in the midst of a work environment that is plagued by corruption, homophobia, racism and brushing things under the carpet for the right people, Ledroit is a bit of a shining beacon of light in this bleak thriller.

You understand that Ledroit is quiet out of necessity, wanting to conceal his private life and the fact that he lives happily at home with his partner, William, who he cares for and who is sadly dying of AIDS.

We see in the series that it's already one thing to be respected within the NYPD as a Black man, but to also quell the anger within himself at the incessant othering he has to experience requires Ledroit to ignore his own identity in order to do his job to the best of his abilities.

McKinley Belcher III as Detective Ledroit in Eric standing in the middle of a dimly lit nightclub, surrounded by neon lights.
McKinley Belcher III as Detective Ledroit in Eric. Netflix

Belcher may be an unfamiliar face for many, if you've never tuned into a little-known Netflix series called Ozark. There, he played Agent Trevor Evans, who was the ex-boyfriend of complicated antagonist Roy Petty (Jason Butler Harner).

In that series, too, Belcher portrayed a moral compass of a character, and was trying to nail Marty (Jason Bateman).

While Belcher is no stranger to portraying a member of law enforcement, in Eric, his character is so much more than his job role.

Really, he's the only character that we can trust wholeheartedly. Where Vincent's own story comes into suspicion and Cassie herself has been holding onto secrets, Ledroit may be holding onto his own - but they're none that the viewer doesn't already know about.

There would, of course, be no Ledroit without Belcher's considered and thoughtful performance, which really comes into its own in the later episodes of the series. A performance highlight is when, even in the midst of grieving over the death of William, Ledroit is then delivered another blow by William's sister, who insists he has to move out of their shared apartment.

Although we initially think that she seems to love Ledroit as family, she shows her true colours and reveals that she thinks Ledroit is the person who transmitted the HIV virus to William. He wasn't, and has to defend himself at his loved one's own wake - but is ignored in doing so.

He then has to go into work, not being able to tell anyone and having to keep his cool when such casual homophobic slurs are bandied about the office.

McKinley Belcher III plays Agent Trevor Evans in Ozark wearing a dark suit looking serious
McKinley Belcher III as Agent Trevor Evans in Ozark.

Throughout, we see this composed character faced with all manners of horrors, but he breaks down in tears in the finale, faced with the reality of an empty apartment, the truth of what happened to Marlon and knowing his peers covered it all up.

That moment of emotional release is one of the standouts in that finale, which is saying something considering it's packed full of performance gems.

But as Ledroit sits down in his living room, now overrun with boxes, he's alone to process all that has gone on, and his own emotional response represents the weight of that episode in particular.

He could be crying as he's processing Cecile's (Adepero Oduye) poignant speech, he could be grieving his partner, he could be fearful for his own career future. You feel desperately sorry for him, and while there's a lot to be sad about in that finale, his unexpected breakdown represents just that.

In the plotline of Eric, Ledroit could have easily been written as the side police character that flits in and out, much like a pest to the central characters. But actually, Ledroit is a welcome focal point of the series.

He's not pushed to the sides in favour of Vincent, Edgar or Cassie's narratives, but brings such a fullness with his own story, that it could almost be a spin-off series in its own right.

The underlying historical queer narrative that Ledroit brings into the series is an important one, especially given the context of the '80s AIDS crisis and how there was a lot of fear attached to stepping into his identity and his power.

In the final episodes of the show, though, Belcher comes into his own, and delivers a standout feat of acting as Ledroit goes after answers surrounding Marlon Rochelle's disappearance and ends up being the very change that he wants to see more of in the world.

You can tell when an actor brings their whole self to a role, and it's evident that Belcher embodied Ledroit with such consideration and care that, for those who have just been introduced to the actor, you'll undoubtedly be left leafing through Belcher's filmography after this captivating performance.

Eric is available to stream on Netflix now. Sign up for Netflix from £4.99 a month. Netflix is also available on Sky Glass and Virgin Media Stream.


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