A long time ago, I saw "Road Trip," which struck me as fairly average 'coming of age a bit late in the game' stuff; what stood very way out was Mr Qualls' portrayal of 'Kevin,' the sort of nebbish geeky grown-up kid who seems always the target of the bullies in whatever crowd the play (or movie or TV show) one is watching.
This character's every appearance on the screen was, to me, anyway, a marvellous example of opposites. He superbly communicated innocence, innate capability, high intelligence, genuine kindness, bedrock-strong ethical underpinnings, and a thoroughly-appropriate yet completely unassuming desire to be thought of as 'one of the guys' by each of the 'guys' with whom he was appearing.
Lo and behold: last night, while watching a "Law and Order: Criminal Intent" repeat (aired originally last Christmas), there was Mr Qualls, giving a pitch-perfect portrayal of a twenty-something computer nerd who'd apparently killed, quite violently, another person, even though anyone speaking with him would most- assuredly conclude him completely innocent.
"L&O" creator Dick Wolf has spent quite a few years perfecting the 'police procedural' format, and 'CI' specializes in the investigative aspects of what I'll call 'not so cut-and-dried' cases. As the show progresses, it becomes either 'less foggy' or 'somewhat more clear' (depending upon the viewers' choice) that there is considerably more to the circumstances of this character ('Robbie') than immediately meets the eye. He's experienced some mental difficulties, for which he obtained therapy from a well-known shrink.
Mr Qualls' portrayal of Robbie is, to me, far more than a mere 'character study:' he becomes that person, in pretty much every aspect. Things he says that relate to what writers might call the character's back-story emerge as Robbie explaining aspects of his personal history, as seen through his personal perspective.
His appearance on this program is, in my humble opinion, represents the finding one of the seemingly-all-too-rare 'gems of great value' in the world of episodic television, and I was very glad to've experienced it. He employs and develops his considerable talent honestly, enabling each actor in his scenes just as honestly to increase the quality of their own performances, to the betterment of the entire production (not to mention the increased quality of entertainment derived by the viewer).
As with that movie, what at first seems rather trite and formulaic can be seen to've been a sort of 'hidey-hole' for some really stunning and rewarding acting, that far surpasses what an interested viewer might otherwise've expected.
Only two or three times have I watched presentations wherein the inherent 'suspension of disbelief' necessary to simple enjoyment of the 'entertainment product' being viewed was so easily enacted all the way to the writing level as Mr Qualls' portrayals enable (other examples of what I'm trying to convey would include Martha Plimpton's role as the 'Mr Big' character in "Surface" and Schuyler Fisk's [Sissy Spacek's daughter] role as a serial baby-killing mother in a recent "Law & Order: SVU" episode).
The exceptional quality and integrity of his work leave me simultaneously appreciative, for having seen and enjoyed it, and anticipative, for being able to see more of it (and to do that more frequently, too).