The Zeljko Ivanek Hall of Fame

3 Aug

Mr. Zeljko Ivanek himself

This feature is dedicated to honoring the great TV actors. Some of them will be “that guys” , actors you see in an episode of Law & Order or your favorite show, and you can’t put a finger on what his or her name is, but you know you’ve seen them all over the place.  Some of them may be a bit bigger, because, after all, I want to offer equal opportunity.   Whoever I choose, though, their patron saint will be the great television actor Zeljko Ivanek, after whom this feature is named.

It would be a stretch to say that Zeljko Ivanek, a 53-year old actor from Slovenia, appeared in all of the most culturally relevant television dramas of the past ten years, but not much of one.  He got his television career underway in the 1980s, appearing in single episodes of St. Elsewhere and L.A. Law, but his TV career really took off with his recurring role as prosecuting attorney Ed Danvers in Homicide: Life on the Street in the mid-’90s.  During his time on Homicide, he guested in a season one episode of X-Files as Roland (the title of the episode as well), a seemingly mentally disabled janitor accused of killing scientists who work at the lab he cleans.  While the episode is not necessarily regarded as a classic, his performance is unsurprisingly well regarded.  He played some roles in films, and while, for an actor with less work I would spend some time discussing these films, if I didn’t edit Zeljko’s career I could go on forever.  He appeared in single episodes of Frasier, Murder She Wrote, Chicago Hope and Millennium in the second half of the ’90s.  He next worked with Homicide creator Tom Fontana on Oz, as the evil (well, Republican, so close enough) governor who appears in several episodes of the show over the years, wanting to dispense tough justice, death penalties, and possibly consider Warden Ernie Hudson for Lieutenant Governor (the warden of a jail as second in command of a state?  Yeah, I didn’t think it seemed plausible either).  During his time on Oz, he played astronaut Ken Mattingly (portrayed by Gary Sinise in Apollo 13) in the Tom Hanks and Ron Howard produced HBO miniseries From the Earth to the Moon.

He was just getting warmed up.  He appared in Law & Order as his Homicide character, and also appeared in two other episodes 11 years apart (one in a Jim McGreevey take off as a contractor who had a gay affair with the governor of Connecticut) and a Law & Order SVU, as well as an ER, and an episode of the short-lived Dennis Leary show The Job.  He was still just getting warmed up.  He appeared in a recurring role in the first season of 24 as Andre Drazen,  the smarter of two brothers who are both sons of main season 1 villain Dennis Hopper, who Drazen and his brother manage to spring from a top security prison.  He appeared in two season 5 West Wing episodes as a staffer for temporary president Speaker of the House John Goodman.  After a CSI, an NYPD Blue (late in the series’ run) and a couple episodes of the two season James Woods show Shark, he appeared in Lost, as Juliet’s jerk of a boss who mysteriously gets run over by a bus.  He played founding father John Dickinson in HBO’s John Adams miniseries and a gun-wielding sick man who takes the ward hostage in a 2008 House episode.

Now, the offers started pouring in.  In Big Love, he plays a domineering ex-husband of Chloe Sevigny’s Nicki. In Heroes, he portrayed an evil hunter of, well, heroes for about half a season before dying.    In True Blood, he played a kind of evil Magister, a judge  amongst vampires, before dying.  In Damages, he won an Emmy for playing a bad, but not really evil, lawyer for Ted Danson’s character, before dying, by shooting himself in the head in front of Glenn Close.  He most recently starred in The Event as a surprisingly, to everyone, non-evil, presidential adviser.

This is in addition to enough work on Broadway to receive three Tony nominations (even though I haven’t been to a Broadway show in several years, I had the pleasure of seeing him in a revival of The Caine Mutiny Court Trial, for which he was nominated for a lead performance).

Sadly, with The Event’s cancellation, he is temporarily without a home.  But, not for long, I have confidence – for wherever, there is television, there will be Zejlko Ivanek.

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11 Responses to “The Zeljko Ivanek Hall of Fame”

  1. vm August 5, 2011 at 4:34 pm #

    Fantastic Actor!

  2. E-Money August 5, 2011 at 4:48 pm #

    Can we have a poll for our favorite Big Z roles? I’m going to go with the Governor from Oz.

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

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  3. The Zeljko Ivanek Hall of Fame: Paula Marshall « Television, the Drug of the Nation - August 31, 2011

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  8. Fall 2012 Previews and Predictions: Fox « Television, the Drug of the Nation - September 19, 2012

    […] My Boys’ own Jordana Spiro is a doctor with old famiy mob connections.  Somehow or other she gets pulled into managing some combination of regular doctoring and doctoring for the mob, and well, I’m not really sure.  I guess it was only a matter of time before we figured out a way to merge doctor show and gangster show.  I’m glad we did in theory, but probably not in practice.  It also co-stars fantastic that guy William Forsythe (He already has gangster experience as Manny Horvitz on Boardwalk Empire), former Dillon High QB Zach Gilford, and my all-time favorite TV recurring character actor Zeljko Ivanek. […]

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