The Zeljko Ivanek Hall of Fame: Jim Beaver

13 Mar

Jim Beaver

(The Zeljko Ivanek Hall of Fame is where we turn the spotlight on a television actor or actress, and it is named after their patron saint, Zeljko Ivanek)

Today we’re celebrating the television work of Jim Beaver, a character actor who has only become more prolific with age, first acting in the late ’70s, working more frequently in the late ’80s, and whose biggest roles have come largely in the last 10 years.

Beaver’s first work came in the late ’70s, appearing in tiny roles in TV movies Desperado and something called Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders starring Jane Seymour, as well as an uncredited appearance as “diner” in an episode of Dallas.  After another uncredited appearance in a TV movie called Girls of the White Orchard as “pedestrian,” he next appeared in a Jake and the Fatman episode in 1987.  He spent the end of the ’80s and 1990 making individual appearances in Matlock, Guns of Paradise, CBS Summer Playhouse, The Young Riders, Father Dowling Mysteries, and Midnight Caller, and TV movies Perry Mason: The Case of the Lady in the Lake, Mothers, Daughters, and Lovers (that’s one title), Follow Your Heart, El Diablo, The Court Martial of Jackie Robinson (featuring a young Andre Braugher as Jackie Robinson), and Gunsmoke: To The Last Man.

He got his first multi-episode role on soap Santa Barbara as the wonderfully named character, “Andy the Rapist.”  He got his biggest role yet in two season odd couple cop drama Reasonable Doubts, which starred Marlee Matlin as a civil liberties-friendly District Attorney and Mark Harmon as an old-school cop.  Beaver appeared as Harmon’s friend and partner Detective Earl Gaddis in 14 episodes.  He showed up in another Gunsmoke movie, an episode of Lois & Clark: The New Adventures of Superman, and TV movie Children of the Dark before appearing again as a regular in two season ABC sitcom Thunder Alley.  Thunder Alley starred Ed Asner as a retired race car driver, and included in the cast a young Haley Joel Osment.  Beaver played Asner’s mentally challenged mechanic, Leland DuParte.

Beaver danced around TV for the rest of the ’90s, appearing in single episodes of Home Improvement, High Incident, Bone Chillers, NYPD Blue, Moloney, Murder One, Spy Game, Total Security, The Adventures of A.R.K. (I have no idea what some of these are), Melrose Place, Pensacola: Wings of Gold, The X-Files, and TV movies Divided by Hate and Mr. Murder (starring the great Stephen Baldwin).  He also appears as bar owner Happy Doug in seven episodes of 3rd Rock from the Sun and in four episodes of long-running soap The Young and the Restless.

He recurred in one season David Krumholtz and Jon Cryer starrer The Trouble with Normal in 2000.  From 1996-2004, he appeared in 26 episodes of soap Days of Our Lives as Father Tim Jansen, the local pastor.  Next, there was more journeying around the world of TV appearing in single episodes of That ’70s Show, The Division, Star Trek: Enterprise, The West Wing, Philly, Andy Richter Controls the Universe, Six Feet Under, Tremors, The Lyon’s Den (Rob Lowe’s ill-fated post The West Wing show), Monk, and Crossing Jordan.

Whitney Ellsworth

Beaver landed the biggest role of his career in 2004, as he was cast in David Milch’s Western masterpiece Deadwood as grizzled prospector Whitney Ellsworth.  Ellsworth was the rare truly honest man in Deadwood, and unlike a couple of the other honest characters, was liked by just about everyone in town.  He’s initially trusted to manage Alma Garrett’s gold claim, and works hard to manage her successful gold operation, fighting off various concerns who want to buy it.

Episodes of The Unit and CSI: Crime Scene Investigation were next, followed by the start of his second biggest role, appearing as a heavily recurring character in Supernatural.  At 54 appearances over the course of Supernatural’s nine seasons, Beaver has shown up in more episodes of the show than anyone except the two leads, Jared Padalecki and Jensen Ackles.  He plays Bobby Singer, a blue collar demon hunter and old family friend of main characters Sam and Dean’s family.  Over the course of the show, Singer shows the boys countless tricks of the trade for dealing with the supernatural, and becomes a father figure to Sam and Dean.

Beaver was busy elsewhere while appearing on Supernatural.  He was in five episodes of the one season Taye Diggs led Daybreak, and in eight of one season David Milch far out HBO drama John From Cincinnati as Vietnam Joe, a pot grower who helps Mexican illegals cross the US border.  He was in three episodes of Big Love and one of Criminal Minds.  He was a main cast member in 2008-09 CBS 13 episode horror/thriller murder mystery miniseries Harper’s Island, playing the sheriff of the titular island, Charlie Mills.  The gimmick of the series, which sounds kind of zany and possibly worth further investigation, is that at least one character, and as many as five, are killed every episode.

Shelby Parlow

Next were single episodes of Psych, Law & Order: LA, The Mentalist, Lie to Me, and Love Bites.  Then, he appeared in two episodes of Breaking Bad, as gun dealer Lawson, selling Walter White guns in episodes Thirty-Eight Snub and fifth season premiere Live Free or Die.  He was in an episode of Dexter’s most recent seventh season, playing Dexter love interest Hannah McKay’s lousy dad, Clint.  He’s also played an important recurring role in Justified as now Harlan County Sheriff Shelby Parlow, appearing in almost every episode this season.  Keep up the good work, Jim Beaver.

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