Jim Beaver

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Jim Beaver
Jim Beaver by Gage Skidmore.jpg
Jim Beaver in July 2011
BornJames Norman Beaver, Jr.
(1950-08-12) August 12, 1950 (age 64)
Laramie, Wyoming, U.S.
Years active1972–present
Spouse(s)Debbie Young (1973–1976)
Cecily Adams (1989–2004; her death)
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Not to be confused with Jim Beavers.
Jim Beaver
Jim Beaver by Gage Skidmore.jpg
Jim Beaver in July 2011
BornJames Norman Beaver, Jr.
(1950-08-12) August 12, 1950 (age 64)
Laramie, Wyoming, U.S.
Years active1972–present
Spouse(s)Debbie Young (1973–1976)
Cecily Adams (1989–2004; her death)

James Norman "Jim" Beaver, Jr. (born August 12, 1950) is an American stage, film, and television actor, playwright, screenwriter, director, and film historian. He is most familiar to worldwide audiences as the gruff but tenderhearted prospector Whitney Ellsworth on the HBO Western drama series Deadwood, a starring role which brought him acclaim and a Screen Actors Guild Awards nomination for Ensemble Acting after three decades of supporting work in films and TV. He portrayed Bobby Singer in the CW television series Supernatural and Sheriff Shelby Parlow on the FX series Justified. His memoir Life's That Way was published in April 2009.[1]

Early life[edit]

Beaver was born in Laramie, Wyoming, the son of Dorothy Adell (née Crawford) and James Norman Beaver, Sr. (1924–2004), a minister.[2] His father was of French and English heritage (the family name was originally de Beauvoir, and Beaver is a distant cousin of author and philosopher Simone de Beauvoir and Pennsylvania governor General James A. Beaver),[3] and his mother is Scottish-German-Cherokee and a descendant of senator, governor, and three-time U.S. Attorney General John J. Crittenden.[4] Although his parents' families had both been long in Texas, Beaver was born in Laramie while his father was doing graduate work in accounting at the University of Wyoming. Returning to Texas, Beaver Sr. worked as an accountant and as a minister for the Church of Christ in Fort Worth, Texas; Crowley, Texas; Dallas, Texas; and Grapevine, Texas. For most of Jim Beaver's youth, his family lived in Irving, Texas, even while his father preached in surrounding communities. He and his three younger sisters (Denise, Reneé, and Teddlie) all attended Irving High School (where he was a classmate of ZZ Top drummer Frank Beard), but he transferred in his senior year to Fort Worth Christian Academy, from which he graduated in 1968. He also took courses at Fort Worth Christian College. Despite having appeared in some elementary-school plays, he showed no particular interest in an acting career, but immersed himself in film history and expressed a desire for a career as a writer, publishing a few short stories in his high school anthology.


Less than two months after his graduation from high school, Beaver followed several of his close friends into the United States Marine Corps. Following basic training at Marine Corps Recruit Depot San Diego, Beaver was trained there as a microwave radio relay technician. He served at the Marine Corps Base Twentynine Palms and at Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton before being transferred to the 1st Marine Division near Da Nang, South Vietnam in 1970. He served as a radio operator at an outlying detachment of the 1st Marine Regiment, then as supply chief for the division communications company. He returned to the U.S. in 1971 and was discharged as Corporal (E-4), though he remained active in the Marine Reserve until 1976.


Upon his release from active duty in 1971, he returned to Irving, Texas, and worked briefly for Frito-Lay as a corn-chip dough mixer. He entered what is now Oklahoma Christian University, where he became interested in theatre. He made his true theatrical debut in a small part in The Miracle Worker. The following year, he transferred to Central State University (now known as the University of Central Oklahoma). He performed in numerous plays in college and supported himself as a cabdriver, a movie projectionist, a tennis-club maintenance man, and an amusement-park stuntman at Frontier City. He also worked as a newscaster and hosted jazz and classical music programs on radio station KCSC. During his college days, he also began to write, completing several plays and also his first book, on actor John Garfield, while still a student. Beaver graduated with a degree in Oral Communications in 1975.[5] He briefly pursued graduate studies, but soon returned to Irving, Texas.


Jim Beaver made his professional stage debut in October 1972, while still a college student, in Rain, by W. Somerset Maugham at the Oklahoma Theatre Center in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. After returning to Texas, he did a great deal of local theatre in the Dallas area, supporting himself as a film cleaner at a 16 mm film rental firm and as a stagehand for the Dallas Ballet. He joined the Shakespeare Festival of Dallas in 1976, performing in numerous productions. In 1979, he was commissioned by Actors Theatre of Louisville to write the first of three plays for that company (Spades, Sidekick, and Semper Fi), and was twice a finalist in the theatre's national Great American Play Contest (for Once Upon a Single Bound and Verdigris). Along with plays, he continued writing for film journals and for several years was a columnist, critic, and feature writer for the National Board of Review of Motion Pictures magazine Films in Review.

Moving to New York City in 1979, Beaver worked steadily onstage in stock and on tour, simultaneously writing plays and researching a biography of actor George Reeves (a project which he still pursues between acting jobs). He appeared in starring roles in such plays as The Hasty Heart and The Rainmaker in Birmingham, Alabama and The Lark in Manchester, New Hampshire, and toured the country as Macduff in Macbeth and in The Last Meeting of the Knights of the White Magnolia. During this period, he ghostwrote the book Movie Blockbusters for critic Steven Scheuer.

In 1983, he moved to Los Angeles, California to continue research on his biography of George Reeves. He worked for a year as the film archivist for the Variety Arts Center. Following a reading of his play Verdigris, he was asked to join the prestigious Theatre West company in Hollywood, where he continues as an actor and playwright to this day. Verdigris was produced to very good reviews in 1985 and Beaver was signed by the powerful Triad Artists agency. He immediately began to work writing episodes of various television series, including Alfred Hitchcock Presents (he received a 1987 CableACE Award nomination for his very first TV script, for this show), Tour of Duty, and Vietnam War Story. He also worked occasionally in small roles in films and television.

The 1988 Writers Guild of America strike fundamentally altered the freelance television writing market, and Beaver's TV writing career came to an abrupt halt. However, a chance meeting led to his being cast as the best friend of star Bruce Willis in Norman Jewison's drama about Vietnam veterans, In Country, and his acting career suddenly took up the slack where his TV writing career had faltered. (Beaver was the only actual Vietnam veteran among the principal cast of In Country.)

Subsequently he has appeared in many popular films, including Sister Act, Sliver, Bad Girls, Adaptation., Magnolia, and The Life of David Gale. He starred in the TV series Thunder Alley as the comic sidekick to Ed Asner, and as homicide cop Earl Gaddis on Reasonable Doubts. He was also French Stewart's sullen boss Happy Doug on the sitcom 3rd Rock from the Sun.

Jim Beaver dressed as his Whitney Ellsworth character in Deadwood.

In 2002, Beaver was cast as one of the stars of the ensemble Western drama Deadwood in the role of Whitney Ellsworth, a goldminer whom he often described as "Gabby Hayes with Tourette syndrome".[6] Ellsworth went from being a filth-covered reprobate to marrying the richest woman in town and becoming a beloved and stalwart figure in the community. (Originally Ellsworth did not have a first name, but when it became necessary to provide one, Beaver requested he be named Whitney Ellsworth, after the producer of George Reeves's Adventures of Superman.) He continued his long research for the Reeves biography, and in 2005 served as the historical/biographical consultant on the theatrical feature film about Reeves's death, Hollywoodland.

Beaver in 2006 joined the cast of the HBO drama John from Cincinnati while simultaneously playing the recurring roles of Bobby Singer on Supernatural and Carter Reese on another HBO drama Big Love, appearing at least once a season on Supernatural.[7] He then took on the role of Sheriff Charlie Mills in the CBS drama Harper's Island. He has recurred as the gun dealer Lawson on Breaking Bad and played Sheriff Shelby Parlow for three seasons on FX's Justified.

Following his acclaimed work in Justified, Beaver was cast in a starring role in Guillermo del Toro's gothic ghost story feature film Crimson Peak, in a part del Toro wrote for him. He has also completed roles in the feature films The Frontier and Billy Boy.

His memoir of the year following his wife's 2003 diagnosis of lung cancer, entitled Life's That Way, was purchased in a preemptive bid by Putnam/Penguin publishers in the fall of 2007.[8] Prior to publication in April, 2009, it was chosen for the Barnes & Noble Discover Great New Writers program for 2009.[1]

His performance in The Silence of Bees won him the Best Actor Award at the 2010 New York Film and Video Festival.[9]

Beaver was nominated for Best Guest Performance in a Drama by the Broadcast Television Journalists' Association Critics' Choice Awards in 2013, for his performance as Sheriff Shelby Parlow on Justified. (He lost to Jane Fonda.) He was on many industry prediction lists for the 2013 Emmy for that performance, but was ultimately not nominated.

He wrote and directed the film Night Riders (2013), based upon his play of the same title.

In 2014, he was given the Lifetime Merit Award of the Idyllwild International Festival of Cinema.[10]

Beaver studied acting with Clyde Ventura and Academy Award-winning actor Maximilian Schell.[11]

Personal life[edit]

During college, Beaver married a fellow student, Debbie Young, in August 1973, but the couple separated four months later (though divorce did not occur until 1976). For several years after his move to California, Beaver shared a house with character actor Hank Worden, who had been a friend since Beaver's childhood. In 1989, following a four-year courtship, Beaver married actress/casting director Cecily Adams, daughter of Get Smart star Don Adams. Their daughter Madeline was born in 2001. Cecily Adams died of lung cancer March 3, 2004.[11]


1977Semi-ToughB.E.A.T. MemberUncredited
1978DesperadoNathanTV film
1978The SeniorsClientUncredited
1979WarningsThe ArtistShort film
1979Dallas Cowboys CheerleadersCowboy playerTV film
1981NighthawksSubway PassengerUncredited
1983Girls of the White OrchidPedestrianUncredited
1983SilkwoodPlant Manager
1985File 8022Ben Crysler
1987Sweet RevengeSmugglerUncredited
1987Hollywood ShufflePostal Worker
1988Two Idiots in HollywoodCrying Man
1988Perry Mason: The Case of the Lady in the LakeMotel ManagerTV film
1988Defense PlayFBI Agent
1989Mergers & AcquisitionsGabby HayesShort film
1989Turner & HoochPlant Manager
1989The CherryThe CaptainShort film
1989In CountryEarl Smith
1989Mothers, Daughters and LoversSheriff Jack EdzardTV film
1990Follow Your HeartCraig HraboyTV film
1990El DiabloSpivey Irick
1990The Court-Martial of Jackie RobinsonMaj. Trimble
1991little secretsLiquor Store CashierCredited as Richard Muldoon
1992Gunsmoke: To the Last ManDeputy Willie RuddTV film
1992Sister ActDetective Clarkson
1993SliverDetective Ira
1993Gunsmoke: The Long RideTraveling blacksmithTV film
1993Geronimo: An American LegendProclamation officer
1994Blue ChipsRicky's Father
1994Children of the DarkRoddy GibbonsDeliberately uncredited
1994Bad GirlsPinkerton Detective Graves
1997WoundedAgent Eric Ashton
1997Divided by HateDanny LelandTV film
1998At Sachem FarmForeman
1998Mr. MurderAgent Jason ReilingTV film
1999ImpalaSheriff Bert DavisShort film
1999Ah! SilenciosaAmbrose BierceShort film
1999MagnoliaSmiling Peanut Patron #1
2000FraudDetective MasonShort film
2000Where the Heart IsClawhammerScenes deleted
2001Warden of Red RockJefferson BentTV film
2001Joy RideSheriff Ritter
2002WheelmenAgent Hammond
2002Adaptation.Ranger Tony
2003The Life of David GaleDuke Grover
2003Wave BabesAmos Nandy
2003The CommissionHoward L. Brennan
2007CootiesThe ManShort film
2008ReflectionsFrankShort film
2008The Silence of BeesParker LamShort film
2009Dark and Stormy NightJack Tugdon
2011The Legend of Hell's Gate: An American ConspiracyJ. Wright Mooar
2013Night RidersShort film; writer, director, executive producer
2015Crimson PeakCarter CushingPost Production
1978–1979DallasDiner/Julie's Gardener2 episodes
1986Divorce CourtWrench McCoy
1987Jake and the FatmanDefense AttorneyEpisode: "Fatal Attraction"
1988MatlockBarney SutlerEpisode: "The Umpire"
1988ParadiseFrank FosterEpisode: "The Holstered Gun"
1989CBS Summer PlayhouseWrong House NeighborEpisode: "Elysian Fields"
1989The Young RidersJohnsonEpisode: "The Kid"
1990Midnight CallerTom BarlowEpisode: "Ryder on the Storm"
1990Nasty BoysWetstoneEpisode: "Desert Run"
1990Father Dowling MysteriesDrakeEpisode: "The Murder Weekend Mystery"
1991–1993Santa BarbaraAndy the Rapist/Motel man5 episodes
1991–1993Reasonable DoubtsDetective Earl Gaddis13 episodes
1993Lois & Clark: The New Adventures of SupermanHenry BarnesEpisode: "I'm Looking Through You"
1993Thunder AlleyLeland DuParte28 episodes
1995Home ImprovementDuke MillerEpisode: "Doctor in the House"
1995Unsolved MysteriesHimselfEpisode: "Who Killed Superman?"
1996High IncidentFather in WreckEpisode: "Women & Children First"
1996–1997Murder OneDonald Cleary2 episodes
1996Bone ChillersEdgar Allan PoeEpisode: "Edgar Allan Poe-Session"
1996–2004Days of Our LivesFather Timothy Jansen26 episodes
1997NYPD BlueTruck Driver / Jesus ChristEpisode: "Taillight's Last Gleaming"
1997MoloneyDetective AshtonEpisode: "The Ripple Effect"
1997Spy GameThornbushEpisode: "Lorne and Max Drop the Ball"
1997Total SecurityDetective McKissickEpisode: "Das Bootie"
1998Melrose PlaceRanger VirgilEpisode: "Amanda's Back"
1998Pensacola: Wings of GoldActorEpisode: "Power Play"
1998–1999E! Mysteries & ScandalsHimself2 episodes
1998–19993rd Rock from the SunHappy Doug7 episodes
1999The X-FilesCoronerEpisode: "Field Trip"
2000BiographyHimselfEpisode: "George Reeves: The Perils of a Superhero"
2000The Trouble with NormalGary8 episodes
2001That '70s ShowTonyEpisode: "Who Wants It More?"
2001The DivisionFred ZitoEpisode: "High on the Hog"
2001Star Trek: EnterpriseAdmiral Daniel LeonardEpisode: "Broken Bow: Part 1"
2001The West WingCarlEpisode: "Manchester: Part 1"
2001PhillyNelson VanderhoffEpisode: "Loving Sons"
2003Andy Richter Controls the UniverseCraigEpisode: "Charity Begins in Cellblock D"
2003Six Feet UnderPrison OfficerEpisode: "Twilight"
2003TremorsSheriff Sam BoggsEpisode: "Water Hazard"
2003The Lyon's DenHank FerrisEpisode: "The Other Side of Caution"
2004MonkSheriff MathisEpisode: "Mr. Monk Gets Married"
2004Crossing JordanRanger DiggoryEpisode: "Revealed"
2004–2006DeadwoodWhitney Ellsworth36 episodes
2006The UnitLloyd ColeEpisode: "Manhunt"
2006CSI: Crime Scene InvestigationStanley Tanner2 episodes
2006–2013SupernaturalBobby SingerSeasons 1-9 (56 episodes)
2007Day Break'Uncle' Nick Vukovic5 episodes
2007John from CincinnatiVietnam Joe8 episodes
2007Big LoveCarter Reese3 episodes
2007Criminal MindsSheriff WilliamsEpisode: "Identity"
2009Harper's IslandSheriff Charlie Mills11 episodes
2009PsychStinky Pete DillinghamEpisode: "High Noon-ish"
2010Law & Order: Los AngelesFrank LoomisEpisode: "Hollywood"
2010The MentalistCobb HolwellEpisode: "The Red Ponies"
2010Lie to MeGusEpisode: "Veronica"
2010Love BitesTruckerEpisode: "Keep On Truckin'"
2011-2012Breaking BadLawson2 episodes
2011-2013JustifiedShelby Parlow14 episodes
2012Dexter[12]Clint McKayEpisode: "The Dark...Whatever"
2013The MiddleMr. StokesEpisode: "Dollar Days"
2013Mike & MollyDwight2 episodes
2013LongmireLee RoskeyEpisode: "Natural Order"
2013RevolutionJohn Fry2 episodes
2014Major CrimesCounselorEpisode: "Return to Sender Part 2"

Literary works[edit]




Magazine articles[edit]


  1. ^ a b http://www.lifesthatway.com
  2. ^ Jim Beaver Biography (1950–)
  3. ^ Beaver, Irvin, History and genealogy of the Bieber, Beaver, Biever, Beeber family, Higginson Book Co., 2003, ASIN B0006S644M
  4. ^ Coleman, Mrs. Chapman, The Life of John J. Crittenden, Da Capo Press, 1970, ISBN 0-306-71843-X
  5. ^ author dustjacket bio-blurb, Beaver, James N., John Garfield: His Life and Films, Cranbury NJ: A.S. Barnes & Co., 1978, ISBN 0-498-01890-3
  6. ^ RARA-AVIS Archives: Re: RARA-AVIS: RE: Deadwood
  7. ^ Some Hints of What's Coming in Supernatural Season Six
  8. ^ Einhorn's First – 9/17/2007 – Publishers Weekly
  9. ^ http://nyfilmvideo.info/2009-festival-awards/2010-awards.htm
  10. ^ http://www.idyllwildcinemafest.com/award-categories-2014/
  11. ^ a b Jim Beaver: HBO: Deadwood
  12. ^ Kubicek, John. "Cas and Bobby Returning for 'Supernatural' Season 6," BuddyTV.com. (accessed October 1, 2013)
  13. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k Doollee.com - Playwrights - Jim Beaver (accessed October 1, 2013)

External links[edit]