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Jim Beaver

Jim Beaver

Jim Beaver was born in Laramie, Wyoming and attended Irving High School in Texas (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, with whom he joined the 1st Marine Division near Da Nang, South Vietnam in 1970. He returned to the U.S. in 1971 and 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. 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). 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. In 1983, he moved to Los Angeles, California to continue research on his biography of George Reeves. 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, 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. Subsequently he has appeared in many popular films, including Sister Act, Sliver, Bad Girls, Adaptation, Magnolia, and The Life of David Gale. He was also French Stewart's sullen boss Happy Doug on the sitcom 3rd Rock from the Sun. In 2002, Beaver was cast as one of the stars of the ensemble Western drama Deadwood in the role of Whitney Ellsworth. 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. He has recurred as the gun dealer Lawson on Breaking Bad and currently plays Sheriff Shelby Parlow on FX's Justified. 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. His performance in The Silence of Bees won him the Best Actor Award at the 2010 New York Film and Video Festival.


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