Actor Jim Beaver

James Norman Beaver Jr. (born August 12, 1950) is an American actor, playwright, screenwriter, and film historian. He is most familiar to worldwide audiences as Bobby Singer in Supernatural. He also played Whitney Ellsworth on the HBO Western drama series Deadwood, which brought him acclaim and a Screen Actors Guild Awards nomination for Ensemble Acting, and Sheriff Shelby Parlow on the FX series Justified. His memoir Life’s That Way was published in April 2009.

Early life

Beaver was born in Laramie, Wyoming, the son of Dorothy Adell (née Crawford) (1928-2019) and James Norman Beaver (1924–2004), a minister. His father was of English and French 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. Beaver’s mother has Cherokee, German, and Scottish ancestry, and is a descendant of three-time U.S. Attorney General John J. Crittenden.

Although his parents’ families had both long been in Texas, Beaver was born in Laramie, as 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, Crowley, Dallas, and Grapevine. For most of 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. Later, he attended Oklahoma 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.

Military service and education

Fewer 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, Beaver returned to Irving, 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. He briefly pursued graduate studies, but soon returned to Irving, Texas.


Beaver made his professional stage debut in October 1972, while still a college student, in Rain, from W. Somerset Maugham’s short story, 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 television 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 television 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 television 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.

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”. 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. 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 its prequel Better Call Saul, and played Sheriff Shelby Parlow for three seasons on FX’s Justified.

Following his acclaimed work in Justified, Beaver had 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. Prior to publication in April, 2009, it was chosen for the Barnes & Noble Discover Great New Writers program for 2009.

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

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 short 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.

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

In March 2015, Theatre West presented a 30th anniversary revival of Beaver’s play Verdigris, with Beaver in a starring role.

Actress Maureen Stapleton played the leading role in a workshop of Beaver’s play Verdigris in 1985 at the Berkshire Theatre Festival. In June, 2016, Beaver returned to the Festival to play Big Daddy in Tennessee Williams’s Cat on a Hot Tin Roof.

Personal life

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.

During college, Beaver married a fellow student, Debbie Young, in August 1973; the couple separated four months later, though divorce did not occur until 1976.

In 1989, following four years of dating, Beaver married actress and casting director Cecily Adams, daughter of comic actor and voiceover artist Don Adams. Their daughter, Madeline, was born in 2001. Adams died of lung cancer on March 3, 2004.

Beaver has been in a romantic relationship since 2016 with actress-singer Sarah Spiegel. They became engaged in May, 2018, and were married June 20, 2019.



Year Title Role Notes
1977 Semi-Tough B.E.A.T. Member Uncredited
1978 The Seniors Client Uncredited
1979 Warnings The Artist Short film
1981 Nighthawks Subway Passenger Uncredited
1983 Girls of the White Orchid Pedestrian Uncredited; alternative title Death Ride to Osaka
1983 Silkwood Plant Manager
1985 File 8022 Ben Crysler
1987 Sweet Revenge Smuggler Uncredited
1987 Hollywood Shuffle Postal Worker
1988 Two Idiots in Hollywood Crying Man
1988 Defense Play FBI Agent
1989 Mergers & Acquisitions Gabby Hayes Short film
1989 Turner & Hooch Plant Manager
1989 The Cherry The Captain Short film
1989 In Country Earl Smith
1990 El Diablo Spivey Irick
1990 The Court-Martial of Jackie Robinson Maj. Trimble
1991 Little Secrets Liquor Store Cashier Credited as Richard Muldoon
1992 Sister Act Detective Clarkson
1993 Sliver Detective Ira
1993 Geronimo: An American Legend Proclamation officer
1994 Twogether Oscar
1994 Blue Chips Ricky’s Father
1994 Children of the Dark Roddy Gibbons Deliberately uncredited[citation needed]
1994 Bad Girls Pinkerton Detective Graves
1997 Wounded Agent Eric Ashton
1998 At Sachem Farm Foreman
1999 Impala Sheriff Bert Davis Short film
1999 Ah! Silenciosa Ambrose Bierce Short film
1999 Magnolia Smiling Peanut Patron #1
2000 Fraud Detective Mason Short film
2000 Where the Heart Is Clawhammer Scenes deleted
2001 Joy Ride Sheriff Ritter
2002 Wheelmen Agent Hammond
2002 Adaptation. Ranger Tony
2003 The Life of David Gale Duke Grover
2003 Wave Babes Amos Nandy
2003 The Commission Howard L. Brennan
2007 Next Wisdom
2007 Cooties The Man Short film
2008 Reflections Frank Short film
2008 The Silence of Bees Parker Lam Short film
2009 Dark and Stormy Night Jack Tugdon
2011 The Legend of Hell’s Gate: An American Conspiracy J. Wright Mooar
2013 Night Riders Short film; writer, director, executive producer
2015 The Frontier Lee
2015 Crimson Peak Carter Cushing
2017 Billy Boy Crabtree
2021 Nightmare Alley Sheriff Jedediah Judd Post-production


Year Title Role Notes
1978 Desperado Nathan TV film
1978–1979 Dallas Diner/Julie’s Gardener 2 episodes
1979 Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders Cowboy player TV film
1986 Divorce Court Wrench McCoy
1987 Jake and the Fatman Defense Attorney Episode: “Fatal Attraction”
1988 Matlock Barney Sutler Episode: “The Umpire”
1988 Paradise Frank Foster Episode: “The Holstered Gun”
1988 Perry Mason: The Case of the Lady in the Lake Motel Manager TV film
1989 CBS Summer Playhouse Wrong House Neighbor Episode: “Elysian Fields”
1989 The Young Riders Johnson Episode: “The Kid”
1989 Mothers, Daughters and Lovers Sheriff Jack Edzard TV film
1990 Follow Your Heart Craig Hraboy TV film
1990 Midnight Caller Tom Barlow Episode: “Ryder on the Storm”
1990 Nasty Boys Wetstone Episode: “Desert Run”
1990 Father Dowling Mysteries Drake Episode: “The Murder Weekend Mystery”
1991–1993 Santa Barbara Andy the Rapist/Motel man 5 episodes
1991–1993 Reasonable Doubts Detective Earl Gaddis 13 episodes
1992 Gunsmoke: To the Last Man Deputy Willie Rudd TV film
1993 Lois & Clark: The New Adventures of Superman Henry Barnes Episode: “I’m Looking Through You”
1993 Thunder Alley Leland DuParte 28 episodes
1993 Gunsmoke: The Long Ride Traveling blacksmith TV film
1995 Home Improvement Duke Miller Episode: “Doctor in the House”
1995 Unsolved Mysteries Himself Episode: “Who Killed Superman?”
1996 High Incident Father in Wreck Episode: “Women & Children First”
1996–1997 Murder One Donald Cleary 2 episodes
1996 Bone Chillers Edgar Allan Poe Episode: “Edgar Allan Poe-Session”
1996–2004 Days of Our Lives Father Timothy Jansen 26 episodes
1997 NYPD Blue Truck Driver / Jesus Christ Episode: “Taillight’s Last Gleaming”
1997 Moloney Detective Ashton Episode: “The Ripple Effect”
1997 Spy Game Thornbush Episode: “Lorne and Max Drop the Ball”
1997 Total Security Detective McKissick Episode: “Das Bootie”
1997 Divided by Hate Danny Leland TV film
1998 Melrose Place Ranger Virgil Episode: “Amanda’s Back”
1998 Pensacola: Wings of Gold Actor Episode: “Power Play”
1998 Mr. Murder Agent Jason Reiling TV film
1998–1999 E! Mysteries & Scandals Himself 2 episodes
1998–1999 3rd Rock from the Sun Happy Doug 7 episodes
1999 The X-Files Coroner Episode: “Field Trip”
2000 Biography Himself Episode: “George Reeves: The Perils of a Superhero”
2000 The Trouble with Normal Gary 8 episodes
2001 That ’70s Show Tony Episode: “Who Wants It More?”
2001 The Division Fred Zito Episode: “High on the Hog”
2001 Star Trek: Enterprise Admiral Daniel Leonard Episode: “Broken Bow: Part 1”
2001 The West Wing Carl Episode: “Manchester: Part 1”
2001 Philly Nelson Vanderhoff Episode: “Loving Sons”
2001 Warden of Red Rock Jefferson Bent TV film
2003 Andy Richter Controls the Universe Craig Episode: “Charity Begins in Cellblock D”
2003 Six Feet Under Prison Officer Episode: “Twilight”
2003 Tremors Sheriff Sam Boggs Episode: “Water Hazard”
2003 The Lyon’s Den Hank Ferris Episode: “The Other Side of Caution”
2004 Monk Sheriff Mathis Episode: “Mr. Monk Gets Married”
2004 Crossing Jordan Ranger Diggory Episode: “Revealed”
2004–2006 Deadwood Whitney Ellsworth 28 episodes
2006 The Unit Lloyd Cole Episode: “Manhunt”
2006 CSI: Crime Scene Investigation Stanley Tanner 2 episodes
2006–2020 Supernatural Bobby Singer 69 episodes
2007 Day Break ‘Uncle’ Nick Vukovic 5 episodes
2007 John from Cincinnati Vietnam Joe 8 episodes
2007 Big Love Carter Reese 3 episodes
2007 Criminal Minds Sheriff Williams Episode: “Identity”
2009 Harper’s Island Sheriff Charlie Mills 11 episodes
2009 Psych Stinky Pete Dillingham Episode: “High Noon-ish”
2010 Law & Order: Los Angeles Frank Loomis Episode: “Hollywood”
2010 The Mentalist Cobb Holwell Episode: “The Red Ponies”
2010 Lie to Me Gus Episode: “Veronica”
2010 Love Bites Trucker Episode: “Keep On Truckin'”
2011–2012 Breaking Bad Lawson 2 episodes
2011–2013 Justified Sheriff Shelby Parlow 14 episodes
2012 Dexter Clint McKay Episode: “The Dark…Whatever”
2013 The Middle Mr. Stokes Episode: “Dollar Days”
2013 Mike & Molly Dwight 2 episodes
2013 Longmire Lee Roskey Episode: “Natural Order”
2013 Revolution John Franklin Fry 2 episodes
2014 Major Crimes Donald Beckwith Episode: “Return to Sender Part 2”
2014 NCIS Captain Tom O’Rourke Episode: “The San Dominick”
2015–2017 The New Adventures of Peter and Wendy George Darling Web series
2016 Better Call Saul Lawson 2 episodes;
Same character from Breaking Bad
2016 Bones George Gibbons Episode: “The Monster in the Closet”
2017 NCIS: New Orleans Rig Manager Jackson Hauser Episode: “Hell on the High Water”
2017 Timeless Jake Neville 3 episodes
2017 Criminal Minds: Beyond Borders Donald Atwood Episode: “Blowback”
2017 Shut Eye Bob Caygeon 2 episodes
2017–2019 The Ranch Chuck Phillips 12 episodes
2019–present The Boys Robert “Bob” Singer 3 episodes
2019 Watchmen Andy Episode: “Martial Feats of Comanche Horsemanship”
2020 Young Sheldon Kenneth Episode: “Contracts, Rules and a Little Bit of Pig Brains”

Literary works


  • John Garfield: His Life and Films (1978)
  • Movie Blockbusters (with Steven Scheuer) (1982, revised edition 1983)
  • Life’s That Way: A Memoir (2009)
  • Fiction

  • The Afternoon Blood Show, Alfred Hitchcock’s Mystery Magazine, April 29, 1981
  • Plays

  • The Cop and the Anthem (adapted from the short story by O. Henry) (1973)
  • Once Upon a Single Bound (1974)
  • As You Like It, or Anything You Want To, Also Known as Rotterdam and Parmesan Are Dead (1975)
  • The Ox-Bow Incident (adapted from the novel by Walter Van Tilburg Clark) (1978)
  • Spades (1979)
  • Sidekick (1981)
  • Semper Fi (1984)
  • Verdigris (1985)
  • Truth, Justice, and the Texican Way (1986)
  • Pressing Engagements (1990)
  • Mockingbird (2003)
  • Night Riders (2006)
  • The American Way (2011)
  • Whigs, Pigs, and Greyhounds (2011)
  • Lettering (2013)
  • Magazine articles

  • “John Wayne”, Films in Review, May 1977
  • “George Raft”, Films in Review, April 1978
  • “John Carradine”, Films in Review, October 1979
  • “James Stewart”, Films in Review, October 1980
  • “Steve McQueen”, Films in Review, August–September 1981
  • “Frank Perry”, Films in Review, November 1981
  • “Strother Martin”, Films in Review, November 1982
  • “Ad Glib” (regular column). Films in Review, November 1981 – December 1983
  • External Links

    Actor Jim Beaver – Wikipedia

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