[Opinion] - In Appreciation Of Jim Beaver

Of all the things that worked perfectly on Justified this season, one that was never really in doubt was the ability of actor Jim Beaver. The man managed to parle a single episode guest role in season two into a recurring role in three and practically a member of the principle cast in season four. This was down to his sheer talent making him someone the writers and producers desperately wanted to get back on the show, as often as possible.

But it's not just Justified. Beaver's presence in anything provides at least an island of stability and security in otherwise uncertain arenas. It has been, however, since the turn of the millennium, that Beaver's work has attracted the widest audience, and greatest acclaim, appearing as a regular on Deadwood and Supernatural, and guest starring on Breaking Bad and Justified.

After the jump, we appreciate the career of Jim Beaver. With spoilers to the above mentioned series.

Beaver started working in the 70's, mostly in westerns, and has worked steadily since then as a character actor, appearing in everything from Dallas, to Lois and Clark, to a recurring bit on 3rd Rock From The Sun, and somewhat against type as Yvonne Strahovski's father in episode of this past season of Dexter.

Through the nineties, regular roles started to come his way, appearing as Mark Harmon's friend in Reasonable Doubts from 1991 to 1993, followed by a role in Ed Asner's '94-'95 sitcom Thunder Alley. In 2009, he appeared in the mini-series Harper's Island, which briefly took him away from his recurring role on Supernatural.

In 2003, his wife was diagnosed with lung cancer, from which she eventually died in 2004. Beaver wrote about the experience in a series of emails, written journal style, and compiled into the 2009 memoir Life's That Way. Aside from this, Beaver has written numerous plays, several non fiction books and articles about actors and acting, and some short fiction.

The fact that surprised me the most when looking into Beaver's career is that he is an expert in the life of original Superman George Reeves, and has been writing a (presumably exhaustive) biography of Reeves since 1979. The extent of his knowledge is so great, he served as historical consultant on the Ben Affleck biopic Hollywoodland, which detailed Reeves death.


As the dishevelled prospector Whitney Ellsworth, Beaver appeared from the first episode of Deadwood, originally meant to be a small role which didn't warrant giving the character a first name. In the first episode, his role was mostly to provide an opportunity to introduce Ian McShane's Al Swearengen. Impressed with Beaver, the producers increased the size and importance of the role, eventually marrying him to Molly Parker's Elma, to protect her integrity. He appeared right up to nearly the end of the series, before a bullet to his head brought about the final confrontation between Swearengen, Bullock and Gerald McGrainey's George Hearst. One of the few upsides to the abrupt cancellation of the series is not having a Beaver-less fourth season.


The character of Bobby Singer first appeared in the first season finale, initially as a one off character (a reoccurring element in Beaver's career), another in a long string of fellow demon hunters Sam and Dean encounter with a connection to their father. However, when the unavailability of Jeffrey Dean Morgan became increasingly apparent, the producers opted to bring back Bobby as a grounding force, allowing the road-weary series to have a stable rock, and become a fan favourite.

Over the next six seasons, Bobby grew into a surrogate father for the monster hunters, whose influence overshadowed their own biological father, lasting right up until the seventh season when he was finally killed off (teasing killing Bobby was a favourite go-to move by the writers to ratchet up the tension). His absence from the show, and the tone and humour that Beaver brought to it, has been noticeable and well missed in the unnecessary eighth season. Considering the show has been renewed for a ninth, and probably a tenth, it wouldn't surprise me if the writers contrived a way to bring Bobby back.


Initially hired in part because Graham Yost and Timothy Olyphant like hiring former Deadwood actors, the character of Shelby Parlow was part of Boyd's reconciliation story line in early season two. Boyd, having saved Shelby's life, later turns to him to act as a stooge in his battle against Quarles, running him for Harlan County Sheriff. Because of the series' tendency never to let a good character go to waste, the writers continued to revise the backstory (which was mercifully blank), allowing the character to grow into a larger presence in the series.

According to Yost, originally Shelby's season 4 role was to be limited to attempting to take down Boyd via use of Ellen May, but detoured when they realised he was the best and only candidate for the identity of Drew Thompson, former Detroit thug. The biggest downside to the effectiveness of the plot line was that it pretty much means the end of Beaver's involvement in the show moving forward. Though a spin off, where Shelby breaks out of WitSec, and teams up with Ellen May and the evidence room guy who stole the money last season, and travels across Mexico solving crimes wouldn't be unappreciated.

Beaver is a great weapon to have in your cast. Talented, reliable, funny, sarcastic. A fantastic beard. While being a master of the character acting role, it is a crime that he hasn't had a principle cast role in nearly two decades. A role like Nick Searcy has on Justified would be perfect for Beaver's strengths, and provide him a constant presence in the modern television environment. Cable networks, hopefully spurred by his turn in Justified, would be wise to consider him for their wealth of programming. And in terms of quality of product, I'd rather see him end up on a cable show then some watered down network piece of crap. His already established character on Breaking Bad (appearing in two episodes as a weapons dealer) would make a great addition to the rumoured Saul Goodman spin-off, assuming he doesn't come to a terrible end in the final eight episodes. Or, in a couple year, HBO will be casting Neil Gaiman's American Gods; Beaver would make as good a Wednesday as they could get.

The inclusion of Beaver in a cast make the likely hood of my watching increase dramatically, and I would imagine, despite maybe not everyone remembering his name, they at least recognise that beard from something, and remember that with it comes good times and great performances. I, for one, look forward to seeing where Beaver pops up next.
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About MR. Clark

Adopting the descriptor of "successfully unpublished author", MR. Clark began writing things on the internet in 2012, which he believed to be an entirely reputable and civilized place to find and deliver information. He regrets much.


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