Family & Companions
One of the small screen's most reliable heavies during the 1970s, veteran television actor Gerald McRaney successfully made the daunting shift from bad guy to good guy roles beginning in the early part of the following decade. Best known as the street-smart and elder brother Richard "Rick" Simon on the popular 1980s detective drama, "Simon & Simon" (CBS, 1981-88), the lovably strict "Major Dad" (CBS, 1989-1993), and for his long, successful marriage to actress Delta Burke, this mustachioed TV actor boasted an enviable TV résumé, including "Promised Land" (CBS, 1996-99), "Deadwood" (HBO, 2004-06) and the hit nuclear drama, "Jericho" (CBS, 2006-08). McRaney also enjoyed a big screen success as Liam Neeson's boss, General Morrison, in the action smash "The A-Team" (2010). Thirty-plus years into his career, McRaney continued to work on the stage and on screen, a low-key, likable actor respected for his skill and professionalism.
Born on Aug. 19, 1947 in Collins, MS, McRaney began his acting career in junior high school after injuring his knee playing football. Joining the drama club, McRaney found a superb outlet for his pent-up energies and excelled especially in physical roles. Encouraged by his performances in school productions, McRaney enrolled at the University of Mississippi as a drama major. Eager to get his feet wet, however, McRaney dropped out after his freshman year - much to his later regret. Making his bones in a number of small repertory theater productions, McRaney finally broke into television with a small guest appearance on Rod Serling's anthology series, "Night Gallery" (NBC, 1970-73), in which he played a medical student who faints at an autopsy.
Beginning in the early Seventies, McRaney's career quietly took off, thanks to his knack for playing bad guys. A favorite of television producers, the athletic actor became well known for playing rednecked thugs and villains of the week on such television classics as "Gunsmoke" (CBS, 1955-1975), "Police Woman" (NBC, 1974-78), "Barnaby Jones" (CBS, 1973-1980) and "The Incredible Hulk" (CBS, 1978-1982). As the new decade dawned, however, McRaney surprised many viewers by taking on more likeable protagonist roles with equal aplomb. To wit: In 1979, McRaney was seriously considered for the role of good ole' boy, Luke Duke on the hour-long redneck car chase that was the "The Dukes of Hazzard" (CBS, 1979-1985) - a role which surely would have made his career, had he not ultimately lost it to actor Tom Wopat.
Luckily, McRaney would not sit idle for long. Shortly after losing the Duke role, in 1981, McRaney landed his breakthrough starring role on the long-running hit, "Simon & Simon." Finding a comfortable groove as the easygoing maverick elder brother, Rick, to co-star Jameson Parker's more straight-laced character, A.J., McRaney quickly became a popular fixture of CBS's Thursday night line-up. In addition to providing him financial security, "Simon & Simon" also gave McRaney the opportunity to write and direct for the first time - a skill set the actor would subsequently exercise in his next series, the popular and well-received "Major Dad" (CBS, 1989-1993).
Apart from new opportunities offered him with a hit show, McRaney had even more reason to be a happy man, when during a 1987 guest spot on the hit TV sitcom, "Designing Women" (CBS, 1986-1993), the actor met his future wife and one of the show's four female stars, Delta Burke. Married on May 28, 1989, the happy couple proved doubters wrong with two decades of married bliss - McRaney even standing loyally by his wife's side during her ugly contract disputes with "Designing" producers and after she became the object of public ridicule for gaining weight.
Following the cancellation of "Simon," the tall, balding actor continued with his tongue well in cheek as Major John McGillis on the CBS family sitcom, "Major Dad." A comedy about a conservative marine with three young children who marries a liberal journalist, "Major Dad" was a consistent ratings-getter in the CBS line-up for much of its four-year run. Although not a veteran himself, the conservative Republican had always been very supportive of veterans. During Operation Desert Storm, he made many visits to support the soldiers, personally delivering a message that blessed the troops on winning the war and signing autographs.
In 1995, McRaney joined the cast of the revamped CBS primetime soap, "Central Park West/CPW" (the episodes aired in the summer of 1996) as a hard-nosed businessman. While he and fellow newcomer Raquel Welch (as his scheming ex-wife) brought a much-needed boost to the sagging show, the network had already written the series off before the episodes aired. Not one to worry, the ever employable McRaney's next starring role was in the highly rated family drama, "Promised Land" (CBS, 1996-99.) A spin-off of the colossal hit "Touched by An Angel" (CBS, 1994-2003), "Promised Land" starred McRaney as a family man named Russell Greene, who, after losing his job, packs his family up in a trailer and travels cross-country. The show's premise dealt mainly with the Greene family's search for purpose, as they met people along the way, week after week, delivering an inspirational message that some found uplifting and others found bland.
After a brief respite, during which the actor was treated for and successfully battled lung cancer in Houston, TX, McRaney made a return to television in 2004 with a major role on the critically lauded western drama "Deadwood" (HBO, 2004-06). Cast as powerful gold prospector George Hearst in the show's second season, McRaney upped the ante on the menace factor, standing toe-to-toe with "Deadwood" star Ian McShane - no small feat, considering the high levels of testosterone on the show. After HBO's controversial cancellation of "Deadwood" in 2006, McRaney landed his next project with the role of Mayor Green the post-apocalyptic sci-fi drama, "Jericho" (CBS, 2006-08). Remarkable for the staunch dedication of its fans who besieged the network with creative ploys to keep the show on the air - "Jericho" eventually was canceled, but talk of continuing the story through a feature film or comic books continued to circulate.
As he kept up his pace turning in respected appearances on high-caliber TV shows, McRaney accepted a film role in the indie film "Get Low" (2010) as a small town preacher. The leisurely character piece, starring Robert Duvall, Sissy Spacek and Bill Murray, drew strong reviews for the stellar acting of all involved. Paying tribute to his own place as an important figure from 1980s TV - and taking the opportunity to don military garb once again - McRaney played Liam Neeson's boss, General Morrison, in the big-budget reimagining of the nostalgic favorite "The A-Team" (2010).
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Lived in New Orleans, where he acted with a local theater company
Appeared on an episode of TV's "Night Gallery"
Played first notable film role in "Night of Bloody Horror"
Acted in the CBS TV-movie "The F.B.I. Story: The FBI Versus Alvin Karpis, Public Enemy Number One"
TV series debut as Rick Simon in "Simon & Simon" (CBS), also directed episodes
Played Bastian's father in the classic fantasy film "The NeverEnding Story"
Played a leading role in the feature "American Justice", in which "Simon" co-star Jameson Parker also played a prominent role
Starred in the TV series "Major Dad" (CBS)
Performed in the play "Love Letters" with wife Delta Burke
Introduced Vice President's wife Marilyn Quayle for her speech at the Republican National Convention
Cast in the TV-movie "Not Our Son" (CBS)
Cast in Darren Star's short-lived drama, "Central Park West"
Had a recurring role on "Touched by an Angel" (CBS)
Appeared in the CBS TV-movie "Take Me Home: The John Denver Story"
Portrayed Lt. Gen. George S. Patton in the TV-movie, "Ike: Countdown to D-Day" (A&E)
Cast as George Hearst in the HBO western drama series "Deadwood"
Starred on the CBS post-apocalyptic series "Jericho" as Mayor Green
Played Carlton Shaw on "Undercovers"
Played Barlow Connally on "Longmire"
Re-teamed with fellow "Deadwood" alum Timothy Olyphant on "Justified"
Starred as Raymond Tusk on "House of Cards"
Cast as Dr. Nathan Katowski on "This Is Us"
Played Red Bama Sr. on "Shooter"