Character actor Leon Rippy essayed a string of memorable turns as men whose rustic charm occasionally hid a tinge of menace in such features and television projects as "The Patriot" (2000), "Deadwood" (HBO 2004-2006), "Saving Grace" (TNT 2007-2010) and "Under the Dome" (CBS 2013-15). The South Carolina-born actor began his career in regional theater and films before moving into studio efforts in the 1990s. An alliance with producer Roland Emmerich in seven films, including "Stargate" (1994) and "The Patriot" (2000), increased his exposure, which led to his best-known work as Tom Nuttall on "Deadwood," who owned the bar in which Wild Bill Hickock was murdered, and Holly Hunter's guardian angel on "Saving Grace." Rippy's near-constant presence in film and television over a two-decade period underscored viewers' and critics' opinion that he was among the best character players in the business.
Born October 30, 1949 in Rock Hill, South Carolina, Leon Rippy discovered acting at an early age through a production of Hansel and Gretel. His newfound interest provided much-needed solace from the turmoil of his home life, which was caused by his father's alcoholism. The situation with his father grew so volatile that he left home at the age of 15 to live in Florida. Appearances in high school stage productions and with the theater department at North Carolina's Montreat College led to work in regional theater and his first paid role in the long-running "Lost Colony," a play about Sir Walter Raleigh's attempt to establish an English settlement in North Carolina that has been staged on the site of the original colony since 1937. Between acting assignments, Rippy worked in a circus and on a cattle ranch while also finding time to found two theater companies and gain a reputation as a ballet dancer. His on-screen career began in the early '80s, first as a performer in various low-budget efforts produced by North Carolina independent filmmaker and studio owner Earl Owensby, and later as a bit and supporting player in Hollywood products lensed in the Carolina area, including the miniseries "Chiefs" (CBS 1983) and features like "Firestarter" (1984) and "The Color Purple" (1985). In the late '80s, Rippy made the leap to character actor in mainstream films and television, including a memorable turn as a cryogenically frozen country singer in a 1988 episode of "Star Trek: The Next Generation" (syndicated 1987-1994) and supporting turns in "Young Guns II" (1990) as Robert "Bob" Ollinger, a sheriff's deputy murdered by Billy the Kid (Emilio Estevez).
He also appeared in the low-budget science fiction thriller "Moon 44" (1990), which marked the first of seven eventual film collaborations with producer/director Roland Emmerich, including two substantial hits, "Universal Soldier" (1992) and "Stargate" (1994). By the late '90s, Rippy was a familiar face to movie and TV audiences thanks to appearances in Clint Eastwood's "Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil" (1997) and Emmerich's "The Patriot" (2000) with Mel Gibson, as well as the short-lived Fox series "The Visitor" (1997-98) for Emmerich and producing partner Dean Devlin. Television soon became his primary showcase, as well as the source of some of his best roles, including sympathetic bar owner Tom Nuttall on "Deadwood" and the TNT series "Saving Grace," which cast him as a rustic guardian angel charged with bringing hard-living detective Holly Hunter to God. The popularity of these series led to more recurring roles in primetime projects, including the unscrupulous investor Jack Latimer on the Devlin-produced "Leverage" (TNT 2008-2012) a prison doctor in the short-lived "Alcatraz" (Fox 2012) for producer J.J. Abrams, and tough farmer Ollie Dinsmore on "Under the Dome."
Cast (Feature Film)
Cast (TV Mini-Series)
Television debut on "Chiefs"
Played a cryogenically frozen country singer on "Star Trek: The Next Generation"
First of seven collaborations with Roland Emmerich in "Moon 44"
Appeared in Emmerich's "Stargate"
Series regular on "The Visitor"
Supporting role in Emmerich's "The Patriot"
Played Wade in horror comedy "Eight Legged Freaks"
Played Tom Nuttall on "Deadwood"
Cast as guardian angel Earl on "Saving Grace"
Recurring role on "Leverage"
Recurring role on "Under the Dome"
Bit part in Gore Verbinski's "The Lone Ranger"
Had a recurring guest role on "Rectify"
Cast as Harry Dunning on the mini-series "11.22.63"
Had a recurring guest role on "The Blacklist"
Reprised role of Tom Nuttall for HBO's long-gestating "Deadwood" film