Rugged character actor Muse Watson was an established stage actor and veteran screen performer with a host of widely varying characters to his name, ranging from the hook-wielding killer in "I Know What You Did Last Summer" (1997), to the gentle, cat-loving con in the Fox television suspense drama "Prison Break" (2005-).
Born July 20, 1948 in Alexandria, VA, Watson and his three siblings were raised by their mother and maternal grandfather - the latter of whom provided him with his first creative outlet in the form of a clarinet. The instrument gave him a taste for performing and his talent earned him a music stipend to Louisiana Tech, where he studied for two years before transferring to Berea College in Kentucky. The transfer required Watson to take a freshman speech course. His professor, who was also the Dramatic Lab director, announced that he was looking for new talent for an upcoming production of "The Taming of the Shrew." Watson summoned his courage, auditioned, and landed the lead role of Petruchio. Inspired by his early success, he went on to appear in countless plays and musicals in the area while teaching reading and writing as part of Berea College's literacy outreach program.
Watson eventually relocated to various locations in the South over the next few years, continuing to act and direct while maintaining day jobs. He directed theater for the Tennessee Performing Arts Center and the Bessie Smith Foundation and also taught acting at the Georgia State Penitentiary. Watson then became a driver for film productions that were shooting in the region, including "Mississippi Burning" (1988) and "Steel Magnolias" (1989). The driving not only provided him with access to actors on set, but also proved enough of a financial windfall to let him lease out several trucks and use the income to pursue acting auditions on a full-time basis. Eventually, Watson began landing small parts in film and television, including "The Handmaid's Tale" (1990) and "Sommersby" (1993, as the drifter who reveals Richard Gere's true identity). The size and frequency of the parts began to build over the next few years - Watson had supporting roles in "Something To Talk About" (1995, as sympathetic horse trainer Hank Corrigan, which Watson considered his breakthrough part), "Assassins" (1995) opposite Sylvester Stallone, and John Singleton's "Rosewood" (1997), for which he plays a villainous Klansman who helps incite the violence which overtakes the eponymous town.
That same year, Watson used his tall, rangy physical presence to excellent effect as Ben Willis, the fisherman-garbed killer pursuing Jennifer Love Hewitt and friends in the horror film "I Know What You Did Last Summer." Watson performed much of his own stunts, including a lengthy underwater sequence, and helped make the film a sizable hit among young audiences. He returned to the role for the sequel, "I Still Know What You Did Last Summer" (1998), and made an uncredited appearance as Willis with Hewitt on an episode of "Saturday Night Live" (NBC, 1975- ) that same year.
Unlike many actors who would essay murderous roles in horror films, Watson managed to avoid becoming typecast in that particular genre (though he did not shy away from it, as evidenced by his appearances in "From Dusk to Dawn 2: Texas Blood Money" (1999), "Dead Birds" (2004) and the campy "Frankenfish" (2004)) and continued to enjoy a wide variety of roles in film and on television. He had a brief cameo as a Klansman in "Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me" (1999), essayed a kindly, fiddle-playing father in the rural drama "Songcatcher" (2000), and played a host of cowboys, detectives, and sheriffs in pictures ranging from "American Outlaws" (2001) to the Midwestern crime film "Iowa" (2005).
That same year, Watson joined the cast of the television series "Prison Break" as Charles Westmoreland, a longtime inmate who may or may not be the legendary airplane hijacker D.B. Cooper. Watson's sympathetic performance as the wise and gentle con (who holds a particular place in his heart for a jailhouse cat) earned him excellent notices, but sadly, his character did not survive the escape that concluded the show's first season. Thankfully, fans will see more of Watson on the CBS series "NCIS" (2003- ) as NIS Agent Mike Franks.