A strong screen presence with a distinctive baritone voice, actor Reg E. Cathey earned a solid reputation as a supporting player on several acclaimed HBO series. After honing his skills on stage, the actor's early screen work consisted of bit parts in films like "Funny Farm" (1988), "Born on the Fourth of July" (1989) and "What About Bob?" (1991), in addition to landing a steady gig on the children's educational comedy show "Square One TV" (PBS, 1987-1992). In the years that followed, Cathey turned up in everything from films like "Tank Girl" (1995) and "Se7en" (1995) to episodes of the sports comedy series "Arli$$" (HBO, 1996-2002). A recurring role on the harrowing prison drama "Oz" (HBO, 1997-2003) eventually led to similar work on another of the network's most acclaimed series, the Baltimore set police drama "The Wire" (HBO, 2002-07). During the program's final two seasons, Cathey impressed as the cynical yet honorable political campaign manager, Norman Wilson. The durable actor remained a constant TV presence in the years that followed "The Wire," with appearances on such popular programs as "Law & Order: Special Victims Unit" (NBC, 1999- ), "30 Rock" (NBC, 2006-2013) and "House of Cards" (Netflix, 2013-18). Cathey's chameleon-like adaptability continued to keep him in high demand in both film and television until his death from lung cancer in February 2018 at the age of 59.
Born on Aug. 18, 1958, in Huntsville, AL, Cathey made his bones treading the boards in a number of Broadway and off-Broadway productions in the early 1980's. An accomplished Shakespearean actor, Cathey landed prominent roles in such Bardian classics as "The Taming of the Shrew," "Richard III," "Hamlet," and "The Merchant of Venice" before moving to Los Angeles to pursue work in film and television. Cathey's first major screen debut was a guest spot on the popular action drama "Spenser: For Hire" (ABC, 1985-88). There, Cathey had a chance to share some screen time with star Robert Urich, as well as his longtime friend and colleague from his theater days, Avery Brooks. More guest-starring roles followed on such shows as "Star Trek: The Next Generation" (syndicated, 1987-1994), "ER" (NBC, 1994-2009), "Arli$$" (HBO, 1996-2002) and "Third Watch" (NBC, 1999-2005).
Parlaying his quick television success into feature work, Cathey copped several small parts in a string of high-profile movies in the nineties, among them "The Mask" (1994), "Clear and Present Danger" (1994), "Tank Girl" (1995) and the gruesome thriller "Se7en" (1995). Cathey's greatest successes, however, remained largely on television. While working on the telefilm, "Homicide: The Movie" (NBC, 2000), Cathey so impressed the show's creator-producer, David Simon, that he cast him in his next project, a gritty, urban drama miniseries called "The Corner" (HBO, 2000). Set in and around the city of Baltimore, "The Corner" was the story of one family's struggle to survive on the front lines, amid the crossfire of a raging drug war - a theme that Simon would later revisit in even greater detail with his next series, "The Wire." After "The Corner," Cathey was quickly snapped up by Simon's friend, fellow "Homicide" producer Tom Fontana for his new HBO series, the groundbreaking prison drama, "Oz" (HBO, 1997-2003). Cast as Martin Querns, the hard-driving new warden of Oswald Penitentiary, Cathey was a consistent standout among Oz's myriad ensemble of recurring characters.
Aside from taking a cameo role as the villainous Dirty Dee in Louis C.K.'s comedy "Pootie Tang" (2001), Cathey, by and large, stuck mainly with television during the new millennium. Not long after the cancellation of "Oz," Cathey returned to HBO to work on David Simon's latest project, "The Wire." Introduced in the 2006 fourth season opener entitled "Boys of Summer," Cathey tackled the recurring role of Norman Wilson, the pessimistic, but highly shrewd political advisor to mayoral hopeful, Councilman Tommy Carcetti (Aiden Gillan). As Wilson, Cathey remained by Carcetti's side - despite his growing disillusionment - right up to the candidate's winning of the governorship on the fifth and final season of "The Wire" in 2008. He went on to make quest appearances on such programs as "Law & Order: Special Victims Unit" (NBC, 1999- ) and "30 Rock" (NBC, 2006-2013). Later, Cathey picked up a recurring role as fight promoter Barry K. Word on the short-lived boxing drama "Lights Out" (FX, 2011) and was seen in an episode of the espionage-thriller "Person of Interest" (CBS, 2011-16) the following year. Cathey's next major role came in the political drama "House of Cards" (Netflix 2013- ), followed by big screen supporting roles in the Bill Murray comedy "St. Vincent" (2014) and the ill-fated comic book reboot "Fantastic Four" (2015). Cathey next appeared in a recurring role as a local chief of police in horror drama "Outcast" (Cinemax 2016- ), as well as a supporting role in indie drama "Tyrel" (2018), which proved to be his last film role. Reg E. Cathey, who had been suffering from lung cancer, died at his home in New York City on February 9, 2018. He was 59.
Cast (Feature Film)
Misc. Crew (Special)
Cast (TV Mini-Series)
Debuted in TV movie "A Doctor's Story"
Appeared regularly on educational children's TV show "Square One TV"
Co-starred as Freeze in Jim Carrey's "The Mask"
Had a supporting role as Marcus in teen slacker comedy "Airheads"
Co-starred as Deetee in sci-fi action comedy "Tank Girl"
Co-starred as Dr. Santiago in David Fincher's "Se7en"
Co-starred as Dirty Dee in Louis C.K.'s blaxploitation parody "Pootie Tang"
Co-starred in David Simon's miniseries "The Corner"
Co-starred in HBO prison drama "Oz"
Co-starred as Norman Wilson in "The Wire"
Co-starred in Netflix political drama "House of Cards"
Had supporting role in Bill Murray/Melissa McCarthy comedy "St. Vincent"
Co-starred as Dr. Franklin Storm in "Fantastic Four"
Starred as Chief Giles on "Outcast"
Appeared in HBO biopic "The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks"
Appeared in Gregory Caruso comedy adventure "Flock of Four"
Appeared in his final screen role in the race drama "Tyrel"