Dale Dickey never shied away from tackling gritty, dark roles that almost always painted damaged characters. The talented actress, who delivered inspired performances in the Broadway production of "The Merchant of Venice" (1989) and in the 2009 stage adaptation of "A Streetcar Named Desire," eventually went on to become one of Hollywood's most coveted character actresses. With her steely gaze, Dickey portrayed mostly tough-as-nails characters in both mainstream and low-budget independent films, as well as on television, taking on roles like a game warden on the hit sci-fi drama series, "The X-Files" (Fox, 1993-2002) and a drug addict on the edgy drama, "Breaking Bad" (AMC, 2008-12). She also displayed her comedic side as a kind prostitute with a genius I.Q. on the hit NBC comedy, "My Name is Earl" (2005-09). But it was her portrayal of a mountain woman capable of inflicting unspeakable harm in the gripping film, "Winter's Bone" (2010), that showcased Dickey's unmatched acting skills and infinite range, cementing her place as one of her generation's most compelling performers.
Diana Dale Dickey was born in Knoxville, TN to David Dale Dickey, a writer, and to Missy Dickey, who ran for the state legislature in 1974. She graduated from Bearden High School in Knoxville before attending the University of Tennessee. Dickey, who began her career as a member of the famed 1970s independent theater company, The Play Group, amassed an impressive list of acting credits in numerous plays such as the Broadway production of "The Merchant of Venice," and "To Kill a Mockingbird" (1991). She also drew praise for starring in the 2009 production of Tennessee Williams' 1947 classic masterpiece, "A Streetcar named Desire (2009), as its tortured heroine Blanche DuBois. Amidst great performances by her co-stars, Dickey stood out and delivered with aplomb all the pretenses of emotions that her volatile character demanded, giving real meaning to the concept of a mid-life crisis.
In the 1990s, Dickey began taking on guest roles on hit shows like the comedy series "Frasier" (NBC, 1993-2004), the crime drama "CSI: Crime Scene Investigation" (CBS, 2000-15), and the award-winning medical drama "ER" (NBC, 1994-2009). Dickey was sought after to play hard-edged characters like bag ladies, prostitutes, and outdoorsy types, like an iron-willed mountain woman on the inspirational series "Christy" (CBS, 1994-95), a game warden on the hit sci-fi series "The X-Files," and a junkie on the critically acclaimed drama series "Breaking Bad." After decades of tackling mostly serious roles, Dickey flexed her comedic muscles with a recurring role on the offbeat comedy series "My Name Is Earl," starring Jason Lee as an ex-convict and a lowlife who decides to turn his life around and correcting his past mistakes by performing good deeds for others. On the hit sitcom, Dickey played Patty the Daytime Hooker, a local prostitute who also works as a nighttime waitress, holds a Masters degree, and speaks Bengali.
The highly versatile actress also held her own opposite better-known stars in big-budget Hollywood movies. In 2001, Dickey starred opposite Jack Nicholson in the thriller "The Pledge," was memorable in the action flick "Domino" (2005), and had a minor role in the drama "The Changeling" (2008) starring Angelina Jolie. Yet, where Dickey always shone was in the independent film arena. Over the years, she appeared in a string of indie films like "Our Very Own" (2005), "Trailer Park of Terror" (2008), and "Leaving Barstow" (2008), a coming-of-age tale about a smart high school senior torn between his devotion to his family and following his ambitions. But it was Dickey's role in the film adaptation of Daniel Woodrell's 2006 novel of the same name, "Winter's Bone" that finally made everyone - not just the independent film festival circuit - take notice of Dickey's immense talents.
A haunting, slow-paced thriller about Ree Dolly (Jennifer Lawrence), a teenager forced to traverse the perilous meth-fueled world of the Ozarks Mountains to save her family from destitution, "Winter's Bone" stunned audiences and impressed critics alike during its 2010 Sundance debut, where it nabbed the Grand Jury Prize for Dramatic Film. The film also gained Dickey heaps of accolades for her role as Merab, the ruthless leader of the mountain women who attempts to warn and then beat up Ree Dolly for asking too many questions from the members of their closed-off clan. In spite of Dickey's experience portraying dark characters, her role as the clan's queen bee still posed a challenge due to the violence involved, yet the talented actress managed to draw from her experiences with women of authority who, when she was a young girl, scared her. For her breakout performance, Dickey received a 2011 Independent Spirit Award nomination for Best Supporting Female Lead.
Cast (Feature Film)
Cast (TV Mini-Series)
Landed minor role in the Broadway production of "The Merchant of Venice"
Had a recurring role as strong-willed mountain woman on the CBS series "Christy"
First film role, "The Incredibly True Adventure of Two Girls in Love"
Cast in a small role in the Sean Penn directed "The Pledge"
Played the recurring role of 'Patty the daytime hooker' on the NBC comedy "My Name Is Earl"
Appeared in Tony Scott's "Domino"
Landed a small role as a crazy woman in "Changeling"
Guest starred as a junkie on two episodes of AMC's "Breaking Bad"
Earned rave reviews for her role as the stubborn, implacable mountain woman Merab in "Winter's Bone"
Nominated for the 2011 Independent Spirit Award for Best Supporting Female ("Winter's Bone")
Nominated for the 2011 Independent Spirit Award for Best Supporting Female
Cast opposite Robert De Niro and Paul Dano in "Being Flynn," based on Nick Flynn's book <i>Another Bullshit Night in Suck City: A Memoir</i>