Today's cuppa: plain coffee, little milk, little sugar
Fans of "Deadwood," David Milch's groundbreaking Western series for HBO, know Jim Beaver as Ellsworth, the irascible yet gentlemanly — in his own profane way, like many folks on the show — gold prospector who came to an unfortunate end, witnessed by his dog.
But Ellsworth's demise did nothing to slow down Beaver's career, as he can be seen concurrently as demon-hunter Bobby Singer on The CW's "Supernatural," airing Thursdays (the season finale airs next week); and as Sheriff Charlie Mills on the CBS mystery/drama limited series "Harper's Island," airing Saturdays (which, incidentally, also stars Katie Cassidy, who used to play the demon Ruby on "Supernatural" — not to be confused with Irish actress Elaine Cassidy, who plays Mills' daughter on "Harper's Island).
He's also a screenwriter, a playwright and an author, with a new memoir, "Life's That Way." It's based on a series of e-mails that chronicles Beaver's efforts to deal with his wife Cecily's cancer diagnosis and death, and being a now-single father to their autistic daughter, Maddie.
Born in Wyoming as the son of a minister, Beaver spent much of his childhood and adolesence in Texas. He also voluneered for the Marine Corps and was active in the Marine Reserve until 1976. His acting career involves stage, film and television (including writing episodes for such TV shows as "Alfred Hitchcock Presents" and "Tour of Duty").
Since Beaver is a writer, I asked him to pen some answers to questions, which are below. Enjoy.
It must have been quite a switch from two David Milch series — "Deadwood" and "John From Cincinnati" — to a thriller like
“Supernatural.” Was it a shock to the system or were you ready for a change?
A: It was
a big change just having a complete script ahead of time! On David’s
shows, the scripts famously are written at the last second and one sometimes
comes to work not knowing what the scenes will be. “Supernatural” is much
more typical in that sense. There’s always plenty of time with the
material, to learn it and digest it. I’ve gotten very good at working
Milch’s way, but the other way is much less terrifying! As to the shows
themselves, it wasn’t really a shock. The work is always the same in one
sense: you’re always trying to illustrate human behavior, human attitudes,
human needs. That’s the same on an old West street or in house full of
devil’s traps. Only the scenery and the plots are different.
There’s more zombies on “Supernatural,” I guess, but that goes with the
As a former Marine (and I know there are no ex-Marines), what did you learn in
the Corps that has served you best in Hollywood?
A: I guess
the biggest thing I learned in the Corps that was useful in
you but they can’t eat you.” (Frankly, I think they can eat you in Hollywood,
a useful attitude.) And I learned confidence in the Marines, something
that occasionally pays off in Hollywood.
and had that experience, so that was helpful, too.
Might you ever write a “Supernatural” episode?
always said no to that notion, because I think the writers on Eric’s team
already are the best at writing this show, and I generally prefer to write
projects that grow out of my own personal interests or ideas. I have
several pet projects that I want to write that have nothing to do with
“Supernatural.” But lately I’ve had an idea for a SPN story that I
might pitch to Eric sometime. The fact is, though, he’s almost certainly
got a story arc lined out for this next season and my idea probably wouldn’t
fit into that arc very well, unless he’s got room for a non-arc story somewhere
along the line. I think Eric and the gang will get along fine without my
help. But never say never.
What’s your relationship like with show stars Jared Padalecki and Jensen Ackles?
A trio of Texans!
A: I don’t
have the same relationship with Jared and Jensen that Bobby has with Sam and
Dean. We’re much more on an even level, as far as I’m concerned.
There’s no sense that I’m older and wiser, like there is with Bobby, no sense
that Jim ever needs to straighten the two youngsters out like there sometimes
is with Bobby. We’re three friends and colleagues, and I think there’s a
lot of mutual respect that goes along with the friendship. If anything, I
come to them for advice. It’s great being a trio of Texans, since it
gives us all kind of that feeling of knowing the “secret handshake,” you
I just had a great conversation with Elaine Cassidy of “Harper’s Island” from Dublin.
working with her?
A: Well, I
once told Elaine that I hope my little girl grows up to be like her, so that
a professional from the tips of her toes, and a sweet, warm-hearted, and
generous girl, and there wasn’t a scene I did with her that didn’t stretch my
boundaries as an actor. I felt very lucky to have her as my TV daughter,
and I think we developed a great affection for each other over the course of
How has assembling your memoir helped you deal with the challenges it talks
A: In some
ways, so much of the challenges depicted in my book had faded somewhat into the
past in the five years since those events. Putting the book together
brought them all back to vivid reality, and I confess it wasn’t easy going
through that material as many times as was necessary in order to edit it.
The original manuscript is three times longer than the finished book, and every
word had to be reexamined and reevaluated, since it wasn’t possible to
keep everything. That meant many, many passages through the material, and
a re-experiencing of many of the emotions. I’m not sure I was fully
prepared for that. But, as happened with the original emails on which
it’s based, there’s a catharsis that comes with seeing one’s emotions and
troubles laid out on paper, and some of the lessons I hoped to share with
the book got reinforced in me, as well, by going over them again.
As a writer, what have you gained from working closely with David Milch and “Supernatural”
executive producer Eric Kripke, who come from very different screenwriting
David, I think I’ve learned a great deal about boldness, about being unafraid
to tackle big themes and big emotions, and to keep in the forefront the
importance and value writing can have, and not waste my energy on
trivialities. From Eric, I’ve learned that relationships are a much
better engine for a show than scares and special effects, and that people may
love to be spooked, but what they really want from a show is to be moved.
This year’s “Supernatural” touched on very large themes of good and evil, God
and man, much as “Deadwood” and “John From Cincinnati” both did. Do you ponder
those issues yourself?
A: I guess
I don’t spend as much time thinking about such issues as I do playing
them! The issues that are touched on in those shows are all huge and
complex, and I’m kind of a simple guy in some respects. I certainly pay
attention to my own behavior, and try to inculcate good and moral behavior in
my daughter, but I’m not much of a philosopher.
What’s next — another acting job, a screenplay, a novel? A nap?
A: A nap
would be great. About a week long, I think. I don’t have another
acting gig lined up yet. I’m sure something will come along. I’ve
got a screenplay and a novel in the works, as well as my ongoing biography of
George Reeves, the first TV Superman, a project that’s been a pleasant but persistent
albatross around my neck for far too long. But I’m awfully slow, and
awfully easily distract— oh, look, a bird!