Reg Cathey, the veteran actor who won an Emmy for playing the owner of longtime Frank Underwood haunt Freddy’s BBQ Joint on Netflix’s House of Cards, has died. He was 59. Details of his death weren’t immediately available. David Simon, creator of HBO drama The Wire and miniseries The Corner, both of which Cathey also appeared in, announced the news in a tweet today.
Known for his deep, commanding voice, Cathey had been acting in films and TV for nearly two decades when he was cast as political operative Norman Wilson on The Wire. Joining the show for Season 4 in 2006, he appeared in nearly two dozen episodes. Before that, Cathey guested in a 1998 episode of Simon’s NBC crime drama Homicide: Life on the Street and went on to co-star as Scalio in the writer-producer’s Simon’s post-Homicide miniseries The Corner (2000). He also appeared in the post-series Homicide telefilm in 2000.
Cathey began his career with bit roles in late-1980s/early ’90s films including Crossing Delancey, Penn & Teller Get Killed, Born on the Fourth of July, Quick Change and What About Bob? In 1987, he began recurring on kids anthology series Square One Television. He continued to work in TV and mostly films into the mid-’90s — including The Mask, Clear and Present Danger, Airheads, Tank Girl and Seven — before the gigs in Simon’s TV shows.
Also in 2000, he was cast in another HBO series from another Homicide original, Tom Fontana’s often-brutal prison drama Oz. He recurred as Martin Querns, a former drug dealer-turned-prison unit managed at Emerald City.
He continued to work steadily through the 2000s and later became a regular on FX’s boxing drama Lights Out, which lasted one season. Cathey would go on to appear in multiple episodes of Law & Order: SVU, Grimm, The Divide and Banshee before landing the role for which he became best known.
Cathey appeared in the first episode of House of Cards, which soon would become Netflix’s signature drama. He played the often-intense eponymous owner of Freddy’s BBQ Joint in South Carolina, a longtime favorite of Frank Underwood (Kevin Spacey) that would open whenever the politician craved ribs. The two characters had a friendly but sometimes tense dynamic, and when Underwood ascended to the presidency in later seasons and Freddy’s closed, the ribs ace secured a job as a groundskeeper at the White House. But it turned out that Freddy had a criminal past that Underwood didn’t know about, which caused tension in the West Wing. The two had an uncomfortable and racially chrged but memorable final scene in Season 4 — before Freddy beats the snot out of a nosy reporter who was trying to get dirt on Underwood from him.
Cathey won an Emmy for Outstanding Guest Actor in a Drama Series in 2015 and also was nominated the year before and after.
After his House of Cards stint, Cathey became a regular on the Cinemax horror drama Outcast, playing Chief of Police Byron Giles for its entire two-season run. He appeared in last year’s HBO telefilm The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, playing a son of the title character. His most recent credit was Sebastian Silva’s Tyrel, which was nominated for the Grand Jury Prize at Sundance in January.
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