Reg E. Cathey, whose distinctive baritone and memorable roles on hugely popular television shows like “House of Cards” and “The Wire” won him legions of fans and an Emmy Award, has died. He was 59.
His death was announced Friday night by David Simon, creator of “The Wire,” on Twitter. The cause was not given.
Though he earned credits across dozens of television shows and movies, it was Cathey’s portrayal of Freddy Hayes — an empathetic, salt-of-the-earth barbecue pit owner whose restaurant provides a respite for Francis Underwood, the scheming politician in “House of Cards” — that earned him three Emmy nominations and one win for Outstanding Guest Actor in a Drama Series.
Cathey assumed a somewhat similar role on “The Wire,” playing a beloved newspaper editor turned political operative whose honesty and integrity are often sought out by the man he works for, Tommy Carcetti.
“Not only a fine, masterful actor — but simply one of the most delightful human beings with whom I ever shared some long days on set,” Simon said on Twitter. “On wit alone, he could double any man over and leave him thinking. Reg, your memory is a great blessing.”
Born in August 1958 in Huntsville, Alabama, to a father who was an Army officer and a mother who worked in the Defense Department, Cathey grew up in Germany and traveled frequently before moving back to Alabama when he was a teenager. He studied at the University of Michigan — where, reports say, he befriended Madonna and future comedy star David Alan Grier — and later at the Yale School of Drama.
Over an acting career that spanned more than 35 years, Cathey also had a recurring role in the long-running television series “Oz” and made appearances in other widely viewed shows like “Law & Order,” “30 Rock” and “Star Trek: The Next Generation.”
His many film credits include a role as Dr. Franklin Storm in the 2015 reboot of “Fantastic Four” and a part as a homeless man in “American Psycho.” In 2000, Cathey made his Broadway debut in “The Green Bird”; he has several other theater credits.
Information about Cathey’s surviving relatives was not immediately available.
Though some might not know Cathey by name, his recent roles and commanding voice made him instantly recognizable in the latter part of his career.
“When I was on ‘Oz’ years ago, I did an interview and the guy said, ‘You’re one of the few actors who can make their living as an actor without being famous,’” he told The Detroit Free Press in 2015. “We both laughed. And it’s true. There’s a small club of us, actors and actresses, because it’s really difficult just to make a living as an actor without being famous. It used to be easier when I first started, but now it’s really, really difficult.”Sandra E. Garcia contributed reporting. Jack Begg contributed research.