M.C. Gainey

Active - 1981 - 2020  |   Born - Jan 1, 1948 in Jackson, Mississippi, United States  |   Genres - Comedy, Drama, Action, Comedy Drama

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Biography by Nathan Southern

Notorious for his uncanny portrayals of jocks, rednecks, hellraisers, and good ol' boys, the rough-hewn American character actor M.C. Gainey built a career for himself as the prototypical onscreen lowlife. Gainey observed in an interview, "With a face like this, there aren't a lot of lawyers or priest roles coming my way. I've gotta face that was meant for a mug shot and that's what I've been doing for the past 30 years...by and large I play cowboys, bikers, and convicts."

Born in Jackson, MS, in 1947, Gainey debuted onscreen -- effectively portraying a young police officer -- in Herbert Ross' fascinating, ambitious, and stillborn musical film version of the Dennis Potter miniseries Pennies from Heaven (alongside Steve Martin, Bernadette Peters, and Christopher Walken). Some might call Gainey's evocation of a cop uncharacteristic, given his later turns, but at least two additional roles as a policeman followed during the '80s, in John Carpenter's Starman (1984) and Sondra Locke's ill-advised sentimental fantasy Ratboy (1986). Gainey landed a number of additional assignments through the end of that decade, but his career did not fully catch fire until the '90s, when he sustained several turns per year. Additional films during this period include 1993's Geronimo: An American Legend (as a miner), 1996's Citizen Ruth (as Harlan), 1997's Con Air (as the villain Swamp Thing), 1999's Happy, Texas (as Bob Allen), and 2003's Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines (as a bouncer).

In the late '90s and early 2000s, Gainey delivered two particularly memorable and dark performances that gave him instant recognition among viewers. In the first picture -- Jonathan Mostow's Breakdown (1997) -- Gainey played Earl, one of the psychopathic redneck kidnappers who torments Kurt Russell. In the second, Alexander Payne's character comedy Sideways (2004), Gainey played the unnamed husband of waitress Cammi, who chases intruder Thomas Haden Church out of his house while fully naked.

Gainey found his broadest exposure to date, however, as Mr. Friendly/Tom -- seemingly the leader of the Others and as enigmatic as can be -- in the blockbuster ABC series Lost. In 2006 he began a six episode run as Bow Crowder in the popular FX crime drama series Justified, with feature roles in The Babymakers and Quentin Tarantino's Django Unchained following in 2012.

Movie Highlights

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  • Worked as an undertaker's apprentice before going into acting.
  • Studied at the American Conservatory Theatre in San Francisco in the early 1970s.
  • Made his big-screen debut in the Steve Martin musical flop Pennies from Heaven (1981).
  • Has said his favorite role was Swamp Thing in the 1997 action-fest Con Air.
  • Married his wife, artist Kim Novicky, at the 2002 Jazz Fest in New Orleans.
  • Has been a regular on several TV series, including cult favorite Lost and the short-lived Against the Law and Happy Town.