Ray Wise

Active - 1980 - 2020  |   Born - Aug 29, 1947 in Akron, Ohio, United States  |   Genres - Mystery, Drama, Thriller, Horror, Science Fiction

Share on

Biography by Jason Buchanan

Longtime character actor Ray Wise is beloved by genre fans for his over-the-top roles in Swamp Thing, RoboCop, Twin Peaks (both the series and the feature), and Jeepers Creepers 2, yet one look at the actor's diverse filmography reveals that it's Wise's diverse body of small-screen work that has been his bread and butter throughout the years.

As an adolescent, Wise became keenly aware of his love for acting, and displayed his ambition by appearing in as many plays as possible throughout high school. A college theater major who spent most of his summer breaks in summer stock, Wise was well and ready to enter the professional world after receiving his degree in 1970. As with many other aspiring actors, Wise was drawn to the bright lights of Broadway and New York City, landing a job on the soap opera Love of Life after being in town for only two weeks. During the six years that he was acting on Love of Life, Wise would moonlight with stage roles both on and off-Broadway in addition to dabbling in repertory theater. When Love of Life was canceled in 1976, it was time to expand into features with supporting roles in Swamp Thing and Cat People (both 1982). Throughout the 1980s, Wise appeared on some of the most popular series on television, including Dallas, Trapper John, M.D., Knots Landing, and Moonlighting -- occasionally returning for a recurring role. While his part in Paul Verhoeven's over-the-top sci-fi action flick RoboCop offered the busy actor a chance to truly explore his inner villain, it was another menacing role that would propel Wise's career in the 1990s.

Cast as grieving father Leland Palmer in the surreal David Lynch series Twin Peaks, Wise captivated television viewers with his emotionally charged performance -- Palmer was a challenging character, and few actors could have brought him to life quite as effectively as Wise. In 1992, Wise reprised the role of Leland Palmer for the polarizing feature Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me, with subsequent performances in Bob Roberts and Powder, as well as on television in Star Trek: Voyager and Beverly Hills 90210, proving his highest-profile works of the decade. While by the year 2000 it appeared as if Wise had settled into a comfortable small-screen groove thanks to his numerous television credits, roles as a frightened father in the underappreciated, Twilight Zone-flavored frightener Dead End and a monster-fighting farmer in Jeepers Creepers 2 (which re-teamed him with Powder director Victor Salva) both gave genre fans cause to celebrate.

In 2005, Wise took an affecting turn as communist witch-hunt victim Don Hollenbeck in director George Clooney's Oscar-nominated drama Good Night, and Good Luck, and the following year he had a recurring role as Vice President Hal Gardner in the hit Fox series 24. With additional small-screen roles in The Closer, CSI, Law & Order: SVU, and the supernatural series Reaper (on which he played the Devil himself) serving well to balance out feature work in Peaceful Warrior, Pandemic, and One Missed Call, it appeared that Wise remained as comfortable as ever fluctuating between work in film and television. He continued to work steadily on small and big-screen projects like Pandemic, One Missed Call, Crazy Eyes, Mad Men, and Tim and Eric's Billion Dollar Movie.

Movie Highlights

See Full Filmography


  • Within three weeks of moving to New York after college, landed a role on the soap Love of Life.
  • Made his big-screen debut in Wes Craven's Swamp Thing (1982).
  • Won an Obie Award for his performance in the 1983 Sam Shepard play The Tooth of Crime.
  • Frequently works with Victor Salva, appearing in the director's Powder (1995), Jeepers Creepers 2 (2003) and Peaceful Warrior (2006), among others.
  • Has been a regular on several prime-time TV series, including Second Chances, Savannah and Reaper.