A balding supporting actor with a grin that suggests he knows something you don't, Richard Jenkins has become one of the most in-demand character actors in Hollywood. Though he has worked steadily since the early '80s, Jenkins may have made his most memorable impression, at least to HBO subscribers, as the patriarch of the family of undertakers on the hit 2001 drama Six Feet Under. His character was killed off in the first episode, but Jenkins continued to appear as a spirit lingering in the family's memory -- a good metaphor for the actor's lingering impact on viewers, even when he appears in small roles.
Jenkins, who shares the birth name of Richard Burton and sometimes appears as Richard E. Jenkins, was born and raised in Dekalb, IL, before studying theater at Illinois Wesleyan University. The actor developed a long and distinguished regional theater career, most notably a 15-year stint at Rhode Island's Trinity Repertory Theater, where he served as artistic director for four years. He snagged his first role as early as 1975, in the TV movie Brother to Dragons, but did not begin working regularly until a small role in the Lawrence Kasdan film Silverado (1985). Supporting work in such films as Hannah and Her Sisters (1986), The Witches of Eastwick (1987), and Sea of Love (1989) followed, and Jenkins spent the early '90s specializing in made-for-TV movies, including the adaptation of Randy Shilts' AIDS opus And the Band Played On (1993).