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Cool Actor of the Week

June 8, 2011

Cool Actor of the Week – Zeljko Ivanek

The Event

This week our Cool Actor is a fellow whose name I wasn’t sure how to pronounce until today, despite having been a fan of his work since 1982 when he played the title role in The Sender (a creepy little movie well worth seeking out). I’m sure you’ve seen him in a zillion movies and TV shows.

Zeljko Ivanek was born in Ljubljana, Slovenia in 1957. His family moved to the US in 1960 (and back again each way). A graduate of Yale, Ivanek also attended the London Academy of Music and Dramatic Art. His first credited television role is on the soap opera The Edge of NIght in 1981-1982, and in 1982 he appeared not only in The Sender but in Tex and The Soldier, as well. He was off and running at that point, with roles on such TV series as St. Elsewhere, L.A. Law, and The X-Files while also appearing in numerous movies, including School Ties, Donnie Brasco, Hannibal, and Black Hawk Down.

Some of his best-know roles have been on the TV shows Homicide: Life on the Street, Oz, Heroes, True Blood, and his Emmy-winning turn as attorney Ray Fiske on Damages. He also had a short but very memorable appearance on Lost, as Juliet’s unpleasant cheating husband.

Ivanek excels at playing sharp-tongued, clever, and pretty much altogether ruthless sons of bitches — and always seems to be having a great time doing so. Whenever he shows up onscreen you know you’re in for a treat. His turn as Fiske on Damages was nothing short of amazing; multi-layered, mostly low-key, but vicious and pointed. His exit from the series was a stunner, too.

For some reason, good clips of Ivanek are kind of tough to come by on the ol’ YouTube, but here’s a great bit where he plays an anger management counselor on the short-lived predecessor of Rescue Me, The Job:

And according to imdb, it’s pronounced JEL-ko EE-vah-NEK.

About the Author

Writes movies, books, TV. Loves Star Trek.


  1. ScottD

    “Whenever he shows up onscreen you know you’re in for a treat.”

    I think that’s the key when talking about any actor. There are plenty of Big Name Stars out there who are good at what they do, but it’s the mid-level actors, the working professionals who reliably deliver the goods no matter what is thrown at them, that are really the backbone of film and especially TV. So it’s great that you are celebrating actors like Ivanek.

    They may never get on the cover of a magazine — would any sane person really seek out the miseries of the attention the big stars get? — but they are like studio musicians: respected by their peers, relied upon by producers, and essential to good product. You may never learn their name, but you always notice that guitar riff they do.

  2. ElsieM

    Lovely tribute to Zeljko! He’s my favorite actor. :) Just FYI, his name is actually pronounced ZHEL-ko ee-VON-ik. The ZH is like the center consonant sound in “leisure”.

    His recent role as Blake Sterling on The Event is one of my favorites.

  3. Alzira

    I am a brazilian fan! His role as Blake Sterling is awesome! (I’m watching The
    Event episodes now). But, I am a fan, since his role “Roland/Dr. Grable” on
    The X-files. I love when he acts in Science Fictions Series, because are my favorites shows.
    I love Zeljko’s eyes! I think they are sweet!

  4. Holden Pike

    Though he had been around for quite a while, the first time I ever REALLY took notice of him and began looking forward to him showing up in projects was as the prosecutor Ed Danvers on “Homicide: Life On the Street”. Then I remembered, ‘Oh, yeah, he’s the guy from that Jack Lemmon priest movie from the ’80s (MASS APPEAL).

    Loved his creepy character on HBO’s “Big Love”, and thought Von Trier used him perfectly in DOGVILLE.

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