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.