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Ray Wise – Actor Information

by David Fox

Ray Wise is an American TV and movie actor whose career has lasted more than five decades, and he remains an active member in the film and television industry today.  His IMDB is bursting with fascinating roles that the actor has played, and it’s worth a perusal if you haven’t seen it.

Ray has played characters in more than a hundred movies, and is known for many mesmerizing performances including one of his best-known roles of all time – a character named Leland Palmer in tv series and movie about the fictional small town of Twin Peaks.

Aside from Leland, who definitely helped make Twin Peaks the blockbuster it became, along with the ensemble cast, Ray has played characters such as Leon from Robocop (1987), Blair Sullivan in the tv show Dallas (1982), Liko in Star Trek: The Next Generation (1989), Judge Jim Stinson in Second Chances (1993), Dr. Aaron Stripler in the movie Powder (1995), Daniel Hunter in Beverly Hills, 90210 (1998), Jack Mornay in Resurrection Blvd (2000), Vice President Hal Gartner in 24 (2006), Wade Dawkins in Darnell Dawkins: Mouth Guitar Legend (2010), and the list goes on and on, showing the versatility of this amazing actor.


Raymond Herbert Wise was born on 20th August 1947 in Akron, Ohio, USA. He grew up in a family with Romanian roots from his mother’s side, and so Romanian culture influenced him throughout his life.

Religion had played an important role in his life while growing up. He had stated that Romanian heritage influenced his personality in many ways. When Ray was ten years old, he got a book about Dracula – a fictional Romanian character created by the Irish author Bram Stoker.

Bram Stoker Dracula
Bram Stoker Dracula

He had read it many times and really enjoyed the book, even wanted to play this character in a movie or tv show. Later in his life, he had an opportunity to visit Count Dracula‘s castle in Romania.

Mr. Wise described himself as a political animal because he grew up in a political related environment – his father was a local labor union‘s president.

Ray marks that participating in various political conventions as a child with his father gave him a unique perspective and influenced his imagination when he needed to create his powerful characters in the future.

Ray Wise
Ray Wise

Playing the Bad Guy

If you need to describe Ray’s characters in one word, it would definitely be “evil”, as he tends to be well known for his more evil characters.

It’s hard to say whether it’s simply his sometimes sinister looks or a special talent he was able to manifest, which determined his destiny to get mostly bad guys‘ roles, but one thing is clear: he really nailed them – and even more, he enjoyed playing them.


In one of his interviews, Ray shared his excitement to play a bad character in his long term role in the soap opera “The Young And The Restless”.

According to Ray, he describes his character as the one who comes into the town and brings chaos and drama with him. The actor declares that there are many advantages of playing bad guys in tv-series and movies.

One of these advantages is that bad characters usually get really great lines. Moreover, they also get the opportunity to improvise during the scene and add a wide spectrum of colors to their performance.

Here he is as the impeccable Ian Ward…

Twin Peaks

To the public Ray Wise is mostly known for his unforgettable performances in David Lynch‘s TV series Twin Peaks and movie on the same topic Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me.

In one of his interviews, he had described the character he was playing, Leland Palmer, as a good family man and a good lawyer who had entered a dark side, led by other series‘ character Bob. The role of Laura Palmer‘s father has more than one dimension – he is a nuanced character with many layers that add greatly to mysterious nature of Twin Peaks.

Leland is – at first – portrayed as a caring dad and husband to his family, there is something about him that makes you question him, slowly making you think – is he really that person who everyone thinks he is? And the most interesting part – how Leland Palmer changes through episodes, even adding elements of unexpected comedy to the series.

Despite how many times Ray was asked about his role in Twin Peaks, he never looked bored to answer questions about his performance. That shows how devoted to his role and the whole show he is.

In one of his interviews, he had shared that even after many years he likes to rewatch Twin Peaks once a year, just to remember the enormous creative job all the crew did and experience all of it over again.

According to the actor, a whole Twin Peaks crew did not only create this unique and amazing tv show but also influenced many TV series which had been created in later years. The actor perfectly gave meaning to the incredible tv project of Twin Peaks.


Ray Wise will turn seventy-four this year, but despite his age, he still keeps working on acting and remains an active member of the movie industry and its community.

Next to that, he is an active member of social media such as Twitter and does not miss the opportunity to express his opinion about social issues such as inequality or bullying in school.

The Devil

In an almost spiritual sequel to Twin Peaks, Ray is also well known for playing the Devil himself in the show Reaper, which lasted 2 years from 2007 – 2009 and is critically acclaimed as well.

If you consider how Twin Peaks ended for Ray’s character, to see him return as the Devil makes a lot of sense, and it is a role that was almost custom made for the actor, fitting once again into his ability to play not just a “bad” guy, but the worst of all guys – Satan.

Once again, Ray infuses this role with some of the same elements that made Leland Palmer so compelling in Twin Peaks – intensity, eloquence, pure acting chops, and not to mention a healthy dose of sardonic wit.

For those who never saw him in Twin Peaks, this is once again a defining role for Mr. Wise, who said of his role in Reaper back in 2013: “I think his sartorial taste is close to mine, and of course, the way he wears his hair. [laughs] And I love humor, and I love to be, or at least I try to be a little witty; perhaps not as witty as the Devil can be, but yeah. There are certain aspects of him that are certainly part of me.”

Ray also played a similar character in the show Fargo, who some have speculated is the same supernatural gentleman who appears in Reaper – an interesting idea, at least.

Ray’s career features much more than just bad guys, but as far as bad guys go, he’s one of the very best.  We’ll leave you with this clip from Robocop, but definitely look Ray up and dive into his filmography to see why he’s one of America’s treasures when it comes to actors.

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David Fox is an artist who created to talk about art and creativity. He loves to write, paint, and take pictures. David is also a big fan of spending time with his family and friends.

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