Reg E. Cathey, ‘Wire’ and ‘House of Cards’ Actor, Dies at 59

His role as Freddy Hayes on Netflix political drama earned him three consecutive Emmy nominations

Reg E Cathey
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Emmy-winning actor Reg E. Cathey, best known for his work on “The Wire” and “House of Cards,” has died. He was 59.

“The Wire” creator David Simon first reported Cathey’s death on Friday.

“Reg Cathey, 1958-2018. Not only a fine, masterful actor — but simply one of the most delightful human beings with whom I ever shared some long days on set,” Simon tweeted. “On wit alone, he could double any man over and leave him thinking. Reg, your memory is a great blessing.”

Netflix later released a statement honoring the actor, saying: “We are heartbroken by the passing of our friend and ‘House of Cards’ colleague Reg E. Cathey. Reg was the kindest man, the most giving actor, a true gentlemen. Our sympathy goes to his family.”

Cathey received Outstanding Guest Actor in a Drama Series Emmy nominations in 2014, 2015 and 2016 for his “House of Cards” role as Freddy Hayes — proprietor of a rib joint that provided the scheming Frank Underwood (Kevin Spacey) a sanctuary and secret hideout. He won in 2015.

On “The Wire,” which he joined in its fourth season, Cathey played Norman Wilson, a journalist-turned-political operative who coaches the ambitious Tommy Carcetti (Aiden Gillen) as he quickly rises up in Maryland politics.

Cathey was born in Huntsville, Alabama, and said for an HBO profile that he decided he wanted to become an actor when he saw a production of “Guys and Dolls” while growing up in Germany.

He eventually landed roles on projects like “The Corner,” Simon’s predecessor to “The Wire.” His other roles included “Oz,” “The Fantastic Four,” “Se7en,” “Outcast,” and the documentary “The People Speak.” He also played Don King in the boxing drama, “Hands of Stone.”

Cathey said he noticed an uptick in roles for “well-spoken” black people during Barack Obama’s presidency.

“What I did notice is that Barack Obama becomes president and suddenly black people who are well-spoken are working more,” he said in an interview with the Guardian in 2016. “This new market for the well-spoken black actor is all due to Obama. He got inaugurated and I started working like a fiend – hired by the same people who would previously ask: ‘Have you always spoken like that?’ It’s like, you know what, motherf—ers, yes, I have.”

“House of Cards” creator Beau Willimon echoed Simon’s sentiment on Friday:

“Reg Cathey was one of a kind. Brimming with life force, generosity, humor, gravitas and a fountain of talent,” he said on Twitter Friday. “Loved by everyone lucky enough know him and work with him. He will be greatly missed. Rest In Peace, Reg.”

Media Rights Capital, the studio behind “House of Cards,” told TheWrap in a statement that he was a “beloved member” of the “House of Cards” family.

“Reg E. Cathey was a luminous talent and very much a beloved member of our ‘House of Cards’ family,” the statement said. “We are grateful for his spirit, warmth and dedication. ‘House of Cards’ was a better show because of Reg and the depth, wit and heart he brought to Freddy. Our thoughts and prayers are with him and his entire family at this time.”

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