Ubiquitous character actors were often known by sight, if not by name, but Gary Grubbs' voice was as much his calling card as his ability to undertake various performing challenges. Perfectly able to depict characters on opposite ends of the social register, his unaffected Mississippi drawl and natural acting skill made him just as persuasive playing attorneys in productions like the TV movie "The Burning Bed" (NBC, 1984) and, perhaps most famously, "JFK" (1991), at the same time he was inhabiting good 'ole boy roles in films like "Ray" (2004). Casting directors also found the tall and handsome actor an excellent choice to portray authority figures, so Grubbs found himself wearing the uniforms of everything from county sheriffs to high-ranking military men. While the majority of his parts were on the small screen, Grubbs also made his mark in such notable motion pictures as "In the Electric Mist" (2009), "The Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call - New Orleans" (2009), "Battleship" (2012), and "Django Unchained" (2012). Grubbs' extensive résumé in both mediums was a testament to his skillset and his work in a number of high-profile movies later in his career, all of which helped viewers put a face to that unmistakable voice.
Born in Amory, MS on Nov. 14, 1949, Jon Gary Grubbs attended the University of Mississippi, where he studied finance. Spurred on by his roommate, future actor Cooper Huckabee, Grubbs became interested in the institution's dramatic courses and soon developed a love for acting. He obtained his first movie credit via a brief turn in "For the Love of Benji" (1977) and relocated from the South to Los Angeles in order to take advantage of the West Coast's much larger film and television industry. Writing was his main employment goal, but it was Grubbs' acting that won him an agent. Numerous small screen parts followed, including quite a few made-for-TV features.
Although he was eventually able to adopt a neutral accent that allowed him to tackle characters from any state in the union, Grubbs was still very much a member of the Southern acting community called upon to appear in big studio productions shot in Texas, New Mexico and neighboring states. Early credits in that vein included the Jack Nicholson drama "The Border" (1982) and the acclaimed Meryl Streep vehicle "Silkwood" (1983). That effortless down-home persona also made Grubbs a welcome presence on the guest lists of California-based network shows like "The Dukes of Hazzard" (CBS, 1979-1985). Grubbs had his first job as a series regular on "For Love and Honor" (NBC, 1983), but the military drama failed in the ratings. Additional feature roles came in the Kim Basinger/Jeff Bridges comedy "Nadine" (1987) and Roger Vadim's remake of his own 1956 classic, "And God Created Woman" (1988). He was a natural for the updated version of "Davy Crockett" that aired on "The Wonderful World of Disney" (ABC/NBC/CBS, 1954-1990) in 1988.
While it was not a showcase part, Grubbs was well utilized in Oliver Stone's conspiratorial classic "JFK" (1991) as Al Oser, one of Jim Garrison's (Kevin Costner) team of lawyers attempting to get to the truth. One of the many scene-stealers in the A-list ensemble about the assassination of President John Kennedy, Oser would become one of the roles Grubbs was most readily identified with even years later. Switching gears, he demonstrated his comedic talents by generating a great deal of laughter as businessman Harlan Polk on the first season of "Will and Grace" (NBC, 1998-2006). In the midst of all this activity, Grubbs still managed to find time to indulge his passion for writing. His play, "As the Crow Flies," had its premiere in the spring of 1999, and he sold a pair of pilot scripts. Television guest star roles and made-for-TV movies dominated Grubbs' slate in the early 2000s, in addition to appearances in such big-budget features as "Runaway Jury" (2003), "Ray" (2004), and "All the King's Men" (2006). He also contributed a six-episode stint on "The O.C." (NBC, 2003-07) and headed back down South for a pair of offbeat Louisiana-based productions set and shot in a post-Katrina New Orleans: Bertrand Tavernier's "In the Electric Mist" (2009) and Werner Herzog's "The Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call - New Orleans" (2009).
The year 2012 proved to be an exceedingly busy one for Grubbs. He was back for more series television work with a recurring gig on the sitcom "Common Law" (USA Network, 2012) and played the Air Force Chief of Staff in Universal's big-budget science fiction flop "Battleship" (2012). He was also undertook roles in a number of other prominent productions, including Quentin Tarantino's highly anticipated revenger "Django Unchained" (2012), Ryûhei Kitamura's horror thriller "No One Lives" (2012), Susan Siedelman's comedy "The Hot Flashes" (2013), Atom Egoyan's crime thriller "Devil's Knot" (2013), and the Arnold Schwarzenegger actioner "Ten" (2013). In addition to acting, Grubbs also conducted performance classes in which he discussed vocal training and how actors with regional accents could enhance their employment prospects by learning to perform with a more neutral speech pattern.
By John Charles