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Here’s What The ‘Oz’ Cast Has Been Up To


One of HBO’s first major forays into original programming, the prison drama Oz premiered a little more than 20 years ago in 1997, and ran for six seasons (which you can stream anytime on HBO Now). Taking full advantage of the freedoms that a premium cable channel allowed, Oz showed an unflinching view of what life was like inside the Oswald State Penitentiary. With a sprawling cast of characters that included inmates, correctional officers, and conflicted spiritual leaders, the show acted as a showcase (and a springboard after the show’s run) for a mix of up-and-coming actors and seasoned character.

With that in mind, here’s a look at what some of the cast has been up to since we last got a glimpse behind those prison walls back in 2003.

Dean Winters – Ryan O’Reilly

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One of the most recognizable actors from the acclaimed prison drama, Dean Winters came out of one acclaimed drama and jumped to another with his co-starring role in Rescue Me beside Denis Leary. Despite that and his work on Oz, however, Winters is probably more recognizable for comedic roles where he trades on his gravely voice and seeming intensity in shows like 30 Rock, The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, and Brooklyn Nine-Nine, where he plays the cocky foil known as The Vulture. He also recently showed up as a shady cop in the comedy Rough Night earlier this year alongside costars Scarlett Johannson and Kate McKinnon.

Winters best known for playing Mayhem in the Allstate Insurance commercials, though, and that probably doesn’t bother him considering all he got from a role that he says “brought him back to life” after he was pronounced dead of cardiac arrest in the back of an ambulance due to a bacterial infection. After 17 surgeries and nine amputations, Winters credits the Allstate commercials for revitalizing his career at a point where his life was at his lowest.

Christopher Meloni – Chris Keller

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A beloved character actor who cut his teeth on the crime drama procedural NYPD Blue, Christopher Meloni played Chris Keller on Oz, a manipulative sociopath who carried on an affair with fellow inmate Tobias Beecher. Since then, he’s lent his chops to everything from comedy to drama, including Wet Hot American Summer, Drunk History, Underground, and HBO’s vampire drama True Blood. His most recognizable role, however, is as hyper intense cop Elliot Stabler on Law And Order: SVU, where he has appeared in more than 270 episodes before leaving the series in 2011.

Meloni currently resides in a Los Angeles house that was made famous thanks to The Adventures of Ozzy and Harriet. Earlier this year, he wrapped production on Happy! with Patton Oswalt, a Syfy pilot based on a Grant Morrison comic book about a hitman who befriends a blue horse. Meloni isn’t playing the horse.

Lee Tergeson – Tobias Beecher

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Previously known for playing Bill Paxton’s torturous older brother character in the Weird Science TV show and for a stint on Homicide: Life On The Street (which was based on David Simon’s book), Lee Tergeson played Tobias Beecher, a well-to-do lawyer who ends up serving hard time for killing a nine-year-old girl while drunk driving. Tergeson has stayed busy in the nearly 15 years since the show’s conclusion, with recurring roles in Desperate Housewives, The Big C, The Americans, The Strain, Longmire, and Defiance to name just a few. He also starred as Scribe in Simon’s miniseries Generation Kill about an embedded reporter in the Iraq war and the soldiers he travels with.

Harold Perrineau – Augustus Hill

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As paralyzed inmate Augustus Hill, Harold Perrineau was not only Oz’s narrator but one of the only consistently moral characters in Oswald Penitentiary. Since then, he’s kept active in film and TV, including roles in The Matrix sequels and Zero Dark Thirty, as well popping up as one of the leads in the Constantine TV series and as Sons of Anarchy antagonist Damon Pope in the show’s fifth season. He was most recently cast as Dean in the new TNT series Claws.

A natural performer, Perrineau branched out into music in 2007, releasing his first single “Stay Strong,” with proceeds going directly to the Bob Woodruff Family Fund for Traumatic Brain injury. He’s also been collaborating with producer Tomo in der Muhlen on his debut album, as well as appearing in music videos for artists including J. Cole and MKTO.

J.K. Simmons – Vernon Schillinger

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With only a handful of acting credits to his name at the time, J.K. Simmons found his breakout role with Neo-Nazi Vernon Schillinger, one of the most powerful and feared inmates in Oz. He’s moved onto big screen roles in movies like Juno and Whiplash, the latter of which won him an Academy Award. He applied his gruff persona to newspaper publisher J. Jonah Jameson in Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man trilogy, though has since jumped ship to the DCEU, playing Commissioner Jim Gordon in the upcoming Justice League.

A native of the motor city, he’s an avid fan of the Detroit Tigers (who got to play the fictional manager of the team in 1999’s The Love Of The Game), and even threw out the first pitch on their opening day back in 2015. Along with his habit of ornithology, he’s an avid gym goer, and was spotted working out last year in a photo that ended up going viral. With fans assuming it was in preparation for Justice League, Simmons earned the nickname ‘Gym Gordon.’ He later revealed to Business Insider that he works out regularly, in part because after watching himself in the first season of Oz, he felt like he looked out of shape and completely unbelievable as a fear-mongering Neo-Nazi.

Ernie Hudson – Leo Glynn

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Best known as Winston Zeddemore in 1985’s iconic Ghostbusters, Ernie Hudson showed his acting chops by playing the conservative, often vindictive warden of Oswell prison, Leo Glynn. Since then, he’s shown up in numerous hit series, including Modern Family, Grace And Frankie, Grey’s Anatomy, and most recently Twin Peaks: The Return.

A graduate of the Yale School of Drama, Hudson made his Broadway debut in 2009 in the Tony-Award winning Joe Turner’s Come and Gone, and had a cameo appearance in Paul Feig’s Ghostbusters reboot last year.

Still active in his early 70s, Hudson splits his time between Los Angeles, numerous convention appearances across the country, and his home life in Minneapolis, where he’s the father of four boys — the eldest, Ernest Hudson, co-starred with him on Oz, where he played Muslim inmate Hamid Khan in the show’s third season. According to his website, Hudson also gives back to his community whenever possible.

Terry Kinney – Tim McManus

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A lifelong advocate of the theater, even co-founding the Steppenwolf Theater Company with fellow thespian Gary Sinise, Terry Kinney has directed a number of stage productions since the mid-1970s. In addition to playing the idealistic corrections officer Tim McManus on Oz, he also directed two episodes in the third and fifth seasons.

Kinney remains active on the small screen, popping up in David Simon’s Show Me A Hero mini-series, Fargo’s second season, co-starring in Good Behavior, and recurring in Showtime’s Billions.

Rita Moreno – Sister Peter Marie Reimondo

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Born in 1931, Rita Moreno’s career has spanned more than seven decades across TV, stage, and film. In Oz, she played Sister Pete, an idealistic nun who worked as a drug counselor, aligning herself with Tim McManus’ ideals of rehabilitation. Since then, she’s maintained her presence in TV series like Ugly Betty and Jane the Virgin, as well as three separate Law & Order spinoffs. Recently she landed a starring role as Lidia Rieria in the reboot of Norman Lear’s hit sitcom One Day At A Time.

Moreno has also remained active on stage, including a solo show based on her own life Rita Moreno: Life Without Makeup, which began its run in 2011. Three years later, she was chosen to be the 50th actor to receive the SAG award for Life Achievement. When not acting, she remains active in the creative community, having served on the National Foundation for the Arts, the Presidents White House Fellowships, and the President’s Committee on the Arts and Humanities, just to name a few.

Kirk Acevedo – Miguel Alvarez

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An hot-headed inmate whose father and grandfather are both serving life sentences in Oz, Kirk Acevedo gave considerable dimension to the reactionary character and was nominated for four ALMA Awards during its run. He’s since moved onto co-starring roles in Fringe, Kingdom, and the 12 Monkeys TV series. He also played the part of Carver in the second installment of Matt Reeve’s rebooted trilogy Dawn Of The Planet Of The Apes.

Like his Oz co-star Terry Kinney, he also founded his own theater company, The Rorschach Group, with fellow character actor Shea Whigham.

Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje – Simon Adebisi

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The British-born actor played Simon Adebisi, one of the most terrifying inmates from Oz’s first four seasons. After parting ways with the show, he went on to co-star in The Mummy Returns , the first three seasons of Lost, and GI Joe: Rise Of The Cobra. Since then, he’s appeared in Game of Throne, HBO’s mockumentary Tour De Pharmacy, and popped up as Killer Croc in David Ayer’s Suicide Squad.

Akinnuoye-Agbaje is currently working on his directorial debut, a semi-autobiographical movie entitled Farming, though a release date hasn’t been set.

B.D. Wong – Father Ray Mukada

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Already a veteran of theater, TV, and film, B.D. Wong furthered his career as Father Ray Mukada, the spiritual center of Oswald Penitentiary. After Oz, Wong has gone on to voice the role of Shang in Disney’s Mulan and Mulan II, a role he later reprised again in the Kingdom Hearts video game. He’s also appeared in Jurassic World and its upcoming sequel, Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom, reprising his role from the original Jurassic Park. Wong has also kept busy on the small screen, with more than 200 episodes of Law And Order: SVU and a role as Hugo Strange in the Batman prequel Gotham and as the mysterious White Rose in USA’s Mr Robot, which earned him an Critics’ Choice nomination.

On stage, Wong’s best known for portraying Song Liling in M. Butterfly, for which he’s received the Tony Award, Drama Desk Award, Outer Critics Circle Award, Clarence Derwent Award, and the Theater World Award — the first actor in history to do so. He’s also an active member of the LGBT community, donating time and money to causes including the Ali Forney Center and Rosie’s Theater Kids.

Edie Falco – Dianne Whittlesey

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While she made her biggest impression as Soprano family matriarch Carmela on The Sopranos, Edie Falco had a recurring role on Oz as corrections officer Dianne Whittlesey, a woman with a particular understanding of the criminal mind. After Oz and The Sopranos, Falco stayed on the small screen as the titular character in Showtime’s Nurse Jackie, which won her an Emmy in 2010 and earned her six subsequent nominations. More recently, she was hand-picked by Louis C.K. directly to co-star in his 2016 premium web-series Horace and Pete.

Like many of her Oz co-stars, Falco is also very active in theater, including a stint in House of Blue Leaves, which earned her a Tony nomination back in 2011.

She’s currently filming Law & Order: True Crime, a miniseries dramatizing the events centered around real-life killers The Menendez Brothers.

Bobby Cannavale – Alonso Torquemada

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With no formal training, Cannavale got his start in the theater before breaking into film in the late 90s. He also scored a role as imprisoned nightclub owner Alonso Torquemada in Oz’s final two episodes. Since then, he’s maintained a meteoric career trajectory, appearing in Boardwalk Empire, Marvel’s Ant Man, Vinyl and as the decidedly non-Bourdain-inspired Chef Jeff in season two of Master of None. He’ll also be featured in the upcoming third season of Mr. Robot and in the new Jumanji film opposite The Rock.

Cannavale is currently married to Australian actress Rose Byrne, and the two recently celebrated the birth of their son, Rocco. He has a son, Jake, from a previous marriage to Jenny Lumet, daughter of famed playwright Sidney Lumet. He and Jake have even shared the screen together, playing a father and son alongside fellow Oz alum Edie Falco in Nurse Jackie’s fourth season.

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