Thursday, June 27, 2019

Godspeed Billy Drago

Billy Drago, who played Frank Nitti in the movie The Untouchables (1987) and had a regular role on the TV show The Adventures of Brisco County, Jr., died on June 24 2019 at the age of 73. The cause was complications from a stroke.

Billy Drago was born William Eugene Burrows Jr. on November 30 1945 in Houston, Kansas. His mother was Romany and his father was thought to be Chiricahua Apache in descent. After graduating from high school he worked as a stuntman at Boot Hill in Dodge City. He attended the University of Kansas in Lawrence. After graduating from college he was a radio host for a time before joining an acting company. He eventually moved to New York City where he began his acting career. He took his grandmother's maiden name to avoid confusion with another actor with the last name Burrows. Billy Drago made his television debut in the TV movie No Other Love in 1979 and that same year he appeared in two episodes of the TV show The Chisholms. He made his film debut in Windwalker in 1980.

In the Eighties he played Deputy Mather in Pale Rider (1985) and Frank Nitti in The Untouchables (1987). He also appeared in the films Cutter's Way (1981), Invasion U.S..A. (1985), Vamp (1986), Hunter's Blood (1986), Banzai Runner (1987), Hero and the Terror (1988), Freeway (1988), Dark Before Dawn (1988), True Blood (1989), Gwang tin lung fu wui (1989), Prime Suspect (1989), and Delta Force 2: The Colombian Connection (1990). He guest starred on the shows Strike Force, Gavilian, Cutter to Houston, Automan, Partners in Crime, Hardcastle and McCormick, Trapper John M.D., Moonlighting, Hunter, Hill Street Blues, The Fall Guy, T. J. Hooker, The Wizard, Friday the 13th: The Series, and Monsters.

In the Nineties he played the primary villain, John Bly, on the TV show The Adventures of Brisco County, Jr. He played another recurring villain, Barbas, the Demon of Fear, on the TV series Charmed. He guest starred on the TV shows Walker, Texas Ranger; Nash Bridges;  and The X-Files. He appeared in the films Diplomatic Immunity (1991), Guncrazy (1992), Lady Dragon 2 (1993), The Outfit (1993), Deadly Heroes (1993), Never Say Die (1994), Lunarcop (1995), Phoenix (1995), Mirror Mirror 3: The Voyeur (1995), Drifting School (1995), Blood Money (1996), Mad Dog Time (1996), Blue Devil, Blue Devil (1996), Convict 762 (1997), A Doll in the Dark (1997), Monkey Business (1998), Soccer Dog: The Movie (1999), Lima: Breaking the Silence (1999), Very Mean Men (2000), and Mirror Mirror 4: Reflections (2000).

In the Naughts Mr. Drago continued to appear on Charmed as Barbas. He guest starred on the TV shows Masters of Horror and Supernatural. His last television appearance was on the TV movie Ghost Town in 2009. He appeared in the films Death Game (2001), Desert Rose (2002), The Circuit (2002), Welcome to America (2002), Mysterious Skin (2004), Demon Hunter (2005), Seven Mummies (2006), The Hills Have Eyes (2006), Lime Salted Love (2006), The Dead One (2007), Moving McAllister (2007), Zombie Hunters (2007), Rounds (2008), Dark Moon Rising (2009), The Ritual (2009), and Downstream.

In the Teens Billy Drago appeared in the films Balls to the Wall (2011), Night of the Templar (2013), Low Down (2014), and The Dance (2014).

Billy Drago was best known for playing villains, and there should be very little wonder why. He was very good at playing them. He even played historical gangsters on more than one occasion, including Frank Nitti in The Untouchables and Lucky Luciano in The Outfit. His two recurring roles on television were villains, John Bly on The Adventures of Brisco County, Jr. and Barras on Charmed. He had a memorable turn as a villainous hoodoo man in The X-Files episode "Theef." That's not to say Billy Drago couldn't play good guys. He played a good guy in the Monsters episode "Cocoon," and another good guy in the movie Diplomatic Immunity. While it was rare that he played good guys, Mr. Drago always did well when he did. Despite being typecast as a heavy, from all reports Billy Drago was a nice guy. His Brisco County co-star Bruce Campbell said of him, "He was sinister and understated on screen, sweet and humble off screen." A good guy in real life, Billy Drago was very good at playing the bad guy. 

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