John Beasley, the admired character actor who played the school bus driver Irv Harper on The WB drama Everwood and Barton Bellentine, the father of Cedric the Entertainer’s character, on the TV Land comedy The Soul Man, died Tuesday. He was 79.
Beasley died in a hospital in his hometown of Omaha, Nebraska, his son Tyrone Beasley told The Hollywood Reporter. He had been undergoing tests on his liver before taking an unexpected turn for the worst.
Beasley sparkled as an assistant coach in Rudy (1993) and as the retired minister Charles Blackwell in the Robert Duvall-starring and directed The Apostle (1997) and appeared in such other films as V.I. Warshawski (1991), The Mighty Ducks (1992), Untamed Heart (1993), Losing Isaiah (1993), Little Big League (1994), Crazy in Alabama (1997), The General’s Daughter (1999), The Sum of All Fears (2002), the 2004 remake of Walking Tall and Firestarter (2022).
More recently, he appeared onstage in Chicago in the Broadway-bound musical adaptation of The Notebook, based on the 1996 Nicholas Sparks novel that spawned the 2004 film that starred James Garner, Gena Rowlands, Ryan Gosling and Rachel McAdams.
Beasley was playing the Garner role and was set to go to New York in August to workshop the musical as producers settled on a theater, his son said.
“To be a working artist is the highest calling, and I appreciate wherever it takes me,” he said in an interview last year. “If I never got to Broadway, I would still feel I’ve had a pretty successful career.”
He established the John Beasley Theater and Workshop in Omaha and ran it for 13 years. “We changed the lives of a lot of people just through the theater,” he said in 2020.
Born on June 26, 1943, Beasley worked as a railroad man with the Union Pacific Railroad and did not begin acting until he was 45. In one of his first onscreen roles, he played Mr. Willie on the 1990 Oprah Winfrey-starring ABC series Brewster Place.
Beasley portrayed Irv, husband of Debra Mooney’s Edna Harper, on the Greg Berlanti-created Everwood from 2002-06 and Barton, another retired minister, on The Soul Man from 2012-16.
His TV résumé also included guest turns on Missing Persons, Early Edition, CSI, Judging Amy, Boston Legal, Treme and The Mandalorian.
On Facebook, his son Michael wrote: “I lost my best friend today. They say you shouldn’t ever meet your heroes because they don’t turn out to be who you thought they were. That is so wrong. My hero was my father. Thank you for everything.”
Survivors also include his wife of 58 years, Judy; daughter-in-law Katie; and grandchildren Evan, Miles, Olivia, Mika, Darius and Malik Beasley, an NBA veteran who played last season with the Los Angeles Lakers.