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Who is That Actor: Željko Ivanek

October 12, 2010

It seems impossible to watch a film or television program without eventually encountering the wildly prolific character actor Željko Ivanek – pronounced “Zell-ko Evan- nek”. He’s an old school Fontanaverse (Tom Fontana) player and I’ve long enjoyed his work. I can’t think of a program I’ve watched – Homicide: Life on the Street, The X-Files, Damages, 24 – where Željko Ivanek hasn’t made a scene stealing appearance. I am most familiar with Ivanek through his work as the pragmatic and often put upon Maryland State’s Attorney Ed Danvers on Homicide. But apparently, this dude has been EVERYWHERE. Definitely made the rounds on all the popular cop shows and medical dramas. This is a busy dude!

What I enjoy most about his performances is his ability to infuse humanity in even the most sleaziest characters. He often plays bit roles that would feel very much underwritten in the hands of a less accomplished thespian, but Ivanek finds a way to bring something substantial to each role he plays and seems very comfortable doing strong, memorable supporting work. Currently, Ivanek co-stars on the NBC drama The Event with another WiTA alum Bill Smitrovich. While the New York Post describes Ivanek’s appeal this way:

From inbreeding his family on “Big Love,” to playing happy torturer on “True Blood,” to helping Ted Danson eviscerate the life savings of thousands of trusting employees on “Damages,” Zeljko Ivanek has become TV’s No. 1 go-to creepy guy.


That’s an interesting take on his body of work. I tend to think of Ivanek as able to effectively make you care about “creepy” characters because there is a sweetness and vulnerability at the foundation of all his characters – even the really dark ones.

From the same New York Post interview, here’s Ivanek’s take on his success:

“I think it’s the deep-set dark eyes and kind of thin face. I just look a little sinister, apparently. Not to my friends or family, who know and love me, but you stick me in a suit and it has certain connotations.”

Ha. I kind of love this freaking fan made video.

And winning an outstanding supporting Emmy for his stellar work on Damages:

13 Comments leave one →
  1. October 12, 2010 9:00 am

    Zeljko!!! I love this dude. He really has been everywhere, and I remember him from both Dogville and Manderlay.

    If I happened to have a Slovenian partner, I would drive them nuts by constantly insisting we name our child Zeljko Zizek.

  2. October 12, 2010 9:41 am

    I love him too. LOL Manderlay. That fan videographer needs to be writing for Fry Butt. They are like really into Zelijko!

  3. October 12, 2010 9:47 am

    Lulz, I see you, Kyle Secor and your H:LOTS seventh season shaggy hair/glasses.

  4. October 12, 2010 11:25 am

    that fan video totally makes me want to do him. which is pretty much the point of fan videos, right?

  5. hsofia permalink
    October 12, 2010 1:46 pm

    I love this guy so much it’s hard for me to believe that anyone doesn’t already know who he is! LOL

    Random thoughts: If I were a character actor, I’d definitely want his agent. Am I the only one who thinks he’s like the European American answer to the American European John Malkovich? I forgot how young Ivanek used to be – and that he once had all his hair! Also, I was always fond of the fact that he had a weird ass (at least in the US) name like me.

    Speaking of which, I heard him say his name on a video (it’s on YouTube somewhere) and it sounded like he pronounced it “ZHEL-(i)ko ee-VAN-ik.”

  6. hsofia permalink
    October 12, 2010 1:52 pm

    Okay, I found it here:

  7. October 12, 2010 5:08 pm

    Zhello, like jello?

  8. angie permalink
    October 13, 2010 9:57 am

    i love him too! i went to nyc when i was 15 and saw him in a play, cloud 9, he was amazing, he was a woman in the first act and a man in the second and he blew my mind so when he became famous in movies and tv i always felt like, there you are zeljko! you go!

  9. October 13, 2010 12:35 pm

    In season 3 of Heroes, I thought he made Emile Danko, who could have been a very cartoonish villain, somewhat more complex and sympathetic.

  10. Marko permalink
    March 15, 2013 2:42 pm

    He’s great. Pronunciation guide in the article is a little off: it’s pronounced JELL-ko EE-vanek. But the “J” sound is soft, no “d” sound to start as in a usual “J” like “jump.”


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