Ralph Richeson, ‘Deadwood’s’ Eccentric, Antler-Loving Chef, Dies At 63

Ralph Richeson, who played dishevelled, eccentric, antler-loving Richardson, chef of the Grand Central Hotel on HBO’s Deadwood, has died. He was 63-years-old.

Ralph Richeson, who began on Deadwood as an extra, got his first on-screen credit when Deadwood creator and executive producer David Milch saw him in the crowd of extras on set, liked his unique, haggard appearance, and decided to write a role for him into the hit series. That role became Richardson, the beloved but seemingly simple-minded hotel cook who rarely spoke and had an affinity for deer antlers — carrying one with him where ever he went and clinging to it like a lifeline when frightened.

Richeson’s agent — Hugh Leon of Coast to Coast Talent Group — confirmed to Deadline that Ralph had died on Tuesday of heart failure. Richeson was in hospice care in Palmdale, California, at the time of his death.


Of Richeson’s passing, his Deadwood co-star, Jim Beaver — who played prospector Whitney Ellsworth on the popular show — took to Facebook to write a moving tribute for his friend and fellow actor.

“One of our most beloved comrades from DEADWOOD is gone. Ralph Richeson, an actor plucked from the crowd of background players and given the chance to create the remarkably memorable character of Richardson, the hotel flunky with the sweet spirit, died this morning in hospice. I don’t think there was anyone remotely involved in the show who didn’t love Ralph. He was kind, infinitely sweet, and far, far smarter than his character. I will miss you forever, my friend. I raise antlers in honor of your passage.”

Ralph Richeson was in 20 of Deadwood’s 36 episodes between 2004 and 2006. He went on to have small roles in the films Hancock, The Revenant, No Man’s Land: The Rise of the Reeker, and the television series Parks and Recreation. Richeson was also an avid painter and had a profile on the website Fine Art America, where he wrote in the biography section that he had written one movie script, “which is in production now,” though no writing credits appear on his IMDb page.

“I am a self employed actor as far as the IRS is concerned. I have had 47 different jobs in my working career, been in business 12 times, written 5 books, a thousand or so poems, 13 songs, 3 television scripts and 1 movie script which is in production now.”

Richeson’s paintings — which range from farm-like lanscapes to suns and creepy-looking clowns — sell for $23 a piece.

Ralph Richeson was born on July 6, 1952 in Peru, Indiana, reports MovieWeb. He was the third son of Elsie Crisci Olson Richeson, a factory manager, and Ralph Woodson Richeson Jr., who worked for C & O Railroad.

Though Richeson has died, he will always be remembered for his role as Richardson in Deadwood, and if the rumors are true, and David Milch is, in fact, in talks with HBO to make a Deadwood TV movie, perhaps Richeson will be remembered in the form of a tribute of some kind. We’ll have to wait and see.

Never married, Ralph Richeson is survived by his brothers, Terry and Charlie, sister-in-law Linda, niece Angela, and nephew Mark.

[Photo by Stephen Shugerman/Getty Images]

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