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Why Old Man Babe In Tulsa King Looks So Familiar

Taylor Sheridan's "Tulsa King" is now barreling headlong through its first season on Paramount+. It's safe to say Sheridan has yet another streaming hit on his hands, with the show already receiving a second season order (per Collider). That's due in no small part to Sheridan layering the series with the same heart, wit, intellect, and unabashed macho mentality that have helped make "Yellowstone" and "Mayor of Kingstown" small-screen hits in their own right. Of course, one might just as easily argue the star power of Sylvester Stallone is responsible for the show's success.

The truth is no doubt somewhere in the middle, as Sheridan's high-brow macho ideology is, arguably, one that Stallone himself has championed throughout his storied career, beginning with his 1976 classic "Rocky." While there's zero question that Stallone is the star of "Tulsa King," Sheridan has once again succeeded in surrounding his headliner with a first-rate supporting ensemble. That includes the actor who portrays the bar-dwelling old-timer known as Babe in the series. 

While he's likely pretty far down on the "Tulsa King" call sheet most days, odds are viewers from every generation are familiar with his face. Here's where you've seen Babe from "Tulsa King" before. 

Urban Cowboy was Barry Corbin's first big role

That actor's name is Barry Corbin. Though he doesn't quite boast icon status in the Hollywood realm, he has put together a solid résumé as an actor over the course of a career that spans nearly five decades. Over that time span, Corbin has racked up more than 200 film and television credits and imbued virtually every character he's played with a hardened, "awe shucks" sort of sentimentality that lends gravitas to virtually everything he says and does on screen. The Texas-born actor's thick country brogue has also become one of the most distinctive in the modern entertainment landscape — and you'd better believe it helped Corbin steal a scene or two in his first big screen role, which came in 1980's "Urban Cowboy."

Starring John Travolta and Debra Winger, that sub-iconic film finds the former playing Bud Davis, a country-boy oil worker who's looking for love in all the wrong places in the big city of Houston, Texas. Corbin portrays Bud's wise old Uncle Bob in "Urban Cowboy." Though the character doesn't have a ton of screen time in the film, Corbin leverages every single second of it to give the character a rich, dignified depth of character that maybe didn't entirely exist on the page. That ability has essentially become Corbin's career calling card.

Northern Exposure was one of the biggest hits of Corbin's career

Barry Corbin's standout work in "Urban Cowboy" did not go unnoticed in casting circles. The actor indeed seized on the notoriety, not only booking dozens of brief film and TV roles throughout the 1980s but working on era staples like "MASH," "Wargames," "Dallas," and "Murder, She Wrote." The '90s proved just as fruitful for the actor. In fact, Corbin booked one of his biggest roles to date at the dawn of that very decade.

That role came on the CBS hit dramedy "Northern Exposure." If you're not aware of the series, "Northern Exposure" mostly followed the story of Joel Barish (Rob Morrow), a recent New York med school grad who's surprised to find he's legally obligated to set up practice in the small town of Cicely, Alaska as an underwritten term of his school loan. As one might expect, Joel quickly finds the town rife with eccentric characters and surprisingly complex social structures. It turns out that the architect of Joel's Cicely sojourn is a local millionaire and former astronaut Maurice Minnifield (Corbin), who, shall we say, is not always easy to like.

Likability aside, Corbin's densely layered performance not only kept Maurice from being a flat, outright villain, but he also humanized the often emotionally-conflicted character in ways that made him slightly more relatable. The actor rightfully received a pair of Emmy nominations for his work prior to the series' 1995 cancellation.  

Corbin nearly stole No Country for Old Men with just a single scene

"Northern Exposure" was a rare-ish starring role for Barry Corbin, who, in years prior and thereafter, excelled as much as any actor at standing out in a film or series, even when he had just a scene or two to make his mark. As far as Corbin's extensive list of one-scene wonders goes, few have been as memorable as the role in Joel and Ethan Coen's nihilist Western masterpiece "No Country for Old Men."

Corbin logs barely five minutes of screen time in "No Country of Old Men," and he does so in the final act after much of the film's inherent violence unfolds. But he nearly steals the entire endeavor as the grizzled old Ellis Bell. That character is the uncle of Tommy Lee Jones' retiring Sheriff Ed Tom Bell; the sheriff goes to the old man looking for some sort of comfort in regards to the increasingly violent state of the world after his bloody near-misses with the deadly Anton Chigurh (Javier Bardem). No comfort is found, of course, with Uncle Ellis laying out some hard truths for Ed Tom that more or less serve as the central tenet of the entire film — and the Coens could not have cast a more perfect actor to deliver the message.

Corbin scored some serious laughs on Anger Management

Throughout his career, Barry Corbin has largely been known as a dramatic performer who could get a good laugh when he needed to. He has, however, landed a straight comedic role or two over the years, booking one of his best on the small screen in 2012. And if you watched Charlie Sheen's FX comedy "Anger Management" during its run, you know Corbin delivered some of the series' biggest laughs as the lovably crotchety Ed.

"Anger Management" was the series Sheen set up in the wake of his very public exit from the smash hit series "Two and a Half Men." While the follow-up didn't quite garner the same critical or commercial success as Sheen's predecessor, the series earned one of the biggest cable television debuts in history (per The Hollywood Reporter), airing an impressive 100 episodes before its 2014 finale. As a core member of the ragtag therapy group that Sheen's character Charlie Goodson spearheaded, Barry Corbin acted in every single one of those episodes. While his character Ed was at times a little mean-spirited, and occasionally too on-the-nose in his old man schtick, Corbin's deft character work really did make him one of the show's legit comedic highlights. And yes, he also brought some unexpected dramatic weight to the proceedings when needed.

Better Call Saul found Corbin playing a delightfully prickly homeowner

After playing the part of a regular scene-stealer on "Anger Management," Barry Corbin did more of the same when he turned up for smaller roles in television hits "Modern Family" and Netflix's "The Ranch." But it's safe to say Corbin was at his scene-stealing best during his 2020 stint on "Better Call Saul." That stint spanned three episodes of the series' fifth season and found the actor at his "crotchety old man" best.

If you need a refresher on Corbin's "Better Call Saul" role, he appeared as Everett Acker, the stubborn New Mexico homeowner who stood petulantly in the way of a lucrative real estate deal undertaken by Kim Wexler (Rhea Seahorn) and her Mesa Verde backers. Kim, of course, sympathizes with Mr. Acker's predicament and promptly puts her partner Jimmy McGill (Bob Odenkirk) on the case to help him out. That whole subplot eventually leads to major changes for Jimmy and Kim, with the former engaging in some vintage Saul Goodman maneuvering to earn his client a big-time payday. 

As for Corbin, his turn as the impishly cantankerous Acker was equal parts hilarious, heartbreaking, and menacing. It ranks among the best guest appearances "Better Call Saul" ever delivered. And if you know the show, you know that's saying a lot.  

Corbin remains a standout guest star in the Yellowstone landscape

If you've been following the careers of Barry Corbin and Taylor Sheridan, you might argue that the career paths of the Texas-born duo seemed more or less fated to cross at some point. That's because these days, wise old cowboys and country boys have become central to Sheridan's work, and Corbin excels at playing both. Not surprisingly, "Tulsa King" isn't the first time Sheridan cast Corbin in such a role, gifting the actor a prime, one-off gig on his hit Western Drama "Yellowstone." 

No, Corbin didn't play a fading rancher out for a last ride at the Yellowstone Dutton Ranch. He did, however, play a wise old cattleman at a much bigger operation, Texas' legendary 6666 Ranch. That was indeed Barry Corbin playing Ross, the no-nonsense old-timer who greets Jimmy Hurdstrom (Jefferson White) with a hot breakfast and a few pointed words of wisdom when he arrives at the Four Sixes. This time around, Corbin is on screen for less than three minutes — but boy, does Sheridan ever make magnificent use of the actor's talents in that time, gifting Corbin an exquisitely ponderous monologue about what it means to be a cowboy.

In the hands of most actors, that monologue likely would've come off as grand-standing and overly sentimental. But with Corbin pontificating, it makes for what may be the most achingly sincere moment the series has yet delivered.