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Why Rick Kirkham From Joe Vs. Carole Looks So Familiar

Few shows capture the public's attention the way Netflix's "Tiger King" did when it debuted in 2020. Viewers were immediately drawn into the bizarre and unbelievably true tale of Joe Exotic and Carole Baskin, sworn enemies who also share a love of animals that most people would choose to keep in the wild. Just as the world was thrown into lockdown due to the COVID-19 pandemic, viewership for "Tiger King" soared, with word of mouth making the docuseries an instant meme source for social media.

Since the shocking debut of "Tiger King," numerous Hollywood types have attempted to ride the wave of popularity, with a second season being produced, a Nicolas Cage-starring series being greenlit and then canceled, and the Peacock series "Joe vs. Carole," which hit the Peacock streaming service on March 3. Starring John Cameron Mitchell as Joe Exotic — a former police chief now serving prison time for an alleged plan to murder Baskin — and Kate McKinnon as Baskin, the cast is full to the brim with recognizable talent, though not all may be as recognizable by name.

William Fichtner (playing Rick Kirkham, the producer of a show featuring Exotic) is one such actor, and you would be hard-pressed to find someone who hasn't seen him in a popular film or television series. Here is a look at some of Fichtner's notable roles you may recognize from a career that has brought him from soap operas to breaking out of prisons.

He got his start on As the World Turns

William Fichtner launched his career with a steady role on the soap opera "As the World Turns." The actor appeared on the CBS series from 1987 to 1993, preceding a massive resume on the silver screen. Fichtner's role as Josh Snyder was appropriately dramatic for a soap opera, with him portraying a man seeking redemption years after abusing a young girl and fathering a child.

Fichtner performed multiple times as the character while juggling other acting jobs before his career began taking off in movies. He appeared in over 60 episodes, and while a soap opera may be an unexpected part of the actor's long filmography, it marked a jumping-off point for him, and he still shows love for the series. Fichtner appeared in a series reunion in 2021 and revealed that he actually almost didn't get the part since he was told he was "a little young" for the complex role (via The Locher Room).

His film break was with Robert De Niro and Al Pacino

One of William Fichtner's breakout movie roles was that of Roger Van Zant, a minor but important part in Michael Mann's epic 1995 crime drama "Heat." Van Zant is a wealthy businessman who is robbed by a crew led by Neil McCauley (Robert De Niro), who then tries to sell his merchandise back to him. Though Fichtner's role wasn't as big or rich as De Niro or Pacino's, he managed to make a mark in his limited screen time and got a chance to play off of a variety of performers in the movie from De Niro to Henry Rollins, who portrayed Van Zant's cutthroat assistant.

Van Zant ends up being a crucial part of the plot, too, with a decision by McCauley in the third act spurred on by Van Zant's brutality and sealing the fate that fans of the film remember so vividly. It was one of Fichtner's first film roles, and according to the actor, one of the most iconic lines in the movie was performed completely over the phone. Of the scene where De Niro's McCauley threatens Van Zant's life, Fichtner said the entire thing was performed while he was in New York after he got a call at 3 a.m. from De Niro and Mann (via "The Rich Eisen Show").

William Fichtner has gone to space and war for Jerry Bruckheimer

Most who recognize William Fichtner likely know him from some of his supporting roles in a number of Jerry Bruckheimer-produced blockbusters, the biggest released between 1998 and 2001. First came 1998's "Armageddon," where the actor played an astronaut tasked with the mission of going to space with a group of oil drillers to break apart an asteroid before it hits Earth (it's a Michael Bay movie, c'mon). The role of Colonel Willie Sharp was primed to show off Fichtner's talents as it was a character who toed the line between hero and antagonist throughout the story. While "Armageddon" was certainly not a favorite of critics at the time, Fichtner stood out in the stacked cast, bringing much-needed gravitas to the affair.

Fichtner reteamed with Bruckheimer for two war films in the following years, with both "Black Hawk Down" and "Pearl Harbor" being released in 2001. In the critically-praised "Black Hawk Down," Fichtner took on the role of Sergeant First Class Jeff Sanderson, one of the film's more experienced soldiers who tries to keep things in line when a mission gets chaotic in Somalia.

Fichtner would also work with director Bay again on "Pearl Harbor," a film far less praised by critics than "Black Hawk Down." Fichtner has only a small part in the movie, appearing in the first third as the tortured father of one of the film's pilot protagonists, Danny (Josh Hartnett).

William Fichtner returned to television with Prison Break

William Fichtner was a familiar face on both the silver screen and television sets by the time 2006 rolled around, but he made a significant return to television by joining the "Prison Break" franchise — a somewhat risky move, as the show had been on for an entire season before he joined.

Fichtner played fan-favorite character Alexander Mahone, an FBI agent tasked not only with tracking down the show's central prison escapees but also with killing them for a nefarious and mysterious organization. The actor brought some much-needed dramatic weight to the show through all its twists and turns. While most people likely remember him best from Season 2 — while the series was still in its prime, ratings-wise — he continued to play Mahone through Seasons 3 and 4, helping to piece together a redemption arc that remains one of the series' best stories. Fichtner's Mahone goes from an FBI agent tracking prison escapees to a prison escapee himself to finally being part of a team full of people he had spent years betraying.

He was Johnny Drama's producer on Entourage

After "Prison Break," William Fichtner continued taking on major television roles, even memorably appearing in the final seasons of HBO's "Entourage" as producer Phil Yagoda. Yagoda is a likable but cutthroat Hollywood producer with a soft spot for one of the show's protagonists, then-struggling actor Johnny Drama (Kevin Dillon). Drama initially auditions in front of Yagoda for a part he doesn't get, but the two end up working together anyway. 

Yagoda could have been a quick in-and-out role like so many other characters on "Entourage," but he stuck around, eventually working behind the scenes on the fictional animated series "Johnny's Bananas" starring Drama and Andrew Dice Clay. According to rumor, there were intentions to bring Yagoda's work into the real world, with a "Johnny's Bananas" show following up "Entourage," but the idea was scrapped after protests from MTV reality star John Devenanzio, who alleged the fictional series had stolen his nickname (via The Hollywood Reporter).

He played Adam Janikowski on Mom

William Fichtner's talents were once again put to use on television in 2015 when he appeared as the recurring character Adam Janikowski on CBS' "Mom." A testament to his talent was the fact that he became a regular cast member in Season 4, and he appeared in over 80 episodes of the CBS sitcom starring Allison Janney, which aired its finale in 2021.

It's a lighthearted sitcom role but a fun departure for Fichtner, who still manages to bring real weight to the Chuck Lorre show. Fichtner's Adam begins as the suitor and eventual lover of Janney's Bonnie in the series and is a stepfather to Anna Faris' Christy. Before the events of the series, Adam was a stuntman and ended up in a wheelchair after a snowboarding accident on the job. 

While it's not a role that is as serious as some of his past work, Fichtner showed off plenty of comedic skills during his time on "Mom," and perhaps it could lead to more laughs from the versatile actor in the future.