Charles Esten

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Charles Esten
Chip Esten of Nashville (cropped).jpg
Esten at a June 2016 concert.
Born Charles Esten Puskar III
(1965-09-09) September 9, 1965 (age 51)
Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, U.S.
Other names Chip Esten
Alma mater College of William and Mary
Occupation Actor, comedian, singer
Years active 1989–present
Spouse(s) Patty Hanson (m. 1991)
Children 3

Charles Esten Puskar III (born September 9, 1965), known professionally as Chip Esten and Charles Esten, is an American actor, singer and comedian.

Esten is best known for his role as Deacon Claybourne on Nashville (2012–present). The network dropped the show and CMT picked it up to transition it into its fifth season. He previously appeared on the improvisation show Whose Line Is It Anyway? regularly between 1999-2005.[1]

Early life[edit]

Esten was born in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania and moved to Alexandria, Virginia at age nine, after his parents divorced.[2] He and his younger sister were raised by their mother.[3]

His late father, Charles, was a prominent local businessman and business partner of former Pittsburgh Steelers center Ray Mansfield.[4]

Esten is a 1983 graduate of Alexandria's T.C. Williams High School, where he played football for the Titans a decade after the events of the film Remember the Titans. (He has noted in several interviews that his Nashville costar Hayden Panettiere appeared in the film as the daughter of his real-life coach.)[5] He then attended his parents' and sister's alma mater, the College of William and Mary, where he was a brother of Theta Delta Chi fraternity and graduated with a degree in economics in 1987.[3] At William and Mary, he was the lead vocalist in the local band "N'est Pas" from 1985-88. Following graduation, Esten moved to the United Kingdom to make his theatrical debut, playing the title role in the musical Buddy in the early 1990s.[citation needed]


Whose Line Is It Anyway?[edit]

In 1992, the makers of Whose Line Is It Anyway? asked him to audition for an episode, which he did successfully. Consequently, Esten made his debut on the Channel 4 show in the fourth series and "won" the episode. He subsequently appeared in more episodes later the same year when the show did a run in New York City. At the time, the show needed a second specialist improvisational singer to fill in for Mike McShane.

Esten made his final appearance in the UK edition in 1994 before moving back to the US and playing the role of Luke in Party of Five.[citation needed] Although appearing on stage and screen thereafter, his 1999 return to Whose Line Is It Anyway? — in the show's new-look American format- with Drew Carey as host — established him as a regular "fourth contestant" on the show. Due to his singing abilities, he was often paired with series regular Wayne Brady on musical games. After a hiatus following the show's 2013 revival, he returned during the 13th season as a special guest for one taping, recording enough content to become the first celebrity guest to appear in more than one episode of the CW revival.

Other comedy work[edit]

Following his return to Whose Line Is It Anyway, Esten made a guest appearance as himself with fellow regular cast members from the show Wayne Brady, Greg Proops and Brad Sherwood on The Drew Carey Show. In 2003, he hosted a semi-scripted semi-improvised comedy mini series called On the Spot. Between 2004-06, he was a member of the touring group Improv All-Stars[6][7] and recurring cast member on Drew Carey's Green Screen Show.

In 2011, he was a regular on Drew Carey's Improv-A-Ganza on GSN. Esten and fellow former Whose Line Is It Anyway stars Greg Proops, Ryan Stiles and Jeff Davis regularly teamed up and tour around the country doing live improv under the name Whose Live Anyway?. In April 2014, Esten ceased work with Whose Live Anyway?, and was replaced by Joel Murray.[citation needed]

Film appearances[edit]

In 2001, Esten appeared in Billy Crystal's TV movie 61* as Kevin Maris, the son of legendary New York Yankees slugger Roger Maris. He had small roles in three Kevin Costner movies, The Postman, Thirteen Days as downed U-2 pilot Major Rudolf Anderson, and Swing Vote.

Esten also starred in a public service video, Riding Straight, produced for the Motorcycle Safety Foundation's curriculum, Motorcycle Rider Course: Riding and Street Skills (MRC:RSS), in which he portrayed a surfer dude, a snuff-dipping hick, and a concerned friend in a bar.


Esten has appeared as a guest star in various TV series, including Married... with Children, The New Adventures of Old Christine, Star Trek: The Next Generation, Star Trek: Voyager, ER, NCIS: Los Angeles, Jessie, The Mentalist, and The Office.[8]

From 2012 to present he was part of the main cast of Nashville, starring as Deacon Claybourne. He has also contributed to the soundtracks as both a singer and songwriter.[9] He co-wrote "I Know How to Love You Now" with Deanna Carter, which was featured in the season 3 premiere.

In 2013, Esten appeared as a celebrity contestant on Who Wants to Be a Millionaire and won $500,000 for his charity.[10]

In 2017, Esten was cast in a series of television and radio advertisements as Carl Hardee, Sr., the fictional founder of the Carl's Jr. and Hardee's fast food chains.[11]

Personal life[edit]

Esten is married to Patty (née Hanson),[12] whom he met in college.[3][13] They have three children. The family moved to Nashville after Esten was cast as a series regular on Nashville.[citation needed]

Esten is national chairman for the annual Light the Night Walks, a fundraiser benefiting The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society (LLS). His daughter is a leukemia survivor.[14]


Comedy shows[edit]

Year Show Role Notes
1992, 1994 Whose Line Is It Anyway? (UK version) Performer 5 episodes
1999–2005, 2017 Whose Line Is It Anyway (U.S. version) Performer 39 episodes
2004–05 Drew Carey's Green Screen Show Recurring performer 8 episodes
2011 Drew Carey's Improv-A-Ganza Regular performer 32 episodes


Year Work Role Notes
1988 Sale of the Century Himself/Contestant 4 episodes
1989 On the Television various 5 episodes
1990 Scrabble Himself/Contestant 1 episode
1993 Cheers Unnamed Marine 1 episode
Star Trek: The Next Generation Divok Episode: "Rightful Heir"
1994 Murphy Brown Secretary #67 1 episode
1995–96 The Crew Randy Anderson 21 episodes
1996 Star Trek: Voyager Dathan Episode: "Remember"
Diagnosis: Murder Joe Carter 1 episode
Lois & Clark: The New Adventures of Superman Ethan Press Episode 75 "Stop the Presses"
1997 JAG Lieutenant Pete 'Pistol' Ayers 1 episode
Married... with Children Lonnie 2 episodes
1998 The Brian Benben Show Chad Rockwell 7 episodes
1999 Jesse Tad 1 episode
Jack & Jill Nick Seraph 1 episode
Providence Ted Shannon 1 episode
2000 Party of Five Luke 7 episodes
2000–01 The Drew Carey Show Himself (guest appearance) 2 episodes
2002 The Guardian Mark Hanson 1 episode
2003 On the Spot Himself (host) 5 episodes
Dragnet Carl Savitsky 1 episode
Just Shoot Me! Jake 1 episode
2004 NYPD Blue Tim Keating 1 episode
Cold Case John "The Hawk" Hawkins 1 episode
2006 The Office Josh Porter 7 episodes
2007 Help Me Help You Willis 1 episode
The Winner Gary 1 episode
The New Adventures of Old Christine Joe Campbell 2 episodes
2007–08 ER Dr. Barry Grossman 4 episodes
2009–10 Big Love Ray Henry 11 episodes
2009 The Mentalist Rick Bregman 1 episode
The Cleaner Dr. Jake Slovak 1 episode
NCIS: Los Angeles John Cole/Ethan Stanhope 1 episode
2011 Wilfred Nick 2 episodes
2011 Jessie Morgan Ross 4 episodes
Enlightened Damon Manning
2012–present[15] Nashville Deacon Claybourne Series regular; 108 episodes
2012 Nashville: The Whole Story Himself, Narrator; Special
2013 Nashville on the Record Himself; Special
2014 Nashville on the Record 2 Himself; Special
2015 Nashville on the Record 3 Himself; Special
2017 Nashchat Himself; Guest


Year Work Role Notes
1997 The Sleepwalker Killing Mark Schall
The Postman Michael
1999 The Expendables Ram
Late Last Night Unnamed policeman
2000 Thirteen Days Maj. Rudolf Anderson
2001 61* Kevin Maris (1998)
2002 The Johnny Chronicles Patrick Monroe
Ten Minutes Older: The Trumpet Bill "Twelve Miles to Trona" segment
2003 Nobody Knows Anything! Connor Fulton
2007 American Family Larry Bogner
2008 1% John Tipton
Swing Vote Lewis



Year Single Peak chart
US Country
2012 "Undermine" (with Hayden Panettiere)A 35 116 The Music of Nashville: Season 1 Volume 1
"No One Will Ever Love You" (with Connie Britton)A 36 117
2013 "This Town" (with Clare Bowen) 41 The Music of Nashville: Season 2, Volume 1
2017 "Sanctuary" (with Lennon & Maisy) 31
The Music of Nashville: Season 5, Volume 1
"—" denotes releases that did not chart


  1. ^ Whose Line Is It Anyway? Television show – Whose Line Is It Anyway? TV Show details,; accessed March 19, 2016.
  2. ^ ""Whose Live Anyway"? is a party, performer says". Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. October 13, 2009. 
  3. ^ a b c "Life is Good – For Chip Esten '87, success is more than "Nashville"" (PDF). William & Mary Alumni Magazine. College of William & Mary. Spring 2014. pp. 32–36. 
  4. ^ "Obituary: Charles E. Puskar: force behind creation of SIDS of Pennsylvania". Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. April 25, 2009. 
  5. ^
  6. ^ 'Whose Line' co-star relishing 'Improv All-Stars' tour : North County Times – Californian,; accessed March 19, 2015.
  7. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on August 27, 2008. Retrieved March 19, 2009. 
  8. ^ Chip Esten (2009). NCIS: Los Angeles episode (TV-Series). 
  9. ^ "Watch Charles Esten Bring 'Nashville'-Worthy Grit to the Opry". Rolling Stone. December 3, 2014. 
  10. ^ Moraski, Lauren (May 7, 2014). "Chip Esten on Nashville Finale, Show's Future". CBS News. Retrieved July 20, 2014. 
  11. ^ Stanley, T.L. (March 19, 2017). "Burgers, Not Boobs: Carl's Jr. Brilliantly Flips the Script by Tearing Down Its Own Smutty Ads". Ad Week. Retrieved June 24, 2017. 
  12. ^ "Puskar-Hanson". Orlando Sentinel. 3 November 1991. 
  13. ^ Leydon, Joe (August–September 2015). "Charles Esten". Cowboys & Indians. 
  14. ^ Schmitt, Brad. "Charles Esten's painful path through daughter's cancer". The Tennessean. Retrieved 21 October 2016. 
  15. ^ "CMT picks up 'Nashville' for fifth season". Retrieved 10 June 2016. 
  16. ^ "Hot Country Songs Week of November 10, 2012". Billboard. Prometheus Global Media. Retrieved November 1, 2012. 
  17. ^ "Bubbling Under Hot 100 Week of November 10, 2012". Billboard. Prometheus Global Media. Retrieved November 1, 2012. 
  18. ^ "Billboard Country Update" (PDF). Billboard. Retrieved March 21, 2017. 

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