Rex Van de Kamp

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Rex Van de Kamp
Steven Culp as Dr. Rex Van de Kamp.
Portrayed by Steven Culp
Michael Reilly Burke (unaired pilot)
Duration 2004–05, 2007, 2009, 2012
First appearance "Pilot"
1x01, October 3, 2004
Last appearance "Finishing the Hat"
8x23, May 13, 2012
Created by Marc Cherry
Occupation Surgeon
Scout Leader

Dr. Rex Van de Kamp is a fictional character on the ABC television series Desperate Housewives. The character is played by actor Steven Culp, and is the first and late husband of one of the series' protagonists, Bree Van de Kamp (portrayed by Marcia Cross). Culp was part of the main cast only during the first season since his character died in the season finale,[2] but made numerous guest appearances for the rest of the series.

Development and departure[edit]

Steven Culp was series creator Marc Cherry's first choice for the role of Rex, but he was unavailable when the original pilot was filmed.[3] The role was then offered Michael Reilly Burke.[4] In June, ABC called for three starring cast members to be recast, Burke included, and Cherry offered Culp the role of Rex again. However, Burke is present in the background of some scenes in the final cut of the episode.[5]

Culp was not surprised when his character was killed off, stating that he had a suspicion that someone was going to go in the first season finale. Producer and writer Kevin Murphy explained the reasoning for killing off the Rex character: "As we neared the end of season 1, our plan was that each woman would enter a new life chapter, [...] and Bree would become a single woman. We either had to have Rex divorce her or die."[6]



Rex Van de Kamp is a doctor, the first husband of Bree, and the father of Andrew and Danielle. Rex and Bree first met while attending Lake Forest College at a meeting of the Young Republicans. In Season 6, it is revealed that Rex had a son that was conceived before Rex had met Bree. This son is named Sam Allen and appears in a multi-episode arc during mentioned season.

Season 1[edit]

Rex asks Bree for a divorce during the pilot episode, saying that he could no longer "live in this detergent commercial", although the true root of their marital problems lies in Rex's failing to ask his wife to sexually dominate him. Due to Bree's inability to sexually satisfy him, he begins seeing local homemaker and prostitute Maisy Gibbons (Sharon Lawrence). Rex suffers a near-fatal heart attack while having sex with Maisy. When Rex is in the hospital, Bree discovers his affair with Maisy, and she threatens to eviscerate him. After Rex has a second heart attack, the couple decides that they should be nice to one another in the time they have left. Bree starts dating local pharmacist, George Williams, to hurt Rex, until she and Rex give their marriage another try, and Bree agrees to take part in S&M scenarios with him. The marriage strengthens when Andrew admits he is gay. However, George falls obsessively in love with Bree. George begins tampering with Rex's prescriptions, which leads to Rex have another heart attack and die. Rex dies thinking Bree has been poisoning him, and in his final moments, he writes Bree a note saying that he understands why she has poisoned him and that he forgives her.

Season 2[edit]

Rex's funeral takes place during the second season premiere. Culp himself does not appear, but provided his face for the open casket scene in the season premiere, which saw the producers create a life mask of the actor.[7] Culp returns as Rex in flashbacks in the season finale "Remember". The flashbacks include the Van de Kamps' 1994 move to Wisteria Lane and the first time they meet Mary Alice Young. Another flashback shows Rex at the local drug store buying hair dye with Bree in 2001 to get rid of purple Danielle has put in her hair.

Season 3[edit]

In "My Husband, the Pig", the sixteenth episode of Season 3, Rex takes over the role of narrating the episode from beyond the grave, instead of Mary Alice Young (Brenda Strong, the regular narrator). The episode focuses primarily on the men of Desperate Housewives (Carlos Solis, Tom Scavo, Mike Delfino, Orson Hodge, and Ian Hainsworth).

Season 5[edit]

Rex makes another onscreen appearance in flashbacks in the 100th episode, "The Best Thing That Ever Could Have Happened". When Bree complains about her erratic stove, Rex tells her that he cannot afford to buy her a new one, saying that maybe she should get a job of her own. As a reaction to this, Bree begins compiling recipes to make her own cookbook. Rex patronizes Bree, calling her idea foolish. Disheartened, Bree throws away her notes. It is handyman Eli Scruggs who retrieves them and gives them to Bree after Rex's funeral, suggesting that she go ahead with the idea.

Season 7[edit]

Rex briefly reappears in the season premiere "Remember Paul?" during a flashback, chatting with Carlos.

Season 8[edit]

Rex returns in "Women and Death" during one of Bree's flashbacks back to how she has a "mask" and will not let Rex know how she feels. Rex gets offended by this and goes to bed. Rex appeared amongst other deceased characters in the series finale, watching over Susan and her family as she leaves Wisteria Lane.


While reviewing the first season finale, Frazier Moore of USA Today theorized that Rex's death was a ruse, writing: "Reminder: The audience saw no death scene and no body. When has Desperate Housewives exercised restraint without an ulterior motive?"[8] This theory was proved itself wrong in the second season premiere. Ann Hodgman of Entertainment Weekly was negative in her review. She wrote that Rex's death did not come as a surprise, noting: "Just as a TV or movie cop is inevitably shot after he announces that he's about to retire, we know it's over for Rex the minute Bree rests her head on his feeble chest and promises him he'll make it."[9]


  1. ^ Mentioned in second episode of season by Phyllis
  2. ^ Jensen, Jeff (May 27, 2005). "The Opposite of Rex". Entertainment Weekly. Retrieved October 20, 2011.
  3. ^ McDougall, Charles (January 5, 2005). "Desperately seeking a ratings hit". The Daily Telegraph. Retrieved August 15, 2010.
  4. ^ "Development Update: March 8". The Futon Critic. March 8, 2004. Retrieved August 22, 2010.
  5. ^ Audio commentary on "Pilot" with Marc Cherry. Desperate Housewives: The Complete First Season. [DVD]. Touchstone Pictures. Retrieved March 19, 2011.
  6. ^ Jensen, Jeff (May 27, 2005). "The Opposite of Rex". Entertainment Weekly. Retrieved July 26, 2011.
  7. ^ Keck, William (September 22, 2005). "Not quite so desperate". USA Today. Retrieved October 20, 2011.
  8. ^ Moore, Frazier (May 24, 2005). "'Housewives' finale leaves open questions". USA Today. Retrieved June 24, 2012.
  9. ^ Hodgman, Ann (May 23, 2005). "Tidy Endings". Entertainment Weekly. Retrieved July 11, 2011.