List of Oz (TV series) characters
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The characters of Oz, fictional characters on the television series about prison life, are a diverse mixture of inmates from various gangs and prison staff.
|Character:||Portrayed by:||Appears in seasons:|
|Augustus Hill||Harold Perrineau||1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6|
|Socially astute narrator of the show. Paralyzed from the waist down. Although he died at the end of season 5, he remained on the show throughout season 6 as the narrator.|
|Tobias Beecher||Lee Tergesen||1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6|
|Was a middle class lawyer in denial about his alcoholism until landing in prison forced him to confront himself and become self-sufficient. His character undergoes the most drastic changes throughout the seasons, during which he becomes a drug addict and falls in love with a man. His relationship with Keller (both toxic and intoxicating for him) and blood feud with Schillinger is the series' dominant story arc, beginning in the first episode and being resolved during the series finale, when he accidentally kills Schillinger in an acted fight in a play. By the end, Beecher is free of all his enemies, Keller having arranged for all remaining Aryans to be wiped out by a chemical release, which causes the entire prison to be evacuated.|
|Vernon Schillinger||J. K. Simmons||1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6|
|Leader of the Aryan Brotherhood, Schillinger commits atrocities against other inmates because of race, sexual orientation, or overall weakness. However, he is double-crossed by Keller and accidentally killed by Beecher during a production of the play Macbeth.|
|Ryan O'Reily||Dean Winters||1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6|
|An Irish-American hoodlum who does what it takes to survive. Compared to Othello's Iago by show creator Fontana, he is responsible for almost every death in the first season. He struggles with his abusive upbringing and is the protector of his mentally challenged brother, Cyril, who is also an inmate at Oz having murdered Dr. Nathan's husband at Ryan's command. Ryan's obsession with the doctor leads to a romantic understanding between them by series end. Ryan's salvation begins with the return of his biological mother who brings an arts program to Oz. Ryan must protect his mother and then dedicates himself to having Cyril's death sentence commuted, at which he eventually fails. However, he finds purpose again for his own life sentence at Oz by taking care of his sick father,who is also an inmate at Oz and who regrets his own life's actions though he misses the opportunity to see Cyril before his execution.|
|Bob Rebadow||George Morfogen||1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6|
|An elderly inmate serving life for murder. He was originally sentenced to death, but in 1965, he survived a botched electric chair execution when the power went off and his sentence was commuted. He is fantastically intuitive (some think as a result of the botched execution), which in the first couple of seasons he explains by nonchalantly saying "God told me"; later he begins doubting the source and veracity of his insights. His grandson's battle with leukaemia makes him look for ways to find a cure. To raise the funds he asks a guard to buy him a lottery ticket and he wins with God's numbers only to be thwarted by the guard failing to share. By the time the guard had second thoughts, his grandson dies. When he is later smitten with the prison librarian, he finds out she has breast cancer and hardens his heart fearing the pain of another death. He comes around after being awakened by the admonition of a young inmate whom the librarian had also reached and to whom she later reads books through the door of the "hole".|
|Kareem Said||Eamonn Walker||1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6|
|A brilliant Muslim leader with a powerful voice and a conviction that other people's racism will absolve him. He is responsible for the death of Simon Adebisi; however, it was ruled self-defense. He is shot and killed by Lemuel Idzik, played by Joel Grey, who kills him because of a conversation over a cup of coffee that ruined Idzik's life many years before. Said's own demons trouble him throughout and he makes the best deals he can for his followers and eventually for the good of any person, including Omar White, who is for all intents and purposes, a lost cause.|
|Miguel Alvarez||Kirk Acevedo||1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6|
|Undergoes a process of losing masculine credibility within the Latino gang, then tries to redeem himself after cutting out a respectable prison guard's eyes. He briefly escapes from prison, but is eventually recaptured. Alvarez sincerely attempts to change his ways ever hoping for parole and even supported by McManus. He is thwarted by one of his own kind who takes over the parole board who makes it clear that Alvarez will never gets out. He loses heart and returns to drugs and is swallowed up again by Oz.|
|Cyril O'Reily||Scott William Winters||2, 3, 4, 5, 6|
|Ryan O'Reily's mentally handicapped-brother, who was incarcerated after blindly following Ryan's orders to murder the husband of Dr. Gloria Nathan, with whom Ryan is obsessed. He was mentally incapacitated in a gang fight. He kills an inmate out of self-defense of his brother, but gets sent to death row and is finally executed, after a long legal battle.|
|Chris Keller||Christopher Meloni||2, 3, 4, 5, 6|
|A bisexual serial killer and psychopath who preyed upon gay men in the outside world while hiding his sexual orientation through a series of marriages. Perhaps the most amoral figure in the entire milieu, he is a master of emotional manipulation and only seems to really enjoy himself when those who care about him are made to suffer. His relationship with Beecher is also a big part of many episodes. His only real emotion is his love for Beecher which elated and torments him. He takes the rap for the murder of Schillger's son to protect Beecher and is moved to another prison. Keller returns when the ruse is discovered. Beecher does finally get paroled and helps Keller get off death row. The increased interaction with Beecher convinces Keller that he can't exist without Beecher and he purposely screws up Beecher parole so that he is returned to Em City. Keller arranges for a real knife to be used by Beecher in MacBeth so that Schillinger is killed. When Keller arranges for his return as Beecher' cell mate, Beecher tells Keller that he is no different that than drugs or alcohol to him and that Keller is toxic to him. Knowing he can't live without Beecher but that Beecher can't exist with Keller in his life, he sacrifices himself for Beecher by throwing himself off the top level of Em City after a last forced embrace and declaration of love for Beecher in the show's finale episode. Like all things Keller, his sacrifice is double edged because at first glance he made it look like Beecher might have thrown Keller to his death but Beecher's reaction was clearly despair and this lights the half smile on Keller's face at the moment of his death. Keller's last act of wiping out the Aryans ultimately saves Beecher's life and sets him free.|
|Simon Adebisi||Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje||1, 2, 3, 4|
|A gigantic, deranged maniac of Nigerian descent; incarcerated for decapitating a police officer with a machete. His flirtations with insanity and religion are transient. However, Adebisi remains one of the most powerful inmates within the walls of Oz, until his death when he is killed by Kareem Said.|
|Omar White||Michael Wright||4, 5, 6|
|White is an African-American drug addict who murdered a key witness against his cousin in front of her daughter's eyes. White proves to be very troublesome throughout his stay at Oz, most of which ends up with him in solitary confinement. Unit Manager Tim McManus believes he can help White until he messes up for a last time in Season 5 where he ends up in solitary again. White is eventually killed by fellow inmate Lemuel Idzik. Omar is violent (sometimes against his own will) and has never lost a fight to anyone in Oz besides Said, who attacks him after Omar swears at him.|
|William Giles||Austin Pendleton||2, 3, 4, 5|
|Though not considered to be insane or otherwise mentally deficient by the prison system, or prison psychiatrist Sister Peter Marie, he speaks in one word riddles and does not carry on normal conversations. He is also obsessed with oral health and "treats his toothpaste like gold". He spends the majority of his time in Oz in solitary confinement due to violent outbursts. He helps Sister Peter Marie find out more about the murder of her husband years earlier by repeating a series of words that she is able to decipher. She discovered that not only did Giles see who killed her husband, but Giles actually killed the man who murdered her husband. Once she finds out, she gives him a box full of toothpaste, toothbrushes, and mouthwash as a thank you present. He later murders another inmate (Bevilaqua) when it is revealed that he raped Warden Glynn's daughter and is sent to Death Row. He creates a public relations disaster when he asks to be stoned to death, thinking that this will delay his execution indefinitely. In the end, Governor Devlin commutes his sentence and Giles is returned to Solitary Confinement. Though initially happy, his joy turns to despair when he realises he will spend the rest of his life in that small cell.|
|Agamemnon Busmalis||Tom Mardirosian||2, 3, 4, 5, 6|
|Prisoner 98B242. Convicted March 10, 1998 - Grand theft larceny, breaking and entering. Sentence: 10 years, up for parole in four. Since early childhood, he had a strange fascination with digging. Outside of prison, he was known as "The Mole," having been an expert at digging tunnels to commit various robberies. He has never been with a woman sexually, and is a huge fan of the children's show Ms. Sally's Schoolyard. Every time the inmates are watching the show, Busmalis can be heard saying "This is the best Miss Sally ever." He is a childish old man, who has led a life as a loner and outcast. He was named after the mythological Greek king, Agamemnon.|
The corrections officers (COs) are mostly white (predominantly Irish and Italian) with many black and some Latino officers. The warden, Leo Glynn, is African American and started off his career as a CO at Oz. Most of the COs come from lower socio-economic classes. Some are amoral and prone to corruption. The main unit manager, Tim McManus, is the only authority figure who has not started off as a guard and this therefore gives him a different point of view about how to deal with the inmates. The rest of the non-correctional staff, such as Dr. Gloria Nathan and psychologist Sister Peter Marie ("Sister Pete") Reimondo, have a much more humane view of prisoners, and often push Glynn and the others to see the inmates as human beings. Overall, different factions within the staff are almost always at odds, trying to manage internal problems while keeping the public calm regarding the way the prison is being managed.
- Warden Leo Glynn played by Ernie Hudson. A conflicted person trying to maintain law and order in an often chaotic environment. He does what he can to manage every conflict present in Oz. Sister Pete calls him "the best man for the worst job." Appears in episodes 1–55.
- Tim McManus played by Terry Kinney. A liberal idealist who forms Emerald City for purposes of making a perfect prison where rehabilitation and conflict are resolved. Often seen as weak for supposedly soft approaches to dealing with the inmates, he still manages to come out on top of many situations. Appears in episodes 1–26 and 28–56.
- Sister Peter Marie played by Rita Moreno. A psychologist and nun, she is the main force of good inside of the prison and often is helpful to McManus, Father Ray Mukada and Dr. Gloria Nathan in whatever conflict they are trying to solve. Gave serious thought to leaving the church after developing feelings for Chris Keller.
- Diane Whittlesey played by Edie Falco. A CO, raised in poor conditions and uneducated, who is faced with managing several issues at home, a relationship with McManus, and being fair to the inmates. Appears in episodes 1–18, 20–24.
- Father Ray Mukada (BD Wong) is a Catholic priest who often provides spiritual counsel to many of the inmates, especially Miguel Alvarez. He graduated at the top of his class at the Pontifical Gregorian University. He was initially serving under Cardinal Francis Abgott (Gavin MacLeod) who called him his "Great Yellow Hope". Abgott's extremely conservative views clashed with Mukada's more idealistic ones. After disagreeing with the Cardinal a few times too often, he was transferred to Oz, which "extinguished" his career as a priest. He works alongside Sister Pete, trying to help the prisoners in Oz. Although Father Ray Mukada and the Christian group have some issues about religion in the series, Father Ray still tries his hardest to make life in Oz a little easier for the inmates. He has been noted for several attempts to straighten up the inmates from drug addictions, murders, etc. He is still the main religious authority in Oz. Although it was forced upon him, he appears to grow into the role of a spiritual guide over time and firmly believes that his work is important. Appears in episodes 2–46, 49–56.
- Dr. Gloria Nathan played by Lauren Velez. A prison doctor who leads the prison hospital in providing care for several of the inmates within Oz. A good person, she deals with conflict all the time, whether it is from the inmates such as Ryan O'Reily, or state medical boards. She manages to come out calmly throughout any conflict.
- Claire Howell played by Kristin Rohde. A female CO, she is extremely unstable and prone to sadistic sexual violence. She has sexual relationships with several staff members and inmates in order to dominate them. She eventually begins to change after learning that she is pregnant, probably by Carlos Martinez. Appears in episodes 17–39, 41–56.
- Sean Murphy played by Robert Clohessy. An Irish CO, Murphy is the staff member most trusted by McManus. A fair and confident officer, Murphy maintains order to the best of his ability in Oz while doing what he can to support McManus' ideology. He is more honest and competent than the other guards and Warden Glynn also holds him in high regard. Appears in episodes 18–55.
- Clayton Hughes played by Seth Gilliam. A young and conflicted African American officer, Hughes is very close to Glynn. Hughes' father was Glynn's best friend and was killed while working as a CO when Hughes was seven years old. After being convinced by Adebisi that his father's murder was racially motivated, Hughes becomes a Black Militant and attempts to murder the governor. Hughes is sent to Unit-J in Oz which is meant for ex-cops and ex-correctional officers. In Unit-J he kills Desmond Mobay aka John Basil. Then he is sent to Solitary, where he gets "accidentally" killed when attempting to assassinate Leo Glynn.
- Karl Metzger played by Bill Fagerbakke. A white supremacist guard who took over Whittlesey's position in Emerald City after she was transferred to General Population. He is secretly a member of the Aryan Brotherhood, and once did a favor for two Aryans by forcing Busmalis and Rebadow to give up their cell, which contained a tunnel. Tim McManus found out that he has connections with the Aryans, but could not do anything about it before Metzger was killed by Beecher.
- Martin Querns played by Reg E. Cathey. A jaded and results-oriented black man, Querns is hired by Glynn after pressure by community leaders and the black prison population, led by Adebisi, to hire a black Unit Manager to replace McManus. Querns, as told through a conversation to Adebisi, is only different from the black inmates in that he has been smart enough to have never been arrested for dealing drugs. The complete opposite of McManus, he believes that drugs are good for the prisoners because they subdue them until they are incapable of any discipline problems. He runs Emerald City by making Adebisi and his partners in Oz's drug trade the main trustees, allowing them to do all the drugs that they wish as long as no violence occurs in Emerald City. Kareem Said and McManus completely oppose this which leads to his firing. His efficiency, however, gets him promoted to the position of warden at another state correctional facility and he transfers back to Oz following the death of Leo Glynn.
- Officer Mike Healy (Steve Ryan) A disgruntled and corrupt officer, Healy has a very low opinion of both the inmates and Unit Manager Tim McManus. Healy is friends with inmate Ryan O'Reily and is a friend of Ryan's brother. Healy and O'Reily run a drug operation in Oz. When Mafia boss Nino Schibetta sees that Healy is competing with him in selling drugs, he makes a deal with O'Reilly. O'Reilly is told he will be a permanent ally of the Italians if he shuts down Healy's operation. Knowing the politics of Oz, O'Reilly gets inmate Ronald Pokelwaldt to alert the COs of a drug deal going on between Healy and O'Reilly where the two are immediately arrested. When Healy is fired and charged, O'Reilly refuses to testify spending a month in the hole, but makes sure his scheme shall never be discovered by ratting Pokelwaldt to the hacks, who hospitalize him. He recovers fully and quickly, however, as he attends a drug-counseling session shortly after his beating with no signs whatsoever of any trauma.
- Stella Coffo (Patti LuPone). The librarian of Oz. Adored by Robert Rebadow (who works with her in the library), she is reserved in returning his affection because of his reaction to her breast cancer diagnosis.
- Suzanne Fitzgerald (Betty Buckley) is inmate Ryan O'Reily's biological mother. Musical arts teacher at Oz.
- Joseph Howard is an elderly African American correctional officer. He appears briefly in Season four where he is killed by inmate Guillaume Tarrant in a shootout.
- Joseph Mineo (Phillip Scozzarella )is an elderly Italian American CO. He is one of the few COs who is seen in every season. He is taken hostage in the Em City riot where he is savagely beaten by Miguel Alvarez and is then traded along with officer Armstrong in exchange for Tim McManus. He is often seen around Em City breaking up fights and counting inmates.
- Jason Armstrong (Timothy L. Brown) Armstrong is a tall muscular CO who is mainly seen breaking up fights and patrolling. On the most part he is a good honest CO. He is one of the hostages in the Em City riot where he is seriously injured and is traded along with Joseph Mineo in return for Tim McManus
- Eddie Hunt (Murphy Guyer) is a CO who appeared in the first season of Oz. He was one of the officers on the firing squad who executed Donald Groves. He was a hostage during the Em City riot where he was killed by the SORT team.
- Vic D'Agnasti (Douglas Crosby) is a muscular CO and back-up sort team member. He appears in all six seasons and is one of the hostages in the Em City riot. Crosby was also one of the stunt coordinators for the show.
- Governor James Devlin played by Željko Ivanek. A right-wing politician, Governor Devlin represents all extreme mechanisms of law and order to make society "crime free." He passes several acts to minimize prisoner rights and increase law enforcement spending. Disliked by several staff members and the vast majority of the inmates, Devlin eventually is in a sea of controversy once a city mayor whom he was politically involved with is sent to Oz for conspiring to commit a racially motivated bombing.
- Alvah Case played by Charles S. Dutton. Law school Dean; he investigates the prison riot after season one and, in season four, runs for governor against Devlin.
- Jeremy Goldstein played by Scott Cohen. An FBI agent who visits Oz once in the first season to investigate the murders of inmates Dino Ortolani, Johnny Post, and AIDS patient inmate, Emilio Sanchez. He experiences Anti-Semitism during his visit but manages to piece together the story.
- Pierce Taylor played by Robert John Burke. Another FBI agent who often visits Oz (starting in the fourth season) to investigate murder cases. Generally very effective at his job, but insensitive to the needs of inmates. He essentially replaces Jeremy Goldstein
- Miss Sally's Schoolyard (Miss Sally played by Whitney Allen) is a puppet show that the inmates enjoy watching because Miss Sally has large breasts.
Due to Emerald City's unconventional configuration and routine, each new inmate is given a sponsor to help acclimate. Inmates are generally paired with sponsors of similar nationality, background, race, and/or religion, to help acclimate, with the help of someone with similar interests and beliefs. Specific requests for current Emerald City prisoners to be paired up with inbound inmates have occasionally been made and granted. Below is a list of inmates and sponsors.
- Gary Richard Edgerton and Jeffrey P. Jones, The Essential HBO Reader (University Press of Kentucky, 2008), 54.