When the sun set on the acclaimed western series DEADWOOD, the vampires came out and William Sanderson traded the black hat of Ian McShane’s depraved cohort E.B. Farnam for white as self-assured Sheriff Bud Dearborne in Alan Ball’s “TRUE BLOOD.” Set in small-town Louisiana, the exciting new HBO series is a funny mixture of vampires and mystery, and for the versatile character actor a unique mixture of the roles for which he is best known.
Early in his career William seemed practically to specialize in his unique brand of what he calls “prairie scum.” All that changed with two inspired castings that would reveal William’s versatility and bring him national exposure. Director Ridley Scott cast him as the brilliant, gentle toy maker in the now classic science fiction film BLADE RUNNER. Shortly afterwards a one time guest role became a successful eight year run with William’s comedic talent on display as the quirky backwoodsman “Larry” in the popular sitcom NEWHART.
If TRUE BLOOD’S Sheriff Bud Dearborne has an especially authentic Southern ring it’s because William grew up in Memphis, Tennessee, with an elementary school teacher mother and a landscape designer father. As a youngster William already had a knack for assuming characters and used this talent to sneak into concerts and sporting events for, and eventually into Graceland where he listened to his hero Elvis play a piano ballad. William spent two years in the army, after which he attended Southern Methodist University, and later earned a BBA degree and JD law degree from the University of Memphis. He opted out of the bar exam and instead went to New York to take his shot at acting. There he apprenticed with the renowned Herbert Berghof and William Hickey, and quickly distinguished himself in a number of off-Broadway productions and independent film roles. He soon set his sights on Hollywood.
William has played a host of distinct and diverse roles, routinely working opposite Hollywood’s A-list talent. The 80’s saw him in films like THE ONION FIELD, LONE WOLF MCQUADE, COAL MINER’S DAUGHTER, and CITY HEAT. In the 90’s his body of work grew in a broad range of features including DEATH HUNT, THE ROCKETEER, WAGON’S EAST (John Candy’s final film), John Grisham’s THE CLIENT (which brought him home to Memphis), LAST MAN STANDING with Bruce Willis and more. In STANLEY’S GIG, William revealed what was no surprise to those in the know – that he can just as easily carry the mantle of leading actor – with his poignant portrayal of the title character opposite Faye Dunaway. His recent film projects include the family film TREASURE OF PAINTED FOREST, DISAPPEARANCES opposite Kris Kristofferson, and the dramedy PRETTY UGLY PEOPLE.
William has consistently and deftly moved between film and television, appearing in such shows as ER, LIFE, THE X-FILES, MONK and WITHOUT A TRACE. His television movies and mini-series include the award-winning LONESOME DOVE and its sequel; EXECUTIONER’S SONG with Tommy Lee Jones; two MOW’S with John Frankenheimer: WALLACE and the Civil War epic ANDERSONVILLE; Stephen King’s SOMETIMES THEY COME BACK, BABYLON 5: THIRDSPACE; Louis L’Amour’s CROSSFIRE TRAIL and MONTE WALSH with Tom Selleck.
Sharing the honor of American Film Institute’s “Best Ensemble” award for DEADWOOD, William was equally thrilled at being named one of Cracked Magazine’s “15 Funniest People Of 2006,” which cited his “comedic edge” in the series as “well worth an hour.” Beloved by fans of fantasy & sci-fi, Westerns and comedies alike, William has a rare following that crosses generations and genres. He is delighted to reach them all in the role of Bud Dearborne, a Southern sheriff confronted with fantastical vampires.
In between film and tv work, William stays busy supplying the voice for numerous cartoon characters, radio commercials, and books on tape. He still misses the cast and crew of DEADWOOD, but is pleased to be staying in the HBO family with TRUE BLOOD. He and his wife split their time between homes in Burbank, CA and Harrisburg, PA.