Gil Birmingham (born July 13, 1953) is an American actor of Comanche ancestry, best known for his portrayal of Billy Black in The Twilight Saga film series.
Birmingham was born in San Antonio, Texas. His family moved frequently during his childhood, due to his father’s career in the military. He learned to play the guitar at an early age and considers music his “first love”. After obtaining a Bachelor of Science from the University of Southern California (he graduated from the School of Policy, Planning and Development), he worked as a petrochemical engineer before becoming an actor.
In the early 1980s, a talent scout spotted Birmingham at a local gym, where he had been bodybuilding and entering bodybuilding contests. This led to his first acting experience, in a music video for Diana Ross, for her 1982 hit song “Muscles“.
After appearing in Ross’ music video, Birmingham began to pursue acting as his primary career. He studied acting with Larry Moss and Charles Conrad. He portrayed the character of Conan the Barbarian in Universal Studios Hollywood’s theme park attraction The Adventures of Conan: A Sword and Sorcery Spectacular.
In 1986, Birmingham made his television debut on an episode of the series Riptide. By 2002, he had a recurring role as the character Oz in the medical drama Body & Soul, starring Peter Strauss. In 2005, he was cast as the older Dogstar in the Steven Spielberg six-part miniseries Into the West.
He has appeared in a number of television series, including Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Veronica Mars, 10 Items or Less, Nip/Tuck, Castle, The Mentalist, House of Cards and Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt. He has also had roles in several television films, such as Gentle Ben (with Dean Cain) and Gentle Ben 2, Dreamkeeper, The Lone Ranger, and Love’s Long Journey (with Erin Cottrell and Irene Bedard).
In 2001, Birmingham appeared in his first feature film, The Doe Boy, in which he portrayed Manny Deadmarsh.
In 2008, Birmingham was cast as the character Billy Black in The Twilight Saga film series and has appeared in all four of the films.
The Twilight series has led to roles in other major film roles, including that of Sheriff Johnny Cortez in Love Ranch (with Joe Pesci and Helen Mirren), and Cal Bishnik in Shouting Secrets (with The Twilight Saga: New Moon castmate Chaske Spencer). In September 2011, Birmingham appeared in the film Crooked Arrows, cast in the role of Ben Logan.
Birmingham voiced Wounded Bird in the animated film Rango and has provided voice work for the television series The Wild Thornberrys (in which he voiced an Inuit elder) and the film Night at the Museum. He played the partnering Texas Ranger to Jeff Bridges’ character in the bank robbery film Hell or High Water (2016).
In the Chickasaw Nation production of Te Ata, Birmingham plays Thomas Benjamin ‘T.B.’ Thompson, Mary Frances ‘Te Ata’ (Thomoson) Fisher’s father. Birmingham attended the film’s premiere in Moore, Oklahoma on September 13, 2016.