Biography

Initially written off as a one-hit wonder following the meteoric rise and fall of his superstardom (thanks to the 1992 single "Achy Breaky Heart" and its accompanying album, Some Gave All), country-rocker Billy Ray Cyrus caught his second wind in the early 2000s. He then staged a considerable comeback in film and television, defying the expectations of many naysayers who believed it impossible for Cyrus to escape from the shadow of that one love-it-or-hate-it single. Some limited film experience, of course, accompanied the Kentuckian heartthrob's early music career, by virtue of the music videos and occasional performance films he cranked out (such as the 1992 Billy Ray Cyrus: Live). He failed to gain notice as an actor, however, until the early 2000s. As the new millennium dawned, Cyrus moved from the echelons of Nashville to those of Hollywood. He began at a somewhat low ebb, with a turn in the straight-to-video actioner Radical Jack (2000), opposite DeDee Pfeiffer, sister of Michelle. In that B-picture (which does not feature rollicking musical numbers), Cyrus travels the route hewn by Patrick Swayze, he Rock (in his remake Walking Tall), Lyle Alzado, and many others. He played Jack Reynolds, a leather clad, chopper-riding southerner who uses his steel fist to wipe clean a town full of redneck scumbags; Pfeiffer, of course, portrayed his romantic interest. The following year, Cyrus toned it down several notches and allowed his soft side to emerge, with a direct appeal to the female demographic and to more sensitive male viewers. He signed on as the lead in the PAX channel's series comedy drama Doc, playing Dr. Clint Cassidy, a sweet-natured Montana physician who follows the love of his life to the Big Apple and accepts a position at a Manhattan hospital, where his gracious charm and easygoing style win the heart of many a patient. That program scored with PAX viewers and lasted several seasons. After a minor role in David Lynch's spectacular Mulholland Dr. (a significant step up from Radical Jack) and turns in such features as Valerie McCaffrey's acclaimed black comedy Wish You Were Dead (2002) and Scott Coffey's quirky dramedy Ellie Parker (2005), the former country singer scored a double whammy. He portrayed the dad and manager of "secret teen pop sensation" Hannah Montana (played, in turn, by Cyrus' real-life daughter, Miley Cyrus) on that character's eponymous Disney Channel sitcom, and then found an even broader fan base (drawing from his roots in country rock and sporting a shaggy mane) when the singer-turned-actor joined the fourth season of the competitive reality series Dancing With the Stars as one of the latest celebs to partner up with a professional ballroom dancer. Cyrus and partner Karina Smirnoff, despite earning low scores from the judges, were able to stay in the competition until just before the semifinals due to the viewers' votes (which count as half of their overall score each week). They were eventually booted off the show in May 2007, just after judge Bruno Tonioli controversially referred to Cyrus' latest performance as "crap." Just months later, Cyrus issued a new album on Walt Disney Records, which included covers of "Over the Rainbow," "Brown-Eyed Girl," and "Put a Little Love in My Heart," as well as new songs. Cyrus continued to work on Hannah Montana throughout the 2000s, and appeared in the feature film Hannah Montana: The Movie in 2009. In 2010, Cyrus joined Jackie Chan for a supporting role in The Spy Next Door, and starred in the holiday feature Christmas Comes to Canaan in 2011. Cyrus would continue to work in many areas of performance over the coming years, releasing albums, like 2012's Changed My Mind. ~ Nathan Southern, Rovi