RIP Donald Sutherland: A look at the underrated TV career of the legendary actor

Film legend Donald Sutherland left an indelible mark on the industry not just on the silver screen but in television as well.
TRUST -- Episode 10 -- "Consequences" Pictured: Donald Sutherland as J. Paul Getty, Sr. CR: Oliver Upton/FX
TRUST -- Episode 10 -- "Consequences" Pictured: Donald Sutherland as J. Paul Getty, Sr. CR: Oliver Upton/FX /

The passing of a legend is always notable, especially one like Donald Sutherland. However, his TV work shouldn’t be ignored as another reason why this actor was so revered!

It’s always sad when an actor who became an icon passes away and such is the case with Donald Sutherland. The Canadian-born star died Thursday, June 20, at the age of 88 after a long illness. His booming voice and style made him a star in dozens of movies like MASH, The Dirty Dozen, Klute, Invasion of the Body Snatchers and, most recently, playing the evil President Snow in The Hunger Games movies. 

Surprisingly, Sutherland never received an Oscar nomination in his career, but his filmography is packed with amazing work that mostly lean into his movies. However, he also had some success on television, including a few notable awards. To honor him, here’s a look at the best of Donald Sutherland on television, which showed his amazing talents!

Citizen X


While Sutherland did some TV work in his early career, he mostly avoided it as he rose up to movie stardom. That changed when he starred in the 1994 CBS miniseries The Oldest Confederate Widow Tells All, based on the novel. He played a Civil War soldier. 

In 1995, Sutherland starred in the HBO TV movie Citizen X, based on the true story of the hunt for Russia’s first known serial killer. Stephen Rea was the Moscow detective tracking the criminal, with Sutherland playing his superior, the pair faced the problem of the Soviet government refusing to admit this killer even exists.

The movie was well made and earned Sutherland both an Emmy award and a Golden Globe. It was a long-overdue honor for the actor and led to more TV work, including a guest turn on The Simpsons. 

Citizen X is streaming on Max.


Donald Sutherland, Geena Davis
Inaugural Ball and Premiere of ABC's "Commander-in-Chief" - After Party / Frazer Harrison/GettyImages

After a few TV miniseries, Sutherland made his first regular TV series role in 2005’s Commander-in-Chief. The ABC drama had Geena Davis as the Vice-President who’s elevated to the Oval Office when her predecessor dies. Sutherland played Nathan Templeton, the Speaker of the House who wants the Presidency for himself.

Sutherland was delightful in the role, making Templeton a schemer who also truly cared for the country. The character developed well over the series, and he and Davis bond in mutual respect. Sadly, the show was canceled after one season with major behind-the-scenes drama which is a shame as Sutherland was great in it. 

Commander-in-Chief is available to purchase on Apple TV, Amazon Prime, Fandago at Home, YouTube, and Google Play Movies & TV.

Dirty Sexy Money

Donald Sutherland, Walt Disney
"Dirty Sexy Money": The Complete First Season DVD Launch / Mark Sullivan/GettyImages

This 2007 ABC drama was a fantastic wicked soap opera that also parodied the genre a bit. Sutherland was well cast as Patrick “Trip” Darling, the richest man in New York, who takes on the son of his late friend (Peter Krause) as an aide. The show revolved around the antics of the Darlings, a bizarre family who caused numerous problems. Basically, it was Succession with a few more laughs.

Sutherland grounded the whole thing, believably bossing the family around, but his character also had a good relationship with his wife (Jill Clayburgh) and was always shining. Unfortunately, the show’s first season was cut short by the 2007 WGA strike and a showrunner turnover made the second a disappointment before it was canceled, leaving Sutherland the best part of two axed ABC series.

Dirty Sexy Money is available to purchase on Apple TV, Amazon Prime, Fandago at Home, YouTube, and Google Play Movies & TV.

Crossing Lines

Donald Sutherland, Ed Bernero, Gabriella Pession, Marc Lavoine, Rola Bauer, Tom Wlaschiha
'Crossing Lines' Photocall At The 53rd Monte Carlo TV Festival / Pascal Le Segretain/GettyImages

Fans of FBI: International could enjoy this 2013-2015 international show that focused on a team of international cops tracking crooks in Europe. The cast was good with William Fichtner in the starring role and Sutherland as his boss. It was mostly a cameo role with only a few minutes in each episode but Sutherland made them count. He always captivating and showed no matter how little screen time he had, he was a dominant actor. 

Crossing Lines is streaming on Sling TV an PLEX.


TRUST -- "White Car in a Snowstorm" -- Episode 9 (Airs Sunday, May 20, 10:00 p.m.) Pictured: Donald Sutherland as J. Paul Getty, Sr. CR: Oliver Upton/FX /

Sutherland made a big splash in 2018, starring in FX’s dramatization of the kidnapping of millionaire heir J. Paul Getty III. He played the senior Getty, who famously refused to pay the ransom for his grandson’s life. His performance is amazing as Getty appears so cold to others while being a ruthless planner and playing his own game. In a cast including Hilary Swank and Brendan Fraser, Sutherland won the biggest raves from critics to mark one of his best later-career triumphs. 

Trust is streaming on Hulu

Lawman: Bass Reeves

Part III
Donald Sutherland as Judge Parker in Lawmen: Bass Reeves, episode 3, season 1, streaming on Paramount+, 2023. Photo Credit: Lauren Smith/Paramount+ /

Sutherland’s final TV role was in this Taylor Sheridan Paramount+ series, which was a terrific historical Western. He played the infamous “Hanging Judge” Isaac Parker, who could be a ruthless but fair adjudicator in the court. Just sitting on a bench, Sutherland exuded power and had an almost regal bearing that made it hard for other characters to talk back to him. He fit the Western setting perfectly, giving strong advice and this was a great role to close out his career with.

There are scores more TV miniseries or the occasional guest star spot and it’s a bit surprising he never co-starred on his son Kiefer Sutherland’s hit 24. However, these TV appearances listed are another reason why Sutherland will be so missed by fans and mark the passing of a fantastic actor.