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     Main Characters 

Nathaniel Fisher Sr.

"Life is wasted on the living."

Played by: Richard Jenkins

  • Cool Old Guy: Becomes evident he was one of these as his children discover more about him after his death.
  • Hidden Depths: His sons get to discover several Not So Different traits.
  • Honest Corporate Executive: Of the Family Business variety.
  • Mentor: To Rico. He was the one who saw his talent and sponsored his education as a funeral director.
  • Plot-Triggering Death: His fatal car accident is what drives the Fisher family together again and gets his older son into the family business.
  • Posthumous Character: He dies in the pilot, but he keeps appearing throughout the series and speaking to several characters.
  • Shotgun Wedding: He married Ruth because she got pregnant with Nate.
  • Tough Love: He often appears this way in the visions his children have, and it is implied that he was a frank and honest person in life, too, giving a callous impression.
  • "Well Done, Son!" Guy: The Fisher boys try to live up to his real or imagined standards and opinions, but his death makes him ultimately unpleasable as he is no longer there to acknowledge them.

Nathaniel "Nate" Fisher, Jr.
"I'm a funeral director. Well, I was born into it... like being born into the mafia."

Played by: Peter Krause¨

  • Aimlessly Seeking Happiness: He's repeatedly called out for this. In general, Nate's whole MO is that he'll do something impulsive (like marrying Lisa just because she's pregnant) and expect it to change his whole life. When it doesn't, he immediately starts seeking excuses to get out of it.
  • Anyone Can Die: He dies near the end of season 5. He was struggling with his brain condition but seemed to be ok. His collapse and subsequent death came out of the blue.
  • Big Brother Instinct: Mentions in the beginning that, before their father died, he barely knew Claire, but he's always looking out for her.
  • Black Sheep: A deconstruction in the sense it's taken to the logical consequences since he never evolves into a family man despite his half-hearted attempts.
  • Blithe Spirit: Deconstructed. Nate likes to think he's one of these, but Ruth and Brenda especially both call him out on it, pointing out that it's actually just irresponsible and difficult.
  • Break the Haughty: While they were extremely badly suited in general, Lisa's death serves as this for him after months of their relationship deteriorating and him pulling further away from her.
  • Bunny-Ears Lawyer: Generally riddled with personal issues and often has existential crises relating to his home life and job, but by all accounts Nate is a very competent funeral director. In addition he's a very loving and doting father to Maya.
  • Carpet of Virility: He's in good shape. His hairy chest is manly and attractive.
  • The Casanova : His backstory.
  • Cheated Death, Died Anyway: Nate learns at the end of Season 1 that he has a brain condition which means he could have a seizure or stroke at any time. The first couple of seasons build up to Nate having the risky surgery that will repair his condition, which he eventually does, and he is cured and appears to live a normal and much happier life. Then he has a second brain haemorrhage that has built up since he had it repaired, but he's expected to make a full recovery. Then he actually has another haemorrhage that results in his death.
  • Chekhov's Boomerang: His arteriovenous malformation almost killed him in season 2. In season 5 it comes back, this time fatally.
  • Cool Big Bro: A rare example where this also crosses over with "disappointing", but Claire and David clearly admire his lothario status even as they struggle to accept him.
  • Disappointing Older Sibling: Both Claire and David admire him greatly, and both have to deal with Broken Pedestal when they realize that Nate borders on being a selfish dick.
  • Disneyland Dad: Played with in a type 2. He genuinely loves his kids, but also resents being tied down by them, which means that he frequently overcompensates.
  • Dropped a Bridge on Him: He dies very suddenly in Season 5.
  • Fallen Hero: He gradualy becomes less sympathetic throughout the series.
  • Friends with Benefits: Nate and his Lisa from Seattle have a casual relationship. Lampshaded by his sister Claire: "So you're like, what, Fuck Buddies?" Cue unfomfortable looks from both Lisa and Nate.
  • Generation Xerox: He shares more than his name with his father. They both married women they barely knew after knocking them up, they both got into the funeral business rather against their will but showed a great talent for dealing with grieving people and they both die rather early.
  • Granola Guy: Spent many years playing this part in Seattle, but is mostly abandoned when he comes home and reconnects with his roots.
  • Henpecked Husband: To Lisa.
  • Heroic BSoD: Lisa's death really hit Nate hard. Mostly because he felt guilty, he wanted Lisa out of his life (but didn't want to lose his daughter in the process) and he got what he wanted in the worst way possible. Arguably he never really recovered.
  • The Hero Dies: Of an aneurysm in Season 5.
  • Honest Corporate Executive: Doesn't put the customer before the human being.
  • I Am Not My Father: The two things he never wanted to be as a teenager were 1. a funeral director and 2. married. By the beginning of season 3 he is both.
  • In the Blood: His deep compassion and innate ability to comfort people is said to be something his father also possessed. It's also implied that his father shared his rebellious spirit, which Claire clearly shows as well.
  • It's All About Me: Discussed. He tries to avoid falling into this, recognizing his own selfishness, but can never fully overcome the selfish edge to his personality.
  • Law of Inverse Fertility: He sleeps with his ex exactly once and she gets pregnant. However, it's later implied that Maya might not be his biological daughter.
  • Manchild: Nate slips more and more into this after having previously improved when he inherited the mortuary, as he struggled continuously with his fear of getting older.
  • Nice Guy: A flawed one, but he tries to be amiable and to avoid conflicts.
  • Obnoxious In-Laws: He's got no luck in that field.
    • Brenda's brother is heavily unstable and initially tries his best to sabotage their relationship whenever he can. And her parents never fail to make him uncomfortable.
    • We only get to know Lisa's family after her death, but they're a handful: Denying Lisa's wishes about her burial, trying to take Maya away from Nate, not to mention her sister's husband turned out to be her killer...
  • Out with a Bang: A little delayed, but Maggie literally fucked his brains out.
  • Perma-Stubble: Except when he deals with clients.
  • Rebel Prince: Would have been the heir to his family business if he hadn't 'run away' to find a new life in Seattle.
  • Reluctant Ruler: Would have inherited the position as the boss of the family business, but he 'ran away' because he was afraid of death and didn't want to be responsible for helping people through it. Turns out that he is highly gifted at handling people and has a unique ability to help them understand why their lives have been shattered by loss.
  • Secretly Selfish: Partly. He tends to make grand pronouncements that suit him, but he pretends they're all about his partner, whether romantically or platonically.
  • Sibling Rivalry: With David, initially. The two eventually work out their problems and become very close. David is the only one with Nate when he unexpectedly dies.
  • Sibling Yin-Yang: With David. David is a responsible, buttoned-up, repressed gay man, while Nate is a intentional Totally Radical type of "reformed" hippie.
  • Shotgun Wedding: He marries Lisa briefly after she gave birth to his first daughter.
  • Took a Level in Jerkass: In Season Fivenote . Also when Lisa goes missing.
  • Unexpected Inheritance: The 50% of the mortuary.
  • "Well Done, Son!" Guy: While investigating some strange notations in their company's financial ledger, Nate finds out from some former customers that his father was exceptionally proud that he refused to go into the family business and instead went to find his own life in Seattle.

David Fisher
"Yeah, I'll be the strong one, the stable one, the dependable one, because that's what I do. And everyone around me will fall apart. 'Cause that's what they do."

Played by: Michael C. Hall

  • Big Brother Instinct: Like Nate, he's very protective of Claire. Also an inversion. Younger David ultimately looks out for Nate as if he were the older brother.
  • Break the Cutie: David is a very kind, optimistic person, whose kindness gets taken advantage of in Season 4 as he gets abducted and psychologically and physically tortured, threatened with death.
  • Control Freak: He's very anxious and tries to make everything perfect and professional. Keith sometimes makes fun of it.
  • The Dutiful Son: As a child he always wanted to become a lawyer, but chose the family business instead.
  • Extreme Doormat: David struggles to stand up for what he wants with everyone.
  • Family Man: He deeply struggles with the fact that he longs for a family and Keith doesn't, and feels a deep attachment to the other Fishers.
  • Friend to All Children: He's great with kids, for instance Lisa's sister's children immediately take a liking to him. Michaela is clearly troubled and tells him she's glad to have him in her family, and he replies to have her in his family as well. He's distressed when an insensitive woman scolds her daughter who cries for her deceased alcoholic father. He longs to have kids of his own because he's a family man.
  • Gayngst: Initially. He had troubles coming out to his family and felt horrible about himself. He was also envious of gays who were comfortable with their sexuality.
  • Happily Married: With Keith, eventually.
  • Honest Corporate Executive: Very much like his father, he isn't going for the biggest profit and often recommends grieving families the cheaper options.
  • Kick the Dog: Done to him in the fourth season, when he is carjacked, robbed, forced to smoke crack, beaten up, has a gun put in his mouth and gasoline poured on him by a young hitchhiker. Handled fairly well in that this horrifying and arbitrary experience leaves long-lasting emotional scars. This is given even more gravity when he goes to confront the criminal in jail, and the guy doesn't even remember him. Then tries to manipulate him into feeling sorry for him again.
    • In general, David tends to respond to being wronged by being nice. But his anger is still there and he sometimes ends up exploding at an innocent bystander instead.
  • Little Brother Instinct: Though he and Nate don't really get on very well, David is still deeply protective of him.
  • Passed-Over Inheritance: At first he's surprised and not pleased about having to share the family business with Nate.
  • The Pollyanna: Despite his intense grief over his father's death, David insists upon being optimistic and clear-headed at all times, which only falters after his deeply traumatic experience in Season 4.
  • Red Oni, Blue Oni: The "blue oni" to Keith's "red", a kind and gentle funeral director who ends up married to a cop who struggles to keep his temper in check.
  • Sibling Rivalry: With Nate, initially. They eventually work out their problems and become very close. David becomes very tearful when Nate first undergoes surgery for his AVM. They eventually become so close that David is with Nate when he suddenly dies.
  • Sibling Yin-Yang: With Nate. Nate is an immature hippie, David is a repressed and traditional family man.
  • Trauma Conga Line: Season four, mainly, with the definition of this being what happens to him at the hands of a psychopathic hitchhiker.
  • Uptight Loves Wild: Played with between David and Keith. David loves that Keith is much more hot blooded and confrontational than he is, but David also struggles with the more repressive aspects of Keith's attitude and reigning in his temper at times - though they still end up happily married.
  • "Well Done, Son!" Guy: Implied that he entered the family business just to please his father and was therefore very resentful not only that Nate got the respect that David deserved but he got to live his life the way he wanted in the process.

Claire Fisher
Played by: Lauren Ambrose

  • All Girls Want Bad Boys: Lampshaded in dialogue a number of times, when her brothers or friends talk to her about her taste in men. She even discusses it with her school counselor at one point and later with Nate, saying she is attracted to relationships where she feels needed.
  • Beneath the Mask: Has repressed a lot of her emotions, a common trait in the Fisher family.
    • This is also explored with her school therapist, and seems to be a result of growing up in a funeral home, where 'you have to be careful' about people because they're always in the home on the worst day of their lives. She learns to handle her emotions better, but occasionally has explosive emotional outbursts.
    • A notable one being when she is being interviewed for a place in art school, and is asked about the sudden dramatic drop in her grades. She bursts into tears when she finally explains that it happened when her father died.
    • She often redirects her feelings, too. Nate once points this out to her when she is crying about being abandoned by her boyfriend, and he identifies her emotions as really being about their father's death. With her usual humor, she responds, "God, can't I just get upset without having to focus on what's really making me upset?"
  • Bratty Teenage Daughter: Had her moments in the first couple seasons, mostly when Ruth tried to become closer to her through mutual activities like spinning.
  • Cool Car: A bright green Cadillac hearse!
  • Dude Magnet: Everybody wants Claire.
  • Fatal Attractor: Many of her boyfriends have severe problems with the law (Gabe) or their own mental health (Russel, Billy).
  • Fiery Redhead: Claire is a very determined and fierce person with bright red hair.
  • Functional Addict: She tried out all kinds of light and hard drugs over the course of the series, but except for the time after Nate's death we never see her crash.
  • Good Girls Avoid Abortion: Averted. She decides to go through abortion when she gets pregnant with her boyfriend Russell who cheated on her with a male professor. She found out about her pregnancy when they were broken up.
  • Happily Married: While never stated she seems to be this with Ted Fairwell in the end of the last episodes flash forward.
  • Head-Turning Beauty: Despite considering herself to be rather awkward and average, she's always had several suitors and rarely has a hard time getting the guy (or girl) she wants.
  • I Am Not My Father: Claire tries to fight the fear that she might eventually burn out artistically and turn out to be just like her mother Ruth. Ruth, for her part, says that she see herself in her daughter and gets very angry when Claire drops out of college because she doesn't want her to waste her life as she did.
  • It's All About Me: A realistic version that is frequently told to get over herself, Claire struggles to comprehend that her family makes sacrifices for her, too.
  • Jerk with a Heart of Gold: Despite how blunt and borderline rude she can sometimes be, she does genuinely care about her friends and family. And she tries to be as supportive as possible during difficult times.
  • Long-Lived: In the ending. While most of the main cast survives into old age, Claire outlives all of the other adult characters by a wide margin, finally passing on in 2085 at the impressive age of about 102.
  • Opposites Attract: She typically dates men that are cynical, dark, and troubled (like she is). Then she dates Ted, and apparently marries him, who is the opposite of her in almost every ideological way and has a much brighter and encouraging outlook on life, which is exactly what she needs.
  • Really Gets Around: Claire is deeply attractive to every single person in the series, and she never has breaks between her relationships.
  • Rebellious Spirit: She longs to break out of her family', box, although she frequently has straight up terrible ideas how to do this.
  • Soapbox Sadie: Realistically for a teenage, then young adult, girl, Claire has strong political and artistic opinions and is not shy about expressing them. Her eventual husband, Ted, appreciates this about her.
  • She Is All Grown Up: She becomes more womanly every season.
  • The Snark Knight: She's very snarky, but she also has a good heart and is nearly always there when a member of her family needs her.
  • True Love Is Exceptional: Throughout the series most her partners were artistic types with various degrees of mental instability. Then she meets Ted, a serene conservative lawyer and eventually marries him.
  • Waiting for a Break: Claire struggles with how to do this throughout her career.

Ruth Fisher

Played by: Frances Conroy

  • Apron Matron: Downplayed. Ruth isn't that loud or domineering, but she also runs her household closely and the Fishers ultimately know not to mess with her.
  • Cloud Cuckoo Lander: She has her moments when she's downright weird.
  • Coming-of-Age Story: A subversion, in that she is around 50 years old when it happens but has been emotionally stunted for most of her life. She gets married at 19, has a family, and lives in a repressive household where no personal growth seems to happen for many years. After Nathaniel's death, she is on her own for the first time. She goes to a floral arrangement class, gets a job, has flings and boyfriends, makes new friends who introduce her to new experiences (like gambling, shoplifting, and a road trip to Mexico). She makes a lot of mistakes but her emotional and personal growth is very noticeable and when she returns to being a strong pillar of support in her family, she is much more accessible and is able to relate with her children as an adult who understands they are also adults.
  • Horrible Judge of Character: Because Ruth has been married for so long, she really hasn't had to judge people too much so, when Nathaniel dies, she's prone to extreme poor boyfriends or even friends.
  • I Coulda Been a Contender!: As an artist. It's part of the reason she fears Claire quitting so much.
  • I Want Grandkids: In the first two seasons she is shown to be quite frustrated about neither of her adult sons being anywhere close to founding a family. When Maya is born, she's overjoyed.
  • My Beloved Smother: Deconstructed. Ruth can be downright smothering of her kids at times, but they eventually recognize that this is because she doesn't know who she is outside of domestic life, and the finale shows her letting go of Claire as she moves on to adult life.
  • May–December Romance: Her relationship with Arthur (though it was never sexual).
  • Parental Sexuality Squick: Her children sometimes have this reaction to her boyfriends, though usually they only show outright disgust when they can actually hear her having sex. Treated more realistically, in that her children are aware of her relationships and often candidly talk with her about them.
  • Parents as People: She genuinely loves and wants to help her kids...but that doesn't stop her from finding them deeply annoying at times and making poor decisions.
  • Stay in the Kitchen: Ruth at least partially imposed this on herself, but also viewed it as her duty, as she tells Claire when Claire quits school.

Brenda Chenowith

Played by: Rachel Griffiths

  • Babies Ever After: The flashforward in the series finale shows her pregnant and happily remarried.
  • Big Sister Instinct: A very dark example to Billy, due to him being a borderline-abusive drug addict. It's the whole reason why she gave up her career.
  • Brainy Brunette: A famous child genius with distinct dark hair.
  • Child Prodigy: As a kid, she aced a standardized test and had been a top-achiever ever since, until her brother's condition forced her to pass on her Ivy League acceptance. Her witty conversations with her therapist became a best-selling book.
  • Heroic BSoD: Nate leaving her after finding out about her many affairs really broke her up. Then Nate asking for a divorce right before he died, leaving her with an unborn baby, hurt her much, much more.
  • Hollywood Atheist: She is deeply scornful of all religions and tells people so.
  • Informed Attribute: Her intelligence.
  • Jaded Washout: She could've gone to a highly prestigious university and planned to be a psychologist, but the requirements of Billy's care meant she turned it down, something which she still struggles to get over, and she has never lived up to her true potential.
  • Jerkass: Downplayed; a bit self-centered, uppity and lacking empathy at times, due to emotional instability.
  • Living Emotional Crutch: To Billy, a role she starts to pull away from more and more as time passes.
  • Manic Pixie Dream Girl: Deconstructed. Nate wants her to be one, but her actual manic behavior actually makes them both miserable, and she calls him out on not supporting her once she matured.
  • Obfuscating Insanity: In her childhood she studied and emulated the symptoms of various mental diseases to mock her psychiatrists.
  • Parental Sexuality Squick: Casually averted. She certainly doesn't like walking in on her mother having sex, but it is discussed several times that her parents used to have sex in front of her and her brother, as well as hosting sex parties in their homes growing up. This explains the cavalier attitude she has about it, and may even have been a factor in why Billy's relationship with her is so unusual.
  • Really Gets Around: In the first two seasons Brenda had a very wild sex drive, leading her to cheat on Nate and become a sex addict in season two. Following this she receives treatment for sex addiction and as a result matures.
  • Replacement Goldfish: According to Alan Ball, Brenda actually had two husbands after Nate. Clearly the interim husband was just to fill the void.
  • Second Love: Has found one as of 2008.
  • Silver Fox: She's about 50, and often commended on her timeless beauty by men and women alike.
  • Tattoo as Character Type: She and her brother have the names of their childbook heroes tattoed on their lower backs. Billy cut his off and tried to do the same to Brenda
  • Took a Level in Kindness: She goes from an impulsive, selfish sex and drug addict to a stable adoptive mother to Maya.

Keith Dwayne Charles

Played by: Matthew St. Patrick

  • Abusive Parents: His father (who is also very unsupportive of his homosexuality). Their relationship is very complicated, as while Keith's father would beat him and his sister and seems to show nothing but hostility towards him face-to-face, a conversation with Taylor reveals that his father really does love him.
  • Angry Black Man: He doesn't take shit from racists, homophobes and other bigots which gets him into trouble more than once.
  • Body Guard Crush: An apparent one turns out to be a Secret Test of Character.
  • But Not Too Bi: While he does have sex with a woman, he never has a relationship with one, even during times when he and his One True Love, David, are broken up.
  • But Not Too Black: A pretty light-skinned example.
  • Calling the Old Man Out: He doesn't take it well when David is the one who does it on Keith's behalf.
  • Fair Cop: Many characters, particularly his fellow gays, note how handsome he is in his police uniform. He himself hates getting shoehorned into the "tall gay black cop" sexual fantasy.
  • Gaynst: He largely accepts his sexuality, but his real fear is coming out publicly, over which he and David clash.
  • Happily Married: To David, eventually.
  • Hunk: This is acknowledged and commented upon repeatedly in-universe; a lot of people are very attracted to Keith.
  • I Am Not My Father: Keith often tries to fight his abusive tendencies because he doesn't want to be his father. Unlike practically everybody else with parental similarity issues, Keith manages to overcome his problems and we can see Keith adjusting to the idea of being a father to his two adopted sons.
  • Parental Substitute: To his niece.
  • Scary Black Man: A rare heroic example who still can be very scary when times call for it.
  • Sour Outside, Sad Inside: While Keith can be aggressive, this is covered by a Freudian Excuse of domestic violence in his childhood and his father's own homophobia.
  • Straight Gay: To the point where he is uncomfortable around David's Camp Gay choir friends.
  • Tsundere: A naturally "harsh" example due to his environment, but he has a very soft side that he shows to David, it's just hard to get it out of him.
  • Wife-Basher Basher: The reason he was kicked off the police force

Hector Federico "Rico" Díaz

Played by: Freddy Rodriguez

  • The Ace: He is really talented at his job.
  • Beleaguered Assistant: Throughout the entire series he has always shown resentment to David and Nate for treating him as their lackey because he was not born into the family business. It was only their father that he truly respected and introduced him to the craft. Rico and Vanessa invariably dread spending time with the Fishers outside of work and compare each other to them as an insult.
  • Challenge Seeker: He enjoys demanding restorations the most and prefers to leave the easier ones to David. One particulary smashed head was the initial reason he briefly left for Kroehner.
  • Foot-Dragging Divorcee: It pays off eventually, though.
  • Henpecked Husband: Vanessa does have her moments, especially when she gets backed up by her sister.
  • Heteronormative Crusader: Due to his Latin American Catholic upbringing he often shows homophobic tendencies, which leads to some trouble with his boss.
  • Hypercompetent Sidekick: He is a brilliant funeral director, and generally starts to really struggle with working "under" David and Nate for a long period of time.
  • Mistaken for Cheating: Zigzagged with a weird and costly affair.
  • Nightmare Fetishist: As part of his Challenge Seeker persona, he often downright gushes over the disfigured corpses he gets to fix up.
  • Obnoxious In-Laws: Does not like his wife's sister. It's mutual.
  • Start My Own: After Nate's death he ultimately sells his share of Fisher & Diaz to start his own funeral home.
  • Unexpected Inheritance: He gets over a hundred grand from his elderly neighbour, which improves his social situation drastically.

     Their Families 

Sarah O'Connor

Played by: Patricia Clarkson
Ruth's bohemian younger sister.
  • Cool Aunt: She's well-liked by her sister's children, especially Claire, whom she inspired to go into the arts.
  • Fiery Redhead: Like Ruth and Claire, Sarah has intense red hair, which seems to be a visual connection all three have as passionate and creative souls.
  • I Was Quite a Looker: In her own words, she turned to prescription drug abuse to cope with no longer being the prettiest or most interesting woman in the room.
  • The Lost Lenore: As revealed in her tearjerking speech to Ruth, the only man she ever loved died in her twenties.
  • The Muse: Implied to have been one when she was younger. She claims she is terrible at art but surrounds herself with artists to make up for it.
  • New-Age Retro Hippie: She hosts lavish esoteric parties at her house and likes to talk about "the goddess".
  • Sibling Yin-Yang: Sarah is extroverted and vivacious, she was incapable of having children and she never married as her one love died young. To compare with Ruth's withdrawn shyness, who had several children and a marriage that seemed to have been unsatisfying at the best of times.

Vanessa Diaz

Played by: Justina Machado

  • Spicy Latina: When in her emotional highs, she is a very confident and bossy matriarch. Her prodding and nagging are the primary motivations behind most of Federico's decisions.

Billy Chenowith

Played by: Jeremy Sisto

Brenda's younger brother. He plays an important role in Claire's life as he was the one who introduced her to photography. After teaching her photography class, the two have a short relationship.

  • Bastard Boyfriend: He treats all of his girlfriends (and Brenda) terribly.
  • Crazy Jealous Guy: Towards Brenda, his own sister. He doesn't respond well to her getting a boyfriend.
  • Depraved Bisexual: Billy's bisexuality (detailed above) is played as more proof of his violent, dangerous side.
  • Incest-ant Admirer: To Brenda. He worshipped her, was repeatedly violent towards her and her boyfriends, was deeply possessive of her. Eventually, in season four, he proclaims his love for her to her face. She is understandably horrified and cuts him out of her life for almost a year.
  • Insane Equals Violent: He regularly refuses to medicate his BPD, with dire consequences. No less than three main characters (Nate, Claire, Brenda) had to fear for their lives around him on several occasions, and was essentially one of the main antagonists of the first season.
  • Mad Artist: He's an accomplished photographer with a severe case of Bipolar Disorder.
  • No Medication for Me: Slips sometimes.
  • Physical Scars, Psychological Scars: He carves out his Isabel-tattoo with a knife.
  • Stalker with a Crush: A bizarre and very scary example; he follows Brenda and Nate to Las Vegas, breaks into their hotel room while they're sleeping, and takes photos of them in bed. Afterward, Brenda demands he return his key to her house, and he has a complete mental and emotional breakdown, begs her not to take his keys, then makes threatening comments such as, "Do you know how easy it would be to break in here?" After she takes his key, he sets Nate up to walk into his staged suicide with photos of Nate's sister in intimate situations, and then rants at Nate about his love for Brenda while holding a knife.

Bernard & Margaret Chenowith

Played by: Robert Foxworth & Joanna Cassidy

  • Abusive Parents: Downplayed. They were never intentionally cruel to their kids. Still, their approach to parenting was far from optimal.
  • Back for the Dead: In his first season-3-appearance Bernard succumbs to stomach cancer.
  • Divorce Is Temporary: After getting divorced when Bernard oversteps their open relationship agreement, they get back together rather quickly.
  • Hollywood Atheist: Both of them. According to Margaret, Bernard's brother (who is a rabbi) never forgave him for being successful...and for giving up Hanukkah. Bernard in turn thought his brother was a complete asshole.
  • Informed Judaism: Bernard's brother is a rabbi. He seems to be the only one in his family who isn't a practicing Jew.
  • Jerkass Has a Point: Margaret often gives Brenda some pretty good advice but in such a Jerkass way that Brenda ignores it on principle.
  • Lady Drunk: Especially after Bernard's death, Margaret is often shown with a drink in her hand.
  • The Shrink: Their jobs, which they are very enthusiastic about.

Lisa Kimmel-Fisher

Played by: Lili Taylor

  • Anyone Can Die: She gets lost when she was travelling to visit her sister and family. After a rather long time her body is found. And even later, it's revealed that she had an affair with her brother-in-law who probably killed her because she was gonna say it to her sister.
  • Clingy Jealous Girl: When married to Nate. Granted, she had a reason to be as Nate really loved Brenda and only married Lisa because that was what was expected of him.
    • Before their marriage, Lisa had this crazy notion that she was the one for Nate and that he was finally going to come to his senses and see it. When he finds out she's pregnant, this is exactly what she says.
  • Friends with Benefits: Originally her arrangement with Nate — casual friendly sex. Though she seemed to have been more emotionally invested in him than he realized, and tells her friends they've been together for years.
  • Friend to All Living Things: Tries to talk the ants in her kitchen into leaving.
  • Granola Girl: Part of her straw vegan persona. Back in Seattle she even ran an organic supermarket.
  • Hypocrite: Despite being extremely clingy towards Nate, she was actually cheating on him with her brother-in-law.
  • Meat Versus Veggies: She unsuccessfully tries to get Nate and Claire into tofu meatloaf.
  • Soapbox Sadie: Especially about her ecological values, which nobody in the Fisher family appreciates.
  • Straw Vegetarian: She was a staunch vegan until her pregnancy.
  • Wet Blanket Wife: An unusually manipulative example. Lisa's whole life was about passive-aggressively "fixing" Nate.
  • Wrong Genre Savvy: Lisa really thought she was Nate's true love...which really backfired on her.
  • Yandere: Anonymously making a massage appointment with your husband's ex-fiancée to see what she's like does qualify.

Maya Fisher

Nate and Lisa's baby daughter. When Lisa dies Brenda eventually takes over as Maya's mother and continues to raise her after Nate dies.
  • Mama's Baby, Papa's Maybe: In the season 4 finale it's revealed that Lisa had an affair with her sister's husband. Though, Nate is never shown to visibly care about the resulting possibilities.

George Sibley

Played by: James Cromwell

  • Absent-Minded Professor: Shown at times more concerned with geology than with social situations.
  • Cloud Cuckoolander: For a very good reason, as we later learn: he's severely mentally ill and it manifests like this.
  • Fourth Date Marriage: Ruth and him get married a few episodes after he is introduced.
  • Hikikomori: Finding the bunker under the Fisher house triggered something in him. When he eventually moved into said bunker, men in white coats had to drag him out again.
  • I Am Not My Father: Mother, specifically. George is haunted by the possibility that he's like his mother, who also had schizophrenia and greatly traumatized him.
  • Momma's Boy: Part of the reason why he was so traumatized by
  • Sanity Slippage: In season 4 he becomes more and more obsessed with apocalyptic scenarios, which even caused him to relocate into a bomb shelter. Thus between seasons 4 and 5, he underwent treatment at a mental hospital.
  • Serial Spouse: Ruth is number seven!

Anthony & Durrell Charles-Fisher

Played by: C. J. Sanders & Kendre Berry
  • The Cutie: Anthony was younger and less bitter during the initial period.
  • Foster Kid: Having been through several familys before, they've become cynical and treat Keith and David not unlike mischevious students treat a substitute teacher, convinced this is another temporary living situation.
  • Happily Adopted: It was not a smooth transition, and got ugly at times, pushing Keith to the brink of giving up on them. Eventually it worked out in the end.
  • Parental Abandonment: The kids have become jaded by the prospect of parenthood after so many people have handed them off.
  • Sibling Yin-Yang: Subverted. Actually they just have different ways of coping with the stress of adoption, especially since all the foster parents before David and Keith ultimately returned them. In fact they're both really nice guys.
  • Troubling Unchildlike Behaviour: Durrell. He gets better eventually.

     Other Characters 

Gabriel Dimas

Played by: Eric Balfour
  • Chuck Cunningham Syndrome: What actually happened to him after he shot that motorist was never explained. Claire sees him in a vision in Season 3 but that is no real indication of what happened to him. Somewhat justified in that this incident was the final straw for Claire, and afterwards, she vowed to never hang out with him again (a vow she clearly kept).
  • Troubled, but Cute: He's very thuggish but also quite traumatized and unnerved by many of the things he does.

Parker McKenna

Played by: Marina Black
  • Brilliant, but Lazy: She's actually quite intelligent and occasionally gives Claire some pretty thoughtful advice. She's also a slacker who earns mediocre grades and scores high on her SAT's by paying an Asian student to take it under her name.
  • Chuck Cunningham Syndrome: Justified, as high school was over and her and Claire's friendship was rather superficial. Claire also hated her ideologically for cheating on her SATs.
  • Mushroom Samba: In her most memorable scene, she takes shrooms with Claire. Hilarity Ensues.
  • Really Gets Around: Her rather wild and promiscuous nature is part of the reason why Claire is so drawn to her.

Kroehner Services International

  • Big Bad: Of seasons 1 and 2. They keep trying to buy "Fisher And Sons" and vehemently refuse to take "No" for an answer... even if it means resorting to the most unethical measures possible. They have their eventual come-uppance not by the Fishers, but by the federal government for their unlawful business practices.
  • Corrupt Corporate Executive: It's their thing. Their attempts to buy the Fishers is in flagrant violation of anti-trust laws (although no one mentions this).
  • The Dragon: Matthew Gilardi to Mitzi Dalton Huntley
  • Faux Affably Evil: They're smugly cordial and polite but are also extremely pushy and resort to some very unethical business practices.
  • Foil: To Fisher&Sons. Kroehner's shady methods and mass processing philosophy only makes the Fishers' way seem more noble.
  • Professional Butt-Kisser: Gilardi (arguably the Big Bad of Season 1) is revealed to be this to Mitzi in Season 2.
  • Laser-Guided Karma: Downplayed. In the penultimate episode of Season Two, the company's unethical business practices finally catch up to them, as they have a federal investigation done on their assets and are forced to file Chapter 11 Bankruptcy as a result. However, Mitzi has a small bit of revenge in the season's finale by covertly hiring a health inspector to inspect the Fisher And Sons Funeral Home, resulting in Fisher And Sons being charged a $38,000 fine (which they can't afford to pay until Rico and Vanessa chip in with part of their $100,000 settlement in exchange for Rico becoming a business partner) for a backed up sewage system.
  • Rich Bitch: Mitzi. She likes to display her wealth by throwing parties for her Kroehner lackeys.
  • Small Name, Big Ego: They were a pretty large funeral directing firm but clearly overestimated both their power and their financial assets, leading to their eventual bankruptcy (as detailed above).
  • Smug Smiler: Both Mitzi and Gilardi.
  • Sleeping with the Boss: Apparently Gilardi and Mitzi had a brief sexual encounter once.
  • Slimeball: During one of his pitches, Gilardi gets so far up Nate's butt even his Nate Sr. Imagine Spot starts making fun of it.
  • You Have Failed Me: A non-lethal example. Gilardi eventually gets fired for repeatedly failing to buy out the Fishers.


Played by: Ed O'Ross
  • Fake Russian: Ed O'Ross is from Pennsylvania.
  • Funny Foreigner: Often serves as a comic relief in the midst of the show's otherwise serious plots.
  • Kavorka Man: He's not really conventionally attractive, but still has more than one middle-aged woman swooning over him.

Arthur Martin

Played by: Rainn Wilson
  • Ambiguous Disorder: He seems to show signs of being on the autism spectrum. An obsession with order, systems, technology, an aversion towards physical intimacy, running through statistics and rules for comfort, and generally displaying peculiar and almost childish behavior.
  • The Apprentice: Hired to give an extra hand around after Federico refuses to be their lackey anymore.
  • Did You Think I Can't Feel?: While entering the Fisher home with optimistic enthusiasm and an appreciation for Ruth's kindness, he quickly grows uncomfortable by the bleakness surrounding the house, not to mention Ruth's abrupt abandonment of their friendship after he refuses her sexual advances.
  • Put on a Bus: Makes his way out of the show not long after George enters the scene.
  • You Look Familiar: Rainn Wilson appeared in the series finale of Transparent, playing Arthur as a fully-certified and successful funeral director.

Olivier Castro-Staal

Played by: Peter Macdissi
  • Depraved Bisexual: He preaches for his students to expand their horizons and fight their pious reservations to become a better artist. And it just so happens that doing so happens to involve sleeping with him, and anyone who rejects him is then loudly cast out as a childish naive fool who will never be a real artist.
  • Cool Teacher: Arguably a deconstruction. He encourages his students to think and to open their minds but the way he does it is rarely if ever totally positive.
    • Claire calls him out that if he were really as good of an artist as he claims to be, he wouldn't be a freshman teacher at a local school who is so emotionally invested in what teenagers half his age think of him.
  • Hot for Student: Slept with Russell, as well as with several of his former assistants including Billy, but notably not with Claire.

Anita Miller, Russell Corwin, Jimmy & Edie

Played by: Sprague Grayden, Ben Foster, Peter Facinelli & Mena Suvari
Claire's fellow students at LAC Arts.
  • Artistic Stimulation: All of them are fond of getting creative while on drugs.
  • Lipstick Lesbian: Edie is a very attractive lesbian — a sensual blue-eyed blonde. She dresses sexy, too.


Played by: Kathy Bates
  • Apron Matron: She's a tough and no-nonsense housewife
  • Beneath Notice: She notes how women of her age are practically invisible to society, which she makes use of in regular shoplifting trips.
  • Five-Finger Discount: She enjoys shoplifting and tries to get Ruth into it.
  • Serial Spouse: Has been married four times.

Ted Fairwell

Played by: Chris Messina
  • Hello, Attorney!: He's quite a handsome lawyer, as noted by his female colleagues.
  • Last Guy Wins: He is Claire's last boyfriend on the show, and the one she eventually marries.
  • Uptight Loves Wild: Uptight to Claire's wild. Fun-loving, free-spirited , liberal photographer Claire Fisher falls in love with Ted who is a conservative lawyer.


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