Remembering Ben Best, co-creator of ‘Eastbound & Down,’ actor, writer, musician, and North Carolinian

By Daniel Coston

September 17, 2021 (updated)

On Sunday, September 12, news was shared by Rough House Pictures that Benjamin Terrell Best, a Charlotte mainstay and North Carolina native writer, actor and musician had passed away just a day before his 47th birthday. 

For many who knew Best, he was the most magnetic guy in the room; the one everyone was drawn to. With effortless vibe and swagger, he turned an ordinary evening into an event, just by being there. He was the guy you see and think, “Is he a rock star, or a movie star?” And then you find out he was both.

Best grew up in High Point, North Carolina, playing music and dreaming of moviemaking from an early age. He found himself in the middle of a remarkable class of rising talent at North Carolina School of the Arts that included Jody Hill and Danny McBride, with whom he would later co-create the HBO series, Eastbound And Down. Best also met another eventual Arts graduate, Chris Walldorf, with whom he would form the band Pyramid in 1997 with Tyler Baum. 

Pyramid was a shape-shifting project, creating music that was both brooding and ambient. It’s no accident that much of the band, including Walldorf, continues to create soundtrack music to this day. The band collaborated with Charlotte musicians back in 2004 at Neighborhood Theatre, when Pyramid, the Houston Brothers, and Sea Of Cortez combined forces to play each other’s songs, providing a glimpse of what the Charlotte music scene had to offer. 

Ben Best pictured here with members of Pyramid, Houston Brothers and Sea Of Cortez in 2004. Photo: Daniel Coston

Many outside of Charlotte first discovered Best and Pyramid through the 2006 film, The Foot Fist Way. With Pyramid providing the soundtrack, Best co-wrote the film and played Chuck “The Truck” Wallace, a TV actor with a Chuck Norris-like persona. For those that knew him, Best was iconic– you couldn’t hang out with Chuck Norris, but hanging out with Best was always a memorable experience.

Best moved back and forth between Charlotte and Hollywood. He appeared in Superbad, Observe and Report, What Happens in Vegas, and Land of the Lost. However, it was his work on Eastbound & Down, and his portrayal of bartender Clegg that brought him fame. Seeing him on television and films felt like a culmination of something that many who knew him expected. 

After co-writing the 2011 film, Your Highness, Best stepped away from Hollywood, from Eastbound & Down, from everything. He came home to North Carolina, and began what may have been his best role: father to his daughter, Harper Courtney Best. 

North Carolina artist and friend of Best, Scott Nurkin said in a tribute, “He had the most annoying quality of being the funniest guy in the room. He was a good son, a loving brother, and the most fun uncle around, and a loyal friend. We all want more time with him and we know he will live on through legendary stories and laughter.”

Ben Best in 2004 rehearsing for 2004 show at Neighborhood Theatre. Photo: Daniel Coston

Many of us that knew Best have used social media to express our sadness and our memories. We all shared in his life and what he meant to us. Ben Best was here and will always be here. In our stories, in our memories, and our hearts.

On Sunday, September 19, 2021 from 3:30 p.m. to 7 p.m., Snug Harbor will celebrate the life of Benjamin Terrell Best by sharing stories and memories with the community. 

Read next: 

In this article