Dean made his film debut in 1982 in the low-budget horror movie Island of Blood. A graduate of the American Academy of Dramatic Arts, he trained with Wynn Handmann of the American Place Theatre in New York and with Roy London and Peggy Feury of The Lost Studio in Los Angeles.
Scruffy and scraggly, with a long, narrow, craggy face, a muscular physique, a rough gravelly voice, and a very intense and intimidating screen presence, Dean was often cast as bums, psychos, and dangerous criminals. From the late 1980's to the 1990's, Dean appeared in a slew of straight-to-video features produced by legendary exploitation filmmaker Roger Corman; some of those movies include The Unborn, Quake, Bloodfist III: Forced to Fight, both Carnosaur sequels, Cheyenne Warrior, and Black Scorpion. Dean often co-starred alongside Maria Ford in these movies. Aside from acting in over 40 films, Dean also directed and starred in stage plays, and was an accomplished self-taught artist who specialized in pastel paintings. He was married to artist and actress Cinda Jackson and was the father of actress Eliza Lauren Dean. Rick Dean died suddenly on 3 February 2006.