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Sam Waterston      

Acclaimed Actor Known for His Roles in "Law & Order" & "Grace and Frankie"

Sam Waterston graduated from Yale in 1962 and spent several months in summer stock at the Clinton (Connecticut) Playhouse, where he again appeared in "Waiting for Godot." He then moved to New York City and continued to train professionally. He made his New York debut at the Phoenix Theater late in 1962 in "Oh Dad, Poor Dad, Mama's Hung You in the Closet and I'm Feelin' So Sad." He went on a national tour with the show, and in August 1963 it moved to Broadway.

In the next decade, Waterston appeared in many plays. On Broadway, Waterston racked up another list of credits, including the hippie son of a crotchety English general in "Halfway Up the Tree," the Indian spokesman John Grass in Arthur Kopit's "Indians," and the son in a revival of Noel Coward's 1925 comedy "Hay Fever." Waterston received especially high critical praise for his role as Thomas Lewis in the chilling courtroom drama "The Trial of the Catonsville Nine," which moved to the Lyceum Theatre in June 1971 after several sold-out months off Broadway.

In mid-1972, Waterston took on the roles of Laertes in "Hamlet" and Benedick in "Much Ado About Nothing" at the New York Shakespeare Festival. Though his rendition of Laertes faced criticism, it didn't keep him away from Shakespeare. In fact in 1975, he took on the role of Hamlet for the New York Shakespeare Festival. At first his Hamlet was not warmly received either, but by the time the production moved indoors to the Vivian Beaumont Theatre in Lincoln Center Waterston's portrayal was being lauded. Waterston went on to play an unconventional Prospero in "The Tempest" and Vincentio in "Measure for Measure." He had the most critical success, however, in 1972 for his Benedick in A.J. Antoon's production of "Much Ado About Nothing" at the Delacorte Theatre in Central Park, which moved to Broadway later that year. For his role, Waterston earned a Drama Desk Award, a New York Drama Critics Circle Award and an Obie.

Waterston went on to reprise the role of Benedick in a televised version of "Much Ado About Nothing." He also played Tom Wingfield in a television production of Tennessee Williams' "The Glass Menagerie," starring Katharine Hepburn. For that role Waterston was nominated for an Emmy for best supporting actor. He had already appeared in several television shows, including Dr. Kildare, N.Y.P.D., and Hawk, and the PBS specials "The Good Lieutenant" and "My Mother's House." More notably Waterston portrayed the title character in the BBC's seven-part "Oppenheimer" in 1981. For his rendition of J. Robert Oppenheimer, the father of the atomic bomb, Waterston was nominated by the British Academy of Film and Television for best actor. He is also well-known for his role as a single father coping with dramatic social change in the 1950s South in the critically well-received series "I'll Fly Away" (1991 – 93).

On film, Waterston has appeared in "Three" (1969), "Cover Me, Babe" (1970) and "Who Killed Mary Whats'ername?" (1971), as well as James Ivory's "Savages" (1972). When he played Nick Carraway in "The Great Gatsby" in 1973, Waterston was one of the only actors in the film (including Mia Farrow and Robert Redford) to receive positive reviews. Waterston went on to appear in the films "Rancho Deluxe" (1975), "Dandy," the "All-American Girl" (1976), and "Interiors" (1978), as well as "Sweet William" (1982), "Capricorn One" (1978), "Heaven's Gate" (1980) and "Hopscotch" (1980).

Waterston joined another intelligent dramatic television series in 1994. He replaced Michael Moriarty as the resident executive assistant district attorney on the long-running drama "Law and Order." His character, Jack McCoy, rose up the ranks over the years, eventually becoming the city's district attorney. Waterston received three Emmy Award nominations for his work on the show. He played McCoy until the series' end in 2010.

After his success on "Law & Order," Waterston soon traded court cases for TV news. He played news director Charlie Skinner on Aaron Sorkin's series "The Newsroom" starring Jeff Daniels and Emily Mortimer. The show aired from 2012 to 2014. In 2015, Waterston joined the all-star cast of the Netflix series "Grace and Frankie." He and Martin Sheen play the husbands of Lily Tomlin and Jane Fonda who leave their spouses for each other.

Waterston lives in Connecticut. He and his wife, Lynn Louisa Woodruff, a model, were married on January 26, 1976. He has four children: Elisabeth, Graham, Katherine and James. James, who played his son in Oppenheimer, is the child of Waterston's first marriage, to Barbara Johns.


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