Robert Sean Leonard was born in 1969 in Westwood, New Jersey. He is avery profilic and acclaimed stage actor. His first major film role was in 1989 in “Dead Poet’s Society”. Other films include “Mr and Mrs Bridge” and “Much Ado About Nothing”.
A Tony Award-winning stage and film actor with a boyish charm, Robert Sean Leonard first caught the attention of Hollywood with his touching portrayal of a prep school student with theatrical aspirations in Peter Weir’s modern film classic, “Dead Poet’s Society” (1989). A stage-trained actor from the age of 12, Leonard became known for his earnest and touching dramatic performances throughout his career. Dividing his time equally between stage and screen, Leonard managed to maintain success in both mediums, starring opposite some of the business’ most acclaimed actors, including Paul Newman, Glenn Close and Kenneth Branagh. Making the shift to series television in 2004, Leonard joined the cast of the hit medical drama, “House” (Fox, 2004- ), and as Dr. James Wilson, enjoyed the most high profile success in his career to date.
Born Feb. 28, 1969 in Westwood, NJ to Robert and Joy Leonard, the talented youngster showed an interest in theater from an early age, making his stage debut at age 12 in a New Jersey production of “Oliver!” He began to pursue an acting career at the age of 14, performing at the Ridgewood Theater in New York, as well as acting off-Broadway in “Sally’s Gone, She Left Her Name” and in his Broadway debut, starring as Eugene in Neil Simon’s “Brighton Beach Memoirs” in 1986. Only 17 years-old, Leonard’s stage experience and boyish charm helped him make a smooth transition to film, with his feature film debut in “The Manhattan Project” (1986) as well as a starring role in the teen comedy, “My Best Friend is a Vampire” (1988). Landing a prominent dramatic role, Leonard was cast as Neil Perry in Peter Weir’s “Dead Poet’s Society” (1989). Starring opposite Robin Williams and Ethan Hawke, Leonard’s touching performance as a suicidal prep school student earned him rave reviews and opened the door for other film roles.
Managing to balance both acting and an education, Leonard went on to study history at New York’s Fordham University and later attended Columbia University’s School of General Studies and Continuing Education. Forging ahead with acting, however, he appeared on film as the teenage son of Paul Newman and Joanne Woodward in the Merchant-Ivory production “Mr. and Mrs. Bridge” (1990). On stage, he performed in the Riverside Shakespeare Company’s production of “Romeo and Juliet” and in the Broadway production of “The Speed of Darkness.” Back on film, Leonard went on to star as a jazz-crazy youth in the World War II drama, “Swing Kids” (1993), portray the love-struck Claudio in Shakespeare’s “Much Ado About Nothing” (1993) and appear in Martin Scorsese’s “The Age of Innocence” (1993) – all certifiable critical hits. That same year, Leonard earned a Tony nomination for his performance in the Broadway revival of “Candida.” A devoted theater actor, Leonard went on to perform in a production of “King Lear” at San Diego’s Old Globe Theater and appeared on Broadway in productions of “Philadelphia, Here I Come” and Tom Stoppard’s “Arcadia.”
Hollywood came calling again, with Leonard starring opposite Glenn Close and Whoopi Goldberg in Christopher Reeve’s acclaimed directorial debut, “In the Gloaming” (1997), in which Leonard turned in a touching performance as a young AIDS patient who returns home for his final months. Next, Leonard appeared in Whit Stillman’s ensemble comedy, “The Last Days of Disco” (1998) and returned to the stage in 1999 to appear in the Broadway revival of Eugene O’Neill’s “The Iceman Cometh” – in which he shared the stage with none other than Oscar-winner, Kevin Spacey. Teaming up with “Dead Poet” alum Hawke for two films in 2001, Leonard appeared as part of an ensemble cast in Hawke’s directorial debut, “Chelsea Walls” (2001) and starred opposite Hawke and Uma Thurman in Richard Linklater’s indie drama “Tape.” Bouncing back to the stage in that same year, Leonard appeared as A.E. Housman in Tom Stoppard’s “The Invention of Love” – a performance that won him the Tony Award for Best Performance by a Featured Actor in a Play. He continued his hot streak by starring in the Broadway musical “The Music Man,” “The Violet Hour,” and “Long Day’s Journey Into Night,” for which he was nominated for another Tony Award in 2003.
Taking on his first major television role in 2004, Leonard joined the cast of the Fox medical drama, “House” (2004- ), portraying oncologist Dr. James Wilson. The hit drama, which often veered toward the humorous, was Leonard’s most buzzed about role to date. Most of the accolades fell on the show’s lead, maverick doctor, Gregory House – expertly played by British actor, Hugh Laurie. Dr. House’s unorthodox treatment of patients – including an eccentric bedside manner which involved offering rapid and accurate diagnoses after seemingly not paying attention – got most of the critical buzz, but the ensemble cast, including Leonard, each got their chance to shine in the quirky drama that became an instant hit with viewers.
The above TCM overview can also be accessed online here.