Samuel Atkinson Waterston
November 15, 1940
Cambridge, Massachusetts, U.S.
|Education||BA, Yale University (1962)|
|Occupation||Actor, television producer, television director|
Barbara Rutledge Johns
(m. 1964; div. 1975)
Lynn Louisa Woodruff
|Children||4, including James and Katherine|
Samuel Atkinson Waterston (born November 15, 1940) is an American actor, producer, and director. Waterston is known for his work in theater, television and film. Waterston, having studied at the Sorbonne in Paris and the American Actors Workshop, started his career in theater on the New York stage, appearing in multiple revivals of Shakespeare. In 1977, he starred in an off-Broadway production of Measure for Measure as Duke Vincentio alongside Meryl Streep and John Cazale at the Delacorte Theatre. Throughout Waterston's theater career, he continued to appear alongside actors such as Raul Julia in Indians (1969), James Woods in The Trial of Catonsville Nine (1970), Liv Ullmann in A Doll's House (1975), Jane Alexander in Hamlet (1975), and Glenn Close in Benefactors (1980). In 1993, he portrayed Abraham Lincoln onstage in Abe Lincoln in Illinois where he received Tony Award, Drama Desk Award, and Outer Critics Circle Award nominations for his performance.
In 1974 Waterston played Nick Carraway in The Great Gatsby (1974) alongside Robert Redford, and Mia Farrow, earning a Golden Globe Award nomination for his performance. He also appeared in Woody Allen's Interiors (1978), the Walter Matthau comedy Hopscotch, and Michael Cimino's Heaven's Gate (both in 1980). He received critical acclaim for his portrayal of Sydney Schanberg in Roland Joffe's The Killing Fields (1984), for which he received a nomination for the Academy Award for Best Actor. Waterston continued to appear in multiple Woody Allen films including, Hannah and Her Sisters (1986), September (1987), and Crimes and Misdemeanors (1989). He also appeared in The Man in the Moon (1991) alongside Reese Witherspoon in her feature film debut, John Waters' Serial Mom (1994), and Oliver Stone's Nixon (1995). Recently he appeared in Miss Sloane (2016), and On the Basis of Sex (2018).
In 1973, one of his early television roles included a television film adaptation of Tennessee Williams' The Glass Menagerie, alongside Katharine Hepburn. Among a variety of other television roles, he is perhaps most known for his iconic starring role as Jack McCoy on the NBC television series Law & Order (1994-2010), which brought him Golden Globe and Screen Actors Guild Awards. He also portrayed Abraham Lincoln in the miniseries Lincoln (1988). From 2012-2014, he portrayed Charlie Skinner in Aaron Sorkin's political HBO drama series The Newsroom alongside Jeff Daniels. In 2017 he appeared in the Emmy Award winning western limited series Godless on Netflix. He is currently starring in the Netflix comedy series Grace and Frankie (2015-present) alongside Jane Fonda, Lily Tomlin, and Martin Sheen.
He has been nominated for multiple Golden Globe Awards, Screen Actors Guild Award, British Academy Film Award, and Emmy awards, having starred in over 80 film and television productions during his 50-year career. He has also starred in numerous stage productions. AllMovie historian Hal Erickson characterized Waterston as having "cultivated a loyal following with his quietly charismatic, unfailingly solid performances." Waterston received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in 2010 and was inducted into the American Theatre Hall of Fame in 2012.
Waterston, the third of four siblings (Roberta, George, and Ellen), was born in Cambridge, Massachusetts. His mother, Alice Tucker (née Atkinson), a landscape painter, was of English ancestry, and a descendant of Mayflower passengers. His father, George Chychele Waterston, was an emigrant from Leith, Scotland, and a semanticist and language teacher.
The classically trained Waterston has numerous stage credits to his name. For example, he played an award-winning Benedick in Joseph Papp's production of William Shakespeare's Much Ado About Nothing and played the title role in Hamlet. Throughout Waterston's theater career, he continued to act alongside the best theater had to offer. On October 13, 1969, he starred in Arthur Kopit's play Indians on Broadway at the Brooks Atkinson Theatre. The play was directed by Gene Frankel, and acted alongside Stacy Keach as Buffalo Bill, Manu Tupou as Sitting Bull, Tom Aldredge, Kevin Conway, Charles Durning, Raul Julia. The play ran for 96 performances and 16 previews.
In 1977, he starred in on off-broadway production of William Shakespeare's Measure for Measure as Duke Vincentio alongside Meryl Streep and John Cazale at the Delacorte Theatre. In 1980, he starred in Benefactors alongside Glenn Close, Mary Beth Hurt, and Simon Jones at The Brooks Atkinson Theatre on Broadway. In 1993, he portrayed Abraham Lincoln onstage in Abe Lincoln in Illinois where he received Tony Award, Drama Desk Award, and Outer Critics Circle Award nominations for his performance.
He continues live theater work during the summers, often seen acting at places like Long Wharf Theatre and the Yale Repertory Theatre in New Haven. Waterston appeared as Polonius in the 2008 Shakespeare in the Park production of Hamlet. His performance received excellent reviews in The New York Times and many other newspapers around the country, particularly in the northeast. In 2015, Waterston appeared as Prospero in a Shakespeare in the Park production of The Tempest, directed by Michael Greif.
In 1994, Waterston debuted as Executive Assistant District Attorney Jack McCoy in the fifth season of the television series Law & Order. He played the role of McCoy, who would eventually become District Attorney, through the series finale in 2010, and has reprised the role throughout the Law and Order franchise. Upon the show's cancellation, Waterston was the second longest-serving cast member (behind S. Epatha Merkerson), having reprised his role through 16 seasons. Due to the success of the New York-based TV series, Waterston and his fellow longtime Law & Order castmate Jerry Orbach were declared "Living Landmarks" by the New York Landmarks Conservancy.
Waterston appeared on the 5,100th edition of Jeopardy!, on November 10, 2006, with Kathryn Erbe of Law & Order: Criminal Intent and Christopher Meloni of Law & Order: Special Victims Unit. Waterston finished second to Meloni and received a $25,000 prize, which he donated to Refugees International and Oceana. He made a popular cameo appearance on an episode of Saturday Night Live as himself, extolling the virtues of Old Glory Insurance, meant to protect the elderly from robot attacks.
In 2015, Waterston joined the cast of the Netflix series Grace and Frankie, starring alongside Martin Sheen, Jane Fonda and Lily Tomlin. In an interview with the New York Daily News, Waterston supported Tomlin and Fonda in demanding higher salaries than the supporting actors, saying, "I think they're being cheated."
On February 12, 2009, Waterston joined the Aaron Copland School of Music at Queens College orchestra and chorus, along with the Riverside Inspirational Choir and NYC Labor Choir, in honoring Abraham Lincoln's 200th birthday at the Riverside Church in New York City. Under the direction of Maurice Peress, they performed Earl Robinson's "The Lonesome Train: A Music Legend for Actors, Folk Singers, Choirs, and Orchestra" in which Waterston depicted Abraham Lincoln.
Waterston and his first wife, Barbara Rutledge-Johns, divorced in 1975. They have one son, James, also an actor. Waterston married his second wife, former model Lynn Louisa Woodruff, in 1976. They have three children, daughters Katherine Waterston and Elisabeth Waterston, who are also actresses, and a son, Graham.
An active humanitarian, Waterston donates time to organizations such as Oceana, where he is a board member, Refugees International, Meals on Wheels, The United Way, and The Episcopal Actors' Guild of America.
He was a spokesman for the Unity08 movement, which unsuccessfully sought to run a non- or bipartisan presidential ticket in the 2008 presidential election. Waterston has stated that he was a Democrat until he left the party in disgust following the airing of Lyndon B. Johnson's "Daisy" election advertisement in 1964. However, he endorsed Democratic President Barack Obama for re-election in 2012, and is currently a registered Democrat.
Waterston received an Academy Award nomination for Best Actor for his performance in The Killing Fields (1984) losing to F. Murray Abraham for his role in Amadeus (1984). He also received a Tony Award for Best Actor in a Play for his performance in the Broadway revival of Abe Lincoln in Illinois (1994). Waterston is known for his role as Jack McCoy in the popular long running criminal investigation series Law and Order for which he received 3 Primetime Emmy Awards and a Golden Globe Award nominations. He also received 11 Screen Actors Guild Award nominations for Law and Order winning in 1999 for Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Drama Series. He also received 3 Primetime Emmy Award nominations for I'll Fly Away as well as two Golden Globe Award nominations for the series winning in 1994.