Frank Whaley biography
Marvel's Luke Cage (Netflix)
Date of Birth: July 20, 1963
Born in Syracuse, New York, Frank Whaley is best known for his vivid portrayals of put-upon,
sometimes ill-fated young men. Whaley studied theater at both the University of New York,
Albany and New York City's Actors Studio, where he earned a BA.
The actor got his first break with a role in Ironweed (1987), sharing the screen with
movie icons Jack Nicholson and Meryl Streep. Following secondary parts in films like Field of
Dreams and Born on the Fourth of July (both 1989), he landed the more substantial role of
Steve Bushak in The Freshman (1990). The film put Whaley on the Hollywood map, and he
was able to work consistently throughout the rest of the decade, turning in particularly
strong performances in films like A Midnight Clear (1991), in which he played a doomed
World War I soldier; The Doors (1991), which cast him as Doors guitarist Robby Kreiger;
Swing Kids (1993), in which he played a musician and a doomed man; and Pulp
Fiction (1994), in which he had a brief but memorable appearance as a business
associate who annoys Samuel L. Jackson's Jules Winnfield enough to get executed.
That same year, Whaley starred in Swimming with Sharks, a black comedy that gave him
one of his comparatively few leading roles. As the used and abused office boy of a sadistic
studio executive (Kevin Spacey), Whaley gave torment a good name, proving that it
was possible to display a certain kind of finesse when portraying someone relentlessly
slapped by power.
In 1999, after spending the previous few years playing more conflicted men, Whaley took
matters into his own hands by writing and directing Joe The King . A dark, independent
feature starring John Leguizamo, Camryn Manheim, Val Kilmer, and Ethan Hawke, it premiered
at the 1999 Sundance Film Festival, where Whaley won a Waldo Salt Screenwriting Award for
He then went on to direct and play a role in The Jimmy Show (2001), but as he focused on directing, his acting career suffered. The early years of the new decade found him landing only roles in small budget features or uncredited roles in bigger films. He returned to big budget production with a part in Mrs. Harris (2005), starring Annette Bening, Ellen Burstyn, Ben Kingsley and Cloris Leachman. He most recently starred in the films Rob the Mob (2014), Cold Moon (2016), and Monster Trucks (2017). He has also made many appearances on television in recent years, including on Under the Dome, Madoff, and Netflix's Luke Cage.
Whaley, along with Robert Sean Leonard and Ethan Hawke, co-founded the New York City
theater company Malaparte. He is also co-founder of Naked Angels theater group. He is married to playwright Heather Bucha.