James Van Der Beek biography
James Van Der Beek
Date of Birth: March 8, 1977
Despite having a long head, James Van Der Beek has emerged as one of the ultimate teen
pin-ups of the late 1990s, all thanks to the title role of Dawson Leary in the WB Network's
Born to a cell phone salesman father and a mother who ran a gymnastics studio, Van Der
Beek was raised in his hometown of Cheshire, Connecticut.
The oldest of three children,
he was an honors student and excelled at football until an injury at 13 sidelined his
budding career. In its own way the injury proved to be serendipitous, as it led Van Der
Beek to take up acting. He started doing community theater for kids, practicing his craft.
passed but his love of acting continued to motivate him, so Van Der Beek and his mom
traveled to New York and found him an agent.
Van Der Beek made his professional debut at the age of 16 in the Off-Broadway
production of Finding the Sun, which was written and directed by Edward Albee.
stage work ensued, as did some television work (most notably in the form of a 1995
stint on As the World Turns). Van Der Beek made his film debut in the 1995 comedy
Angus, aptly cast as a golden-boy football quarterback.
Another movie, the
Claire Danes/Jude Law vehicle I Love You, I Love You Not, followed in 1997, but the
film got off to a rocky start and never received a wide release.
When Van der Beek auditioned for the role of Dawson Leary, he thought his chances at
the part were slim considering he was 20 and the character was a 15-year-old. The
producers clearly liked what they saw and Dawson's Creek premiered in January of 1998,
giving Van Der Beek his big break.
The show's success with critics and audiences alike
propelled Van Der Beek and his fellow cast members into the limelight, and he soon
secured his first major film roles, first in the little-seen Harvest (1998), and then
in the football comedy-drama Varsity Blues (1998). The film's modest reviews were
overshadowed by its financial success, geared as it was toward a new generation of
teenagers eager to see their favorite actors in glorious celluloid.
The film's enthusiastic commercial response, coupled with Dawson's continuing success, virtually
guaranteed the young actor that no matter what the future held for him, his career had certainly gotten off to a very positive start.
James Van Der Beek Filmography