James Spader is a 54-year-old Boston-native who is well-known for his many Hollywood roles. He’s most currently starring in the hit television show, the Blacklist, but this is just one more role in a long list of successful roles for the famous actor. Born in 1960, he was only 18-years-old when he became an actor, and his career has been a long one.
James Spader Growing Up
Born in Boston, James Spader is the son of two school teachers. His mom was an art teacher at The Pike School, where Spader attended classes as a child. When he was old enough, he attended the school where his father taught. Being the son of school teachers makes him seem like the kind of guy who would attend college and receive a higher education, but Spader actually dropped out of high school when he was only a junior in high school to pursue his acting career. It can be said his parents were not thrilled with his decisions, especially considering the fact that he spent several years working as a truck driver, busboy and even a yoga instructor. However, it wasn’t too long before he was cast in his first major role. It was 1981 and he was given a part in the movie Endless Love. Unfortunately, it would be another five years before Spader would become famous.
Despite the fact that he dropped out of high school and spent a few years trying to make his way into the world of acting, Spader was successful. It wasn’t the overnight story of success for him, though it really isn’t for most actors and actresses, but it was a story of success. There’s little doubt his family hasn’t changed their mind about his decision and learned to be proud of their son for his accomplishments.
Spader’s Movie Career
When Spader starred in Pretty in Pink in 1986, he quickly became a household name. His career went into overdrive at that point and he began starring in major films left and right. He co-starred in Mannequin, Less Than Zero, Baby Boom and Wall Street. In 1989, he starred as a controversial character in a controversial movie called Sex, Lies and Videotape, for which he won the award for Best Actor at the Cannes Film Festival.
In Pretty in Pink, he played a pretty villainous character, but nothing like the one he’s playing now on The Blacklist. His Pretty in Pink character, Steff, was just an uptight snob. He was the bully to Molly Ringwald’s character. He chose to pick on her and try to make her life miserable simply because she was not from a wealthy family. When Blane, another rich kid from the same area, decides he wants to go out with Ringwald’s character, Spader’s character tries to convince him not to. He’s a jerk in this role, that’s for certain. However, his first really big role was a far cry from global espionage and criminal behavior – even if we like his criminal character far better as a person.
His career in the 90s was bigger than ever. He had the lead role in White Palace opposite Susan Sarandon. He also had a role in True Colors playing best friend to John Cusack. He was given the leading role in Stargate, Crash and 2 Day in the Valley. He even made his television debut on an episode of Seinfeld in 1997 when he played a character that refused to offer an apology to George after he made fun of his character. It was one of the most famous episodes of the series.
He starred in many more films throughout the early 2000s, including The Watcher and Secretary. If he wasn’t already famous enough, his role as Alan Shore in the show Boston Legal pushed him over the edge. He became well-known for his role as Shore being that he played him on the series from 2004 to 2008. He was originally Shore when he starred in The Practice, and he reprised his role as the famous lawyer to star in Boston Legal. This was a breakout time for Spader, considering it sent him into Hollywood history. He won Emmy’s for his role as Shore on The Practice in 2004 and then turned around and won Emmy’s for the same role in both 2005 and 2007. He became one of only a handful of Hollywood actors to win Emmy awards for playing the same character on two different television shows as the same time.
Because he wasn’t busy enough at that time in his career, Spader also began working for several other companies. He became spokesperson for Acura and he did some voice-overs for the first episode of a series called Discovery Atlas on the Discovery Channel. He also began starring in a play titled “Race,” on Broadway at the Ethel Barrymore Theatre, which lasted just under a year and 297 performances.
It was in 2011 that Spader was set to play a character on the hit television comedy The Office. He was originally set to play the character for one or two episodes and somehow that turned into a full-time role on the series for an entire season. In 2013, it was announced by Marvel Studios that the actor would be cast in the 2015 movie “Avengers: Age of Ultron,” which is currently in the works. It was just after that announcement that Spader’s current series, The Blacklist, began to air on NBC and is about to premiere its second season.
His role in The Office was another one that portrayed him as a bad guy. Again, he wasn’t a worldwide criminal that’s wanted by the FBI, but he was a bad boss, and everyone knows that a bad boss is the absolutely worst. His character, Robert California, worked really hard to ensure that his office employees were miserable at their jobs (like so many others, we imagine) and he had seriously unreasonable rules. He was fabulous in the role, but it is yet another role in Spader’s history that makes us like his criminal character even more.
The Blacklist premiered on September 23, 2013. The series is a crime drama that stars Spader, Megan Boone, Ryan Eggold and Harry Lennix. Spader’s character is Raymond “Red’” Reddington, a high-profile criminal that was formerly a government agent. His character has managed to avoid capture for decades until he made the decision to turn himself into the FBI on the basis that he would help them find a list of criminals that are notoriously difficult to find. His only condition is that he is given the assistance of a very specific rookie profiler to help him catch these criminals in conjunction with the FBI.
Red’s list of criminals is something he refers to as the Blacklist, a list of criminals he’s found over time that he feels are more dangerous to the world than even the ones that the FBI is aware of. He makes it his point to track them down and turn them over to the FBI.
The role is very different than the one that began his career in the acting business. His role in Pretty in Pink was not that of a lifelong criminal with an evasive past and a former high-profile job. It goes to show how far he’s come as an actor since he began his career more than 35 years ago, even though he’s one who plays a villainous character often. Spader is someone who has gone from playing a bully to a bad boss, which anyone might agree are the two worst kind of people on the planet. We all thought that by playing an international criminal would make him unlikable as a character, but most people have more in common with Red than they do a bad boss or a bully. Funny how that works out, isn’t it? You play a regular high school kid that bullies others because they’re not wealthy and no one – no one – likes you. You play an international criminal who has some seriously crazy ways, and people adore your character. It just goes to show that being a bully is uncool. It also shows that Spader is one of the most talented actors in Hollywood. He might not play one of the most handsome or romantic leading roles, but the roles he plays are serious, and they require serious talent.
Most everyone loves The Blacklist, and they loved Pretty in Pink, and so many people have taken the time to compare the two characters Spader plays in the show and the movie. Despite the major differences in each of the characters that Spader has portrayed over the course of three decades, one thing remains constant; he is immensely talented. His ability to play the role he’s given with perfection and attention to detail is flawless. Not many actors have the ability to play such a diverse cast of characters without being typecast as one particular type of person, but Spader has managed to do just that while simultaneously wowing his audience. It’s the kind of talent few people possess.
(Photo by Frederick M. Brown/Getty Images)