Steven Culp - Biography
|By AD, Stephanie and Me - thank you, AD and Stephanie! :-)
Steven Culp is a seasoned dramatic actor who brings an extensive theater background to his work in film and television. Born in La Jolla, California, on December 3, 1955, Culp grew up with his two sisters in Virginia Beach, Virginia. Both his father and stepfather were naval officers, but Culp chose not to follow their lead. Instead, he pursued a long-time interest in literary arts and music.
With the aspiration of becoming either a writer or a rock star, Culp majored in English Literature at The College of William & Mary in Williamsburg, Virginia. On the advice of his professor, he participated in a student exchange program in his junior year that took him to the University of Exeter in Exeter, England. At Exeter, Culp became acquainted with a group of student actors and quickly developed an interest in theater. Upon his return to the United States, Culp graduated from The College of William and Mary in 1978 and entered Brandeis University, where he earned an MFA in Theater Arts and Acting in 1981.
Soon after graduating from Brandeis, Culp began working in off-Broadway and regional theaters. He was first seen by a national television audience while portraying a psychotic baby-snatcher on the soap opera Another World in 1982. Jobs in the New York theatre were plentiful, but it was roles like Danny Wolek (1983-1984) on the daytime drama One Life To Live that paid the bills. In 1984, Culp moved on to other projects, honing his craft as a stage actor. In the late 1980's, he relocated to California and began working regularly in film and television, while still working in theater as often as his schedule would allow.
Culp made his TV movie debut in 1988 with the role of John Hay in the Emmy-winning production of Gore Vidal's Lincoln (starring Sam Waterston & Mary Tyler Moore). His big screen debut came a year later with the movie Gross Anatomy (1989). Several film and television roles soon followed, such as Dead Again (1991), Friday 13th - Part IX - Jason Goes to Hell: The Final Friday (1993), and A Walton Thanksgiving Reunion (1993), which gained Culp modest success. In 1990, Culp played the leading role of the photographer Richard Stewart in the English as a Second Language educational video series Family Album, U.S.A.
It wasn't until 1997 when he was cast in the break-out role of CIA Special Agent Clayton Webb in the CBS television series JAG, which originated on NBC the year before. Webb became a recurring character, with the actor developing a loyal fan base among the show's viewers. During its ten-year run, JAG's CIA operative developed into a strong fan favorite, due in no small part to Culp's multi-layered performances.
The same year the JAG series debuted on CBS, Culp was cast as Robert F. Kennedy in Norma Jean and Marilyn (1996), a drama produced for HBO about the life and career of Marilyn Monroe. His strong performance as Kennedy (complemented by his chiseled good looks) impressed viewers. Culp nailed the Bostonian mannerisms of the one-time presidential candidate and rumored lover of the doomed actress. It would not be the last time this handsome young actor would be called upon to play JFK's younger brother.
Culp was cast as RFK again in the Cuban Missile Crisis-inspired dramatic feature film, Thirteen Days (2000), starring and produced by Kevin Costner; this time offering a much more complex study of the former Attorney General.
The film retraced 13 days in October, 1962, when the world teetered on the brink of nuclear Armageddon and the fate of the world rested on the shoulders of the two brothers, arguably the most powerful men in the world at that time. Cast opposite Bruce Greenwood as JFK, Culp watched endless documentaries, read numerous books on the Kennedy family as well as listened to audio tapes to emulate the particular vocal tones in preparation for this difficult role. He and Greenwood spent great deal of time together, usually in character, bonding off screen in order to essay the brotherly bond onscreen. Culp's eerily accurate portrayal of Kennedy is considered one of the best in cinematic circles. Entertainment Weekly and Variety even proclaimed Culp and Greenwood Oscar nominee shoe-ins as the tough, smart but ultimately tragic brothers. Unfortunately, neither was nominated.
Cinemax's Creature Feature film gave Culp the headline in How To Make A Monster (2001) before landing a pivotal role in Kevin Kline's critically acclaimed adaptation of "The Palace Thief." Released as The Emperor's Club (2002), Culp delivered a subtle but affecting performance as the once-wronged Martin Blythe. Two short years later he found himself between multiple television roles and managed to deliver supporting roles in David Mamet's thriller, Spartan (2004) as well as in an updated film version of Anton Chekhov's classic, The Sisters (2004).
During the 2003-04 television season, the hardworking Culp successfully juggled recurring roles on an unheard of four series at one time: on CBS's JAG (as CIA Agent Clayton Webb), NBC's The West Wing (as GOP Speaker of the House Jeff Haffley), NBC's long-running hospital drama ER (as schoolteacher Dave Spencer), and on UPN's futuristic series Star Trek: Enterprise (as MACO commander Major Hayes). He also managed to squeeze in guest spots on The Lyons Den and CSI: Crime Scene Investigation. At the end of that season, Culp had the unusual misfortune to have two of his characters (Webb on JAG and Major Hayes on Star Trek: Enterprise) killed off in the shows' season finales the same week (though Webb turned up very much alive in the subsequent season premiere of JAG).
Joining ABC's enormously popular television dramedy, Desperate Housewives in 2004, Culp enjoyed ensemble success as cast regular, Rex Van de Kamp. Obviously a "woman's show", he, nevertheless, shown brightly as a hen-pecked husband opposite Marcia Cross, his on-screen wife. Bree and Rex's dysfunctional relationship reached its apex when Rex admitted his fondness for S&M sex to his prudish wife. The show's creator Marc Cherry and Culp ultimately came up with Rex's secret storyline. Although a fan favorite, Culp knew someone would be getting the ax at the end of season one during May sweeps. Unfortunately Rex ended up being poisoned by Bree's jealous pharmacist suitor. According to Nielsen ratings, that episode drew in over 30 million viewers upon its initial broadcasting in the United States, becoming the most-watched program of the night across all the networks, as well as the highest-rated episode ever of Desperate Housewives.
After his Desperate Housewives' character was killed off, Culp remained busy by filming the Lifetime TV holiday movie Deck the Halls (2005) and participating in the Tribeca Film Festival premiere of The Sisters (2006) together with his co-stars Eric McCormack, Maria Bello and Erika Christensen. Culp also won the Celebrity Poker Showdown 7th Season Championship game. That tournament premiered on October 13, 2005, with a themed show featuring the male stars from Desperate Housewives and a $1 million (US) prize pool, with $500,000 going to Culp's charity: We Spark Cancer Support Center. Culp finished filming Firehouse Dog (2007), a Todd Holland project that reunited Culp with his Thirteen Days' co-star, Bruce Greenwood. Josh Hutcherson, Dash Mihok and Bree Turner also star in this delightful family comedy.
Culp gave a stunning performance in Kevin Sheridan's low budget movie Leaving Barstow (2008) as the main character's mentor, Mr. Johns, who attempts to convince his pupil to leave Barstow and attend college. In From Within (2008), which was written by Brad Keene and directed by the gifted cinematographer Phedon Papamichael, Culp portrays the local pastor Joe of the small and serene community of Grovetown where a rash of suicides spread fear and panic among local residents. Rumer Willis, Thomas Dekker, and Adam Goldberg also star in the movie.
Impact (2009), a two-part miniseries, was an internationally produced sci-fi adventure with Culp cast as the US President alongside David James Elliott with whom Culp had co-starred on JAG. Natasha Henstridge and Oscar and Emmy nominated James Cromwell also star in this disaster epic. In 2009, Culp's love of Twilight Zone type pieces influenced him to take the part of Roger Dean in David Orr's short film Refresh. The short film centers on a wealthy businessman, Roger Dean, who is seeking a cure from his chronic depression. Dean's quest leads him to a mysterious medical clinic that promises a highly effective-but irrevocable-solution.
Producer Ricardo Uhagón Vivas asked Culp to be part of his short film Dark Matters (2011). They met for coffee to discuss the project; hitting it off right away. Culp had very interesting suggestions about the character and took a real interest in the details and back-story. The story revolves around an only child, Jeremy, and his belief in otherworldly beings and their relationship with his parents. This impressionable teen believes his recently absent mother has made contact with otherworldly beings. While searching for answers, he uncovers a dark secret about his past and family that will change him forever. Culp plays Michael Cleary, Jeremy's dad.
The remake of The Chicago 8 (2011) brought Culp into the center of a courtroom drama based on actual court transcripts from the trial surrounding seven young leaders of the Vietnam anti-war movement that were charged with conspiracy to incite a riot. Portraying the lead prosecuting attorney, Thomas Foran, with the burden of proving the guilt of the accused and dealing with racially charged accusations. The drama was filmed in the fall of 2009 with its West Coast premiere at the Beverly Hills Film Festival in April 2011. The movie was released to the world in September 2012 on DVD.
In September 2012, Culp joined ABC's cast of the medical drama Grey's Anatomy as the new "top dog" physician, Dr. Parker, the head of cardio at the The Mayo Clinic in Minnesota. One of the show's main character, Dr. Christina Yang, flees Seattle in the aftermath of a plane crash that saw the demise of two of its longtime doctors. She finds herself in a meaningless relationship with Dr. Parker, as well as being used by the influential doctor to babysit one of the center's aging surgeons. After his time on Grey's Anatomy, Culp filmed the short film I Can See You, about an affluent, middle-aged, but still strikingly beautiful, Marnie who is compelled to relive a day from her teenage past over and over again. The film ran through the festivals in 2014.
In January 2013, Culp filmed Collusions (yet to be released) which is a cerebral character driven crime mystery that follows four people, intertwined in the legal and law enforcement world of LA, as the story of a beaten woman, her missing tooth and their motives are revealed. Starring Kelli Joan Bennett, Tom Everett Scott Brynn Thayer and Jamison Jones (who co-stared with Culp onstage at the world premiere of Dr. Cerberus at South Coast Repertory). The movie is currently in post-production.
For Revolution's second season (2013-14), Culp joined the cast of NBC's post-apocalyptic drama as the clean-cut Patriot Edward Truman, a dignified authority figure. The character developed throughout the season, caught up in the upsurge of ambitious leaders bent on wiping out undesirable elements they blame for the demise of American values. Working without much of a backstory, Culp read books on historical figures in a time period consistent with the motivation of the Patriot's movement.
Culp made an appearance in the movie Captain America 2: The Winter Soldiers (2014) as a senate committee member throwing out intense questions to an agent of S.H.E.I.L.D. to answer for the agency's implosion by the infiltration of the subversive group Hydra.
When not busy with film and television commitments, Culp still performs in live theater ranging from main stage features to Shakespearean festivals to historical recreations; Meeting of the Minds created by Steven Allen at The Working Stage in West Hollywood, where he portrayed Thomas Paine alongside Queen Cleopatra (Stana Katic from "Castle") and Father Thomas Aquinas (Joe Spano from "NCIS"). His most memorable performances were in Raised in Captivity (1995) as the South Coast Repertory; where he won Drama-Logue Award for Outstanding Performance as well as Angels in America (1994) at San Francisco's Marines Memorial Theatre stage winning Drama-Logue Award for Outstanding Ensemble. Other notable projects include Blackbird (2007) and The Quality of Life (2008) at the American Conservatory Theater in San Francisco, CA, in Dr. Cerberus (2010) at the South Coast Repertory in Costa Mesa, CA, and in Old Times (2011) written by Harold Pinter and directed by Michael Kahn produced by the Shakespeare Theater Company in Washington, D.C. In 2013, Culp returned to Costa Mesa to star in Beau Willimon's The Parisian Woman alongside Dana Delany and Steven Weber, directed by Pam Mackinnon at the South Coast Repertory. In 2016, Culp stars in the Beltway play The City of Conversation, a play about politics in family and families in politics, that was written by Anthony Giardina and is directed by Michael Wilson at the The Wallis Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts in Beverly Hills.
Culp has also worked with L.A. Theatre Works on several occasions, participating in the award-winning, critically-acclaimed radio theatre series, "The Play's The Thing," where "live-in-performances" are recorded in the state-of-the-art sound, complemented by intricate sound designs and on-stage effects. Performed in front of live audiences with the use of microphones with scripts in hand, the actors' performances are recorded for later broadcast on public radio stations across the US. Culp's debut performance was in Richard Nelson's The General From America (1989). Years later, he returned to L.A. Theatre Works for Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa's play Dr. Cerberus (2010). Arthur Miller's Death of a Saleman (2011) put him on stage alongside Stacy Keach and Jane Kaczmarek as Biff Loman (in 1998, Culp was cast as Happy Lowman with the Interact Theatre Company). His most recent recording was of Michael Hollinger's Opus (2012), co-stars included Jere Burns, Kevin Chamberlin and Liza Weil.
Steven Culp has been married to costume designer Barbara Ayers since September 29, 1990, whom he had met in Richmond while filming Gore Vidal's Lincoln in 1987. They have two children, Katie and Joe (fraternal twins), born in October 2001. They live in the Los Angeles County, California. In his down time he spends with his family; relaxing at the beach, cycling and hiking, as well as reading, writing fiction and playing guitar.