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Benjamin McKenzie Schenkkan, known as Benjamin McKenzie (born September 12, 1978) is an American actor and producer. He is best known for playing Ryan Atwood in the hit television series The O.C., which earned him many Teen Choice Award nominations. He appeared in the films 88 Minutes and Junebug, which earned him a Sarasota Film Festival nomination. His first starring role in a feature film was in the 2008 indie release Johnny Got His Gun which garnered excellent reviews for his solo performance. He most recently starred in the NBC police drama series, Southland, in which he played a police officer named Ben Sherman. The show was canceled by NBC just two weeks prior to the premiere of its sophomore season. The cable network TNT has secured the rights to Southland.


Early life

McKenzie was born Benjamin McKenzie Schenkkan, in Austin, Texasmarker to Mary Frances Victory, a prize-winning poet, and Pieter Meade Schenkkan. His uncle is the Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright Robert Schenkkan. McKenzie is the second cousin of actress Sarah Drew. McKenzie changed his name for screen-credit purposes because there is an actor named Ben Schenkken registered with the Screen Actors Guild. His paternal grandparents both were theatre actors. His younger brother Nate is a Yalemarker graduate working in avant-grade theater in New Yorkmarker. His youngest brother Zack is a Pomona Collegemarker alumnus.

He attended Austin High Schoolmarker, and played wide receiver and defensive back for the school's football team. From 1997-2001, he attended the University of Virginiamarker, where he majored in Foreign Affairs and Economics.


He got into acting during his first few years at the University of Virginiamarker, and moved to New Yorkmarker in late 2001 to look for acting opportunities. While in New Yorkmarker he appeared off-Broadway in Life is a Dream at the SoHomarker Rep. Additionally, he performed in numerous productions at the Williamstown Theatre Festival, including Street Scene and The Blue Bird, and at the University of Virginiamarker in Measure for Measure and Zoo Story. He then moved to Los Angelesmarker, where he landed a lead role in The O.C. McKenzie's early TV appearances included The District, JAG and Mad TV.

August 5, 2003, Fox premiered the television series The O.C., about affluent teenagers with stormy personal lives who reside in scenic Orange County, Californiamarker. The show became an overnight success and it put McKenzie on the map as Ryan Atwood. McKenzie's performance in The O.C. earned him a "Choice Breakout TV Star - Male" and "Choice TV Chemistry" nominations in The Teen Choice Awards and a "Choice TV Actor - Drama/Action Adventure" and "Choice TV Actor: Drama" wins.

As a result to the show's success, McKenzie appeared in magazines including People, In Touch Weekly and Us Weekly. McKenzie was ranked No. 5 in Independent Online's "100 Sexiest Men Alive", was twice placed on Teen People magazine's annual list of "25 Sexiest Stars under 25". He was also voted one of InStyle's "10 Hottest Bachelors Of Summer" in July 2005. The O.C. dropped in ratings dramatically during its third and fourth seasons, and ended in early 2007.

While appearing in 'The O.C.', McKenzie made his feature film debut in Junebug alongside Amy Adams and Embeth Davidtz. The film was nominated for "Best International Film" and "Outstanding Ensemble Acting" in The Amanda Awards and won the Sarasota Film Festival award for "Outstanding Ensemble Acting". It also received high praise at the 2005 Sundance Film Festival. He also appeared in a pivotal role in the 2007 film 88 Minutes, which starred Al Pacino. According to Production Weekly, McKenzie was set to star in the thriller Snakes On A Plane, formerly known as Pacific Air 121, but later dropped out to film 88 Minutes.

In 2008, McKenzie earned critical acclaim for his solo performance in the "live on stage, on film" version of Dalton Trumbo's 1939 novel Johnny Got His Gun, his first starring role in a feature film. He stars as Joe Bonham, a role previously played by James Cagney, Jeff Daniels, and Timothy Bottoms. The movie premiered at the Paramount Theater in Austin, TX, McKenzie's hometown, while he was filming the pilot for Southland.

In 2009, he appeared on the short movie, The Eight Percent, the movie won the Delta Airlines Fly-in Movie Contest and entered as an official selection on the Tribeca Film Festival's Short film category.

He stars as rookie police officer Ben Sherman on the NBC drama Southland, which premiered on April 9, 2009. He is managed by Management 360 and the William Morris Agency.

Personal life

McKenzie stays out of the limelight, preferring a private life to that of his OC co-stars. He stays active by playing football, the sport being one of his passions. He has also been a long-time Boston Red Sox fan, and is best friends with Adam Brody. His favorite music includes Wilco, Outkast, Stevie Ray Vaughan, and Shakira.

He was also rumored to be dating Amanda Loncar, Emily Vancamp, Rachel McAdams, Zooey Deschanel and Arielle Kebbel. McKenzie also appeared on Punk'd twice. He set up his co-star Adam Brody in 2004, and he appeared again on Punk'd in 2005, this time getting punk'd himself.

In April 2008, he revealed on the The Ellen DeGeneres Show that in February of that year, he adopted an abandoned Pitbull, named Oscar, who had previously been used as a bait dog in dog-fighting. He named the dog after Oscar Madison from The Odd Couple, because the dog reminded him of an old man. McKenzie told Ellen DeGeneres that he later realized that naming a dog Oscar was one of the most pretentious things an actor could do.

Political and community volunteer work

During his sophomore year at the University of Virginiamarker, McKenzie worked as an intern in the office of Austin congressman Lloyd Doggett.

During the 2004 Democratic National Convention, McKenzie gave a speech appealing to young Americans to go out and vote. He was also involved in the Rock the Vote movement in 2004, supporting Senator John F. Kerry.

During the 2008 Democratic primary season, he visited numerous college campuses such as The University of Texas at Austinmarker and Rice University with actress Kerry Washington endorsing Barack Obama and encouraging students to vote.

McKenzie has also volunteered with the Young Storytellers Program for the past few years. He also supports the charity Invisible Children Inc., which focuses on rescuing Ugandan child soldiers.


Year Film Role Notes
2005 Junebug Johnny Johnsten
2007 88 Minutes Mike Stempt Supporting role
2008 Johnny Got His Gun Joe Bonham
2009 The Eight Percent John Keller
2010 Forever TBA TBA
The Stanford Prison Experiment TBA Announced
Year Title Role Notes
2002 The District Tim Ruskin 1 episode
2003 JAG Petty Officer Spencer 1 episode
The O.C. Ryan Atwood 2003-2007 (92 episodes)
2004 MADtv Ryan Atwood 1 episode
2009 Southland Ben Sherman 6 episodes


List of wins and nominations
Year Award Group Result Film/TV show
2004 Teen Choice Award Choice TV Chemistry The O.C.
Choice Breakout TV Star - Male
Choice TV Show - Drama/Action Adventure
Choice TV Actor: Drama
Choice Breakout TV Show
TCA Award Outstanding New Program
2005 Teen Choice Award Choice TV Actor - Drama/Action Adventure
Choice Breakout TV Star - Male
Choice TV Chemistry (with Mischa Barton)
Logie Awards Most Popular Overseas Program
BMI Awards Outstanding Performance in TV series
Teen Choice Award Choice TV Show: Drama
CMI Cable Awards Breakthrough performance in TV series
People's Choice Award Favorite Television Drama
2006 Sarasota Film Festival Outstanding Ensemble Acting 88 Minutes
Teen Choice Award TV - Choice Drama/Action Adventure Show The O.C.
2007 Amanda Outstanding Performance in Feature Film Junebug
Prism Awards Performance in a Drama Series Episode The O.C.
BRAVO Gold Otto (Germany) Best Male Actor

Further reading


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