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Samuel Atkinson "Sam" Waterston (born November 15, 1940) is an Americanmarker actor noted particularly for his portrayal of Jack McCoy on the NBC television series Law & Order. He has also appeared in many feature films.

Early life

Waterston, one of four siblings, was born in Cambridgemarker, Massachusettsmarker. His mother, Alice Tucker (née Atkinson), was an American Mayflower descendant and worked as a landscape painter, and his father, George Chychele Waterston, was an immigrant from Leithmarker, Scotlandmarker and a semanticist and language teacher. Waterston attended both the Brooks School, a boarding school in North Andover, Massachusettsmarker, and the Groton School. He entered Yale Universitymarker on a scholarship in 1958 and graduated with a BA in 1962. After graduating from Yale, he attended the Clinton Playhouse for several months. Waterston also attended the Sorbonnemarker in Parismarker and the American Actors Workshop.


The classically trained Waterston has quite a few stage credits to his name. For example, he played an award-winning Benedick in Joseph Papp's production of Shakespeare's Much Ado About Nothing, and played the title character in Hamlet. He continues live theater work during the summers, often seen acting at places like Long Wharf Theatremarker and the Yale Repertory Theatremarker in New Havenmarker.

Waterston made his film debut in Fitzwilly in 1967. He starred with Katharine Hepburn in a 1973 TV movie adaptation of Tennessee Williams' The Glass Menagerie. The film also featured Michael Moriarty, whom Waterston later replaced as the Executive Assistant District Attorney many years later on Law & Order. Other films include Savages (1972), The Great Gatsby (1974), Journey Into Fear (1975), Capricorn One (1978), Heaven's Gate and Hopscotch (1980), The Killing Fields (1984, nominated Academy Award for Best Actor), Mindwalk (1990), Serial Mom (1994) and Woody Allen's Interiors (1978), Hannah and Her Sisters (1986, cameo), and Crimes and Misdemeanors (1989). Waterston is a six-time Emmy Award nominee as well as a winner of the Golden Globe and Screen Actors Guild Awards.

Aside from Law & Order, he has played other television roles including D.A. Forrest Bedford in I'll Fly Away, for which he won a Golden Globe Award as Best Actor - Drama Series in 1993. He also had a starring role in an episode segment on the TV series Amazing Stories called "Mirror Mirror". In 1994 he appeared as US President William Foster, alongside Forest Whittaker and Dana Delany, in the made for TV movie The Enemy Within, a remake of director John Frankenheimer's Cold War political thriller Seven Days In May.

Waterston also served on the Advisory Committee for the Lincoln Bicentennial, celebrating Abraham Lincoln's 200th birthday. Waterston has portrayed Lincoln on stage and screen (The Civil War, Gore Vidal's Lincoln, Abe Lincoln in Illinois on Broadwaymarker, voiced Lincoln in an exhibit at the National Constitution Centermarker in Philadelphiamarker, and delivered Lincoln's Cooper Union speech on May 5, 2004.

Waterston has appeared in episodes of four different series with Richard Belzer: Law & Order, Homicide: Life on the Street, Law & Order: Special Victims Unit and Law & Order: Trial by Jury. He also made a popular cameo appearance on an episode of Saturday Night Live as himself, extolling the virtues of Old Glory Insurance, meant to protect the user from robot attacks.

Waterston lent his voice to the animated television series Family Guy where he played Dr. Kaplan, the psychiatrist Brian Griffin consults during his mid-life crisis in the episode "Brian in Love". He voices Dr. Kaplan again in the episode "Road to Rhode Island", but he is not credited in any other episode in which the character appears. Waterston also narrated NBC's documentary, The Great Race, the story of the famous 4 x 10-kilometer cross-country relay at the 1994 Winter Olympics in Lillehammer, Norwaymarker, which Italymarker won over the host nationmarker. The special aired during NBC's coverage of the 2006 Winter Olympics in Torino, Italymarker, on February 18, the day before the 2006 relay took place, which was also won by Italy. He added partial narration to the Ken Burns documentary, Lewis & Clark: The Journey of the Corps of Discovery, serving as the voice of Thomas Jefferson. He also played Jefferson in Burns' documentary about Jefferson. He also appeared in the first episode of ABC's Masters of Science Fiction, playing an amnesiac in the episode "A Clean Escape."

Waterston appeared on the 5,100th edition of Jeopardy!, on November 10, 2006, with Kathryn Erbe of Law & Order: Criminal Intent and Christopher Meloni of Law & Order: Special Victims Unit. Waterston finished second to Meloni, and received a $25,000 prize, which he donated to Refugees International and Oceana.

Waterston is regularly featured in television advertisements for TD Ameritrade (formerly TD Waterhouse, which is mostly owned by Toronto-Dominion Bank and the Ricketts family). He replaced former Law & Order castmate Steven Hill as TD's spokesman. He has lent his voice to an ad for The Nation.

Waterston has appeared in a recurring segment on The Colbert Report, called "Sam Waterston Says Things You Should Never Believe In A Trustworthy Manner." The segments usually involve Waterston simply stating an obviously untrue film quote in a very convincing voice.

Waterston appeared as Polonius in the 2008 Shakespeare in the Park production of Hamlet. His performance received excellent reviews in The New York Times and many other newspapers around the country, particularly in the Northeast.

Waterston narrates for Time-Life history specials.

Personal life

An active humanitarian, Waterston donates considerable time to organizations such as Oceana, where he is a board member, Refugees International, Meals on Wheels, The United Way, and The Episcopal Actors' Guild of America. Waterston, a practicing Episcopalian, narrated the 1999 biographical documentary of Episcopal civil rights martyr Jonathan Myrick Daniels, Here Am I, Send Me.

A political independent, he was a spokesman for the Unity08 movement, which unsuccessfully sought to run a non- or bipartisanpresidential ticket in the 2008 presidential election. Waterston has stated that he was a Democrat until he left the party in disgust following the airing of Lyndon B. Johnson's infamous "Daisy" election ad in 1964. Waterston has also appeared in print ads, and announced in television commercials, for the liberal magazine The Nation.

In 2002, Waterston and fellow Law & Order castmate Jerry Orbach were honored as "Living Landmarks" by the New York Landmarks Conservancy.

Waterston is a longtime friend and fan of the Mark Morris Dance Group and hosted the television presentation of Mozart Dances on PBS' Live From Lincoln Center on August 16, 2007.

His son James Waterston is also an actor (his most famous role probably being that of Gerard Pitts in Peter Weir's Dead Poets Society), as are his daughters Katherine and Elisabeth Waterston.



Academy Awards
  • Nominee: 1984 - Best Actor in a Leading Role, "The Killing Fields"

Primetime Emmys
  • Nominee: 2000 - Outstanding Lead Actor in a Drama Series, "Law & Order"
  • Nominee: 1999 - Outstanding Lead Actor in a Drama Series, "Law & Order"
  • Nominee: 1998 - Outstanding Lead Actor in a Drama Series, "Law & Order"
  • Winner: 1996 - Outstanding Informational Series, "Lost Civilizations"
  • Nominee: 1994 - Outstanding Lead Actor in a Miniseries or TV Special, "I'll Fly Away: Then and Now"
  • Nominee: 1993 - Outstanding Lead Actor in a Drama Series, "I'll Fly Away"
  • Nominee: 1992 - Outstanding Lead Actor in a Drama Series, "I'll Fly Away"
  • Nominee: 1974 - Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Drama, "The Glass Menagerie"

Golden Globe Awards
  • Nominee: 1995 - Best Performance by an Actor in a TV Series - Drama, "Law & Order"
  • Winner: 1993 - Best Performance by an Actor in a TV Series - Drama, "I'll Fly Away"
  • Nominee: 1992 - Best Performance by an Actor in a TV Series - Drama, "I'll Fly Away"
  • Nominee: 1985 - Best Performance by an Actor in a Motion Picture - Drama, "The Killing Fields"
  • Nominee: 1983 - Best Performance by an Actor in a Mini-Series or Motion Picture Made for TV, "Oppenheimer"
  • Nominee: 1975 - Best Supporting Actor - Motion Picture, "The Great Gatsby"
  • Nominee: 1975 - Most Promising Newcomer - Male, "The Great Gatsby"

Screen Actors Guild
  • Nominee: 2004 - Outstanding Performance by an Ensemble in a Drama Series, "Law & Order"
  • Nominee: 2002 - Outstanding Performance by an Ensemble in a Drama Series, "Law & Order"
  • Nominee: 2001 - Outstanding Performance by an Ensemble in a Drama Series, "Law & Order"
  • Nominee: 2000 - Outstanding Performance by an Ensemble in a Drama Series, "Law & Order"
  • Winner: 1999 - Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Drama Series, "Law & Order"
  • Nominee: 1999 - Outstanding Performance by an Ensemble in a Drama Series, "Law & Order"
  • Nominee: 1998 - Outstanding Performance by an Ensemble in a Drama Series, "Law & Order"
  • Nominee: 1997 - Outstanding Performance by an Ensemble in a Drama Series, "Law & Order"


  1. Ancestry of Sam Waterston
  2. Sam Waterston Biography -
  3., "Sam Waterston Travesties Opens at Long Wharf Theatre May 11,"
  4. Celia Wren, "When Chekov had a Bad Dream, New York Times
  5.[1] Retrieved June 9, 2009.
  6. Public Theater - Shakespeare in the Park
  7. NYTheatre
  8. The General Theological Seminary of the Episcopal Church
  9. "Actor Sam Waterston Calls on Americans to Join Growing 2008 Political Movement, Unity08" Retrieved 2008-01-04.

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