James William Van Der Beek, Jr. (born March 8, 1977) is an American television and film actor, known for his role as Dawson Leery in Dawson's Creek.

Early lifeEdit

Van Der Beek was born in Cheshire, Connecticut, the son of Melinda, a former dancer and gymnastics studio manager, and James William Van Der Beek, Sr, a cellular phone company executive and former professional baseball pitcher.[1] His father retired from baseball shortly after James' birth and took a job with the phone company as sales account manager.

The family then moved to Cheshire, Connecticut, where James played football, baseball, ran track and field and even had a brief stint on the diving team. He mowed lawns around the neighborhood to earn money, and earned a full academic scholarship to the private school Cheshire Academy.

He suffered a concussion at age 13 while playing football, which prevented him from playing the rest of the season. So instead, while once weighing in at a vast 260 pounds, he played Danny Zuko in his hometown's community theater production of Grease. This led to many more community theater roles, and at age 15 he was so passionate about performing that he asked his mother to take him into New York City that summer to see if he could get an agent and try his hand professionally.

He got an agent his first day in New York, but then auditioned for commercials for a year and a half with no success.

Career Edit

Professional DebutEdit

Van Der Beek made his professional debut in the New York Premiere of three-time Pulitzer Prize Winner Edward Albee's play Finding the Sun at the Signature Theatre Company in which he played the role of "Fergus." The production, which was also directed by Mr. Albee, received rave reviews, especially for the young Van Der Beek. David Richards of the New York Times called his performance "refreshingly un-self-conscious",[2] and Vincent Canby wrote, "Mr. Albee has directed this text with skill, humor and an excellent cast, most notably (if only because he really is 16) James Van Der Beek, who plays the boy with the comic ease of someone with 20 years' experience onstage." [3] With this experience under his belt, Van Der Beek was now sure he wanted to pursue acting.

At age 17, while still in high school, he performed in the musical Shenandoah at the Goodspeed Opera House made his feature film debut as a bully in the teen-oriented 1995 film 'Angus, and shot the independent film I Love You, I Love You Not opposite Claire Danes and Jude Law.

After graduating High School, Van Der Beek attended Drew University on a partial academic scholarship, where he majored in English and Sociology. While there, he performed in Drew's all-male a cappella group 36 Madison Avenue. During his stay he performed at the Vinyard Theater in New York in Nicky Silver's play, My Marriage to Ernest Borgnine, and played a supporting role in the independent film Cash Crop, which was originally shot in spring of 1997 and originally titled Harvest and was released (largely on his name, despite the fact that his role was quite small) in 2001 after he'd become famous.

Big break Edit

Toward the end of his sophomore year of college, James took the NJ Transit train into New York - as he often did - to audition for three Television pilots. One of them was for the fledgling WB Network. The show was Dawson's Creek. Van Der Beek played the title role of "Dawson Leery", and show's debut in 1998 was a massive success that not only established the network, but made stars (and teen idols) of its cast, which also included Katie Holmes, Michelle Williams, and Joshua Jackson. The series, shot in Wilmington, North Carolina, ran for six years, was hugely popular among the coveted 18-34 year old demographic, and was syndicated all over the world.

Van Der Beek parlayed the success of the show into film in 1999, starring in the teen football comedy Varsity Blues which was #1 at the box office for two weeks, broke the current box-office record for Martin Luther King Day weekend at that time, and grossed $53 million in the US alone. Van Der Beek won an MTV Movie Award for his leading role.

In 2002, he turned his wholesome image on its head by playing Sean Bateman (younger brother of American Psycho protagonist Patrick Bateman) in the film adaptation of Brett Easton Ellis' The Rules of Attraction, which was written and directed by Roger Avary. While the film initially made only a modest profit at the box office, it has gone on to become a cult classic on DVD throughout the world.

During this time, Van Der Beek was chosen as one of People Magazine's "50 Most Beautiful People in the World" in 1998, hosted Saturday Night Live, and appeared in several other films, including Texas Rangers, Scary Movie, and Jay & Silent Bob Strike Back.

The next chapterEdit

As soon as Dawson's Creek ended in 2003, James immediately returned to the New York Stage, in the New York Premiere of Lanford Wilson's Rain Dance.

He then married actress Heather McComb in July 2003.

Since then, James has been busy working out of the spotlight. He completed his first screenplay, Winning, a hero's journey/love story set in the world of modern-day Major League Baseball, and has optioned several properties to develop, including Charles Bowdon's non-fiction book A Shadow in the City.

He has made a few notable appearances on television recently, including a role in Ugly Betty, and a performance in 2007 in the two-part, post-Super Bowl episode of Criminal Minds in which he played a young man with Dissociative Identity Disorder.

He recently wrapped the independent film The Boy in the Box with Josh Lucas and Jon Hamm. He also had a guest appearance on the CBS sitcom How I Met Your Mother on April 21, 2008 in which he played an old flame of Robin's who she falls for again.

Personal lifeEdit

Van Der Beek married actress Heather McComb in July 2003, whom he met in 1998 during the filming of Dawson's Creek. They live primarily in Los Angeles; both are attendees of the Kabbalah Center.

He enjoys playing the guitar and participating in sports; his favorite football team is the Green Bay Packers.


Year Title Role Notes
1986 Castle in the Sky Pazu (voice) 1998 English dubbed version
1993 Clarissa Explains It All Paulie
1995 Angus Rick Sanford
1996 I Love You, I Love You Not Tony
1997 Harvest James Peterson Renamed Cash Crop
1999 Varsity Blues Jonathon 'Mox' Moxon
2000 Scary Movie Dawson Leery (Uncredited)
2001 Texas Rangers Lincoln Rogers Dunnison
Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back Himself
2002 The Rules of Attraction Sean Bateman
2005 Standing Still Simon Filmed in 2003
2006 The Plague Tom Russel
Eye of the Beast Dan Leland
2007 Criminal Minds Tobias Hankel Season 2, Ep. 14 "The Big Game", Ep. 15 "Revelations"
Danny Roane: First Time Director Himself
Final Draft Paul Twist
Ugly Betty Luke Carnes Episode 2.04 - "Grin and Bear It"
2008 How I Met Your Mother Simon Episode 3.16 - "Sandcastles In The Sand"
2008 One Tree Hill Movie Director Episode 128 [1]


  • 1999 MTV Movie Award for Best Breakthrough Male Performance (for Varsity Blues)
  • 2001 MTV Movie Award for Best Cameo in a Movie (for Scary Movie)

He was also nominated for the 2000 Blockbuster Entertainment Award for Favorite Actor - Newcomer (for Varsity Blues)


External linksEdit