Who is Richard Jenkins?
Richard Dale Jenkins is an Emmy-Award-winning actor from America. He is best known for portraying Professor Walter Vale in ‘The Visitor’, Giles in ‘The Shape of Water’, Nathaniel Fisher, Sr. in ‘Six Feet Under’, and Henry Kitteridge in ‘Olive Kitteridge’. Originally from Illinois, Jenkins was a linen truck driver before he ventured into the world of acting. He later studied drama at Illinois Wesleyan University and subsequently moved to Rhode Island. There, he started his career on stage while simultaneously landing his first job on television, in the PBS anthology series ‘Great Performances’ in 1974. His cinematic debut came about 11 years later, in the 1985 western film ‘Silverado’. Over the course of his long career, he has accumulated over a hundred film and TV credits. Jenkins has been nominated for two Academy Awards, a Golden Globe Award, and four Screen Actors Guild Awards. Besides a Primetime Emmy, Jenkins has won one Fangoria Chainsaw Award, one Satellite Award, and two AARP Movies for Grownups Awards.
Childhood & Early Life
Born on May 4, 1947, in DeKalb, Illinois, USA, Richard Jenkins is the son of homemaker Mary Elizabeth (née Wheeler) and dentist Dale Stevens Jenkins. He studied at DeKalb High School and later worked as a linen truck driver for John Reilly, Sr., the father of actor John C. Reilly.
He attended Illinois Wesleyan University and received his degree in drama from there.
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After finishing his education in Illinois, Richard Jenkins moved to Rhode Island and began his career there on stage. He became a member of Trinity Repertory Company in Providence, appearing in a number of their productions. This association lasted for years, and from 1990 to 1994, he was the group’s artistic director.
While he was performing with Trinity Repertory Company in the stage scene of Providence on a regular basis, he had his screen debut in a 1974 episode of ‘Great Performances’, titled ’Feasting with Panthers’, which explores the life of Oscar Wilde.
During the 1970s, he received the offer of becoming part of The Screen Actors Guild. He knew very well how hard it was to join the Guild and did not waste any time before accepting the offer.
Following his big screen debut in ‘Silverado’ in 1985, he has appeared in films like comedy-drama ‘Hannah and Her Sisters’ (1986), drama thriller ‘Little Nikita’ (1988), action drama ‘Blue Steel’ (1990), and romantic comedy ‘It Could Happen to You’ (1994).
He began the new millennium with roles in the science fiction fantasy ‘What Planet Are You From’ (2000), drama ‘The Visitor’ (2007), family comedy ‘Step Brothers’ (2008), romance drama ‘Eat Pray Love’ (2010), and romantic dark fantasy ‘The Shape of Water’ (2017). He is set to star in Miranda July’s next project.
On the small screen, he has been featured in two episodes of NBC’s ‘Miami Vice’ (1985 and 1989), two episodes of Fox’s ‘Against the Law’ (1990), and two episodes of CBS’ ‘Alex Haley's Queen’ (1993).
He portrayed the recurring role of Nathaniel Fisher, Sr., the late patriarch of the Fisher family, in HBO’s fantasy comedy series ‘Six Feet Under’. Regarded as one of the greatest TV shows of all time, it aired from June 3, 2001, to August 21, 2005, and garnered nine Emmy Awards, three Screen Actors Guild Awards, three Golden Globe Awards, and a Peabody Award, among other accolades.
He portrayed NASA engineer Gregory Jarvis in the telefilm ‘Challenger’ (1990) and pathologist and the 1996 Mount Everest disaster survivor Beck Weathers in the telefilm ‘Into Thin Air: Death on Everest’ (1997).
Recently, he played Steven Frost, Cold War veteran and the fictional chief of the CIA’s Berlin Station, in the Epix drama ‘Berlin Station’ (2016-19).
In the 2007 drama film ‘The Visitor’, Richard Jenkins essayed the role of Walter Vale, a widowed Connecticut College economics professor who finds respite from his own reclusive existence when he meets a family of illegal immigrants from Syria. The film’s director, Tom McCarthy, wrote the screenplay with Jenkins in mind as the protagonist. For his performance, the veteran thespian was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Actor in 2008.
Jenkins worked with acclaimed director Guillermo del Toro in the romantic dark fantasy film ‘The Shape of Water’ (2017). He played Giles, the closeted next-door neighbour and only friend of the female protagonist, Elisa Esposito (Sally Hawkins). Upon its release, the film received widespread critical praise and was a box-office hit. It garnered four Academy Awards in 2017, including for best picture and director.
Jenkins won the Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Lead Actor in a Miniseries or Movie in 2015 for his performance as Henry Kitteridge, the husband of the eponymous character (Frances McDormand), in the HBO 2014 miniseries ‘Olive Kitteridge’. It was adapted from Elizabeth Strout’s 2008 novel of the same name.
Family & Personal Life
Richard Jenkins has been married to Sharon R. Friedrick since August 23, 1969. They have a son, Andrew Dale Jenkins, and a daughter, Sarah Pamela Jenkins. At present, the couple lives in Cumberland, Rhode Island. They were given the Pell Award for Lifetime Achievement from Trinity Repertory Company in Providence in 2014.