Timothy Busfield is an actor, director, producer, and writer who garnered international popularity for playing Elliot Weston in the hit television series ‘Thirtysomething’. His other memorable performances include those of Dr. John 'J.T.' McIntyre in the medical drama ‘Trapper John, M.D.’; Mark, the brother-in-law of Kevin Costner’s character in ‘Field of Dreams’; and Danny Concannon in Aaron Sorkin’s ‘The West Wing’. A Michigan native, Busfield began to harbor acting aspirations early in his life. As his father was a drama professor, he received a decent education in theatre, and after he completed his education, he started working as a stage professional. In 1981, he debuted as an actor in the war comedy ‘Stripes’. He followed it up with his first television role as Mark Potter in the situational comedy ‘Reggie’. In the next few years, Busfield honed his craft by continuing to play small roles before landing his first starring role on television as Dr. John 'J.T.' McIntyre. Active for more than three decades as an actor, he made his debut as a director with several episodes of his Emmy-Award-winning show ‘Thirtysomething’. Busfield has maintained a parallel stage career alongside his illustrious film and television career and has won numerous awards, both for his performances on screen and stage. In the mid-1980s, he founded the California-based 501c3 non-profit theatres ‘B Street Theatre’ and ‘Fantasy Theatre for Children’.
Childhood & Early Life
Timothy Busfield was born on June 12, 1957 in Lansing, Michigan, as one of the four children of Roger and Jean Busfield. His father was a drama professor while his mother was a secretary. He has a brother, Buck, and two sisters, Terry and Julia.
He attended the East Lansing High School and later enrolled at the East Tennessee State University. Soon after receiving his degree, he joined a production company as a theatre professional.
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Career in Films & Television
Timothy Busfield made his screen debut in 1981 in the Bill Murray and Harold Ramis starrer ‘Stripes’; he was credited simply as the “Soldier with Morter.” Two years later, in 1983, he landed his first significant role in ABC’s sitcom ‘Reggie’. Playing the recurring character Mark Potter, he made appearances in six episodes in total.
In the 1984 cult classic ‘Revenge of the Nerds’, he was given the chance to portray the first major role of his career as Arnold Poindexter. He returned in 1987 to reprise his character in the sequel ‘Revenge of the Nerds II: Nerds in Paradise’.
Busfield got his first big role on television in 1984. He starred as Dr. John 'J.T.' McIntyre, the son of the titular character in ‘Trapper John, M.D.,’ the spin-off series of the film ‘MASH’. He then portrayed multiple characters between 1984 and 1986 in NBC’s sitcom ‘Family Ties’.
He acted in the 1989 fantasy-drama sports film ‘Field of Dreams’ which was directed by Phil Alden Robinson and starred Kevin Costner, Amy Madigan, James Earl Jones, Ray Liotta, and Burt Lancaster alongside Busfield. It received three Oscar nominations and in 2017, was picked to be preserved in the United States Nation Film Registry by the Library of Congress as it was considered “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant". In the film, Busfield’s urban and pragmatic portrayal of Mark serves as a perfect foil for Costner’s rural and idealist Ray Kinsella.
He played a disgruntled lawyer in the 1991 made-for-television horror film ‘Strays’. This was his first telefilm. He followed it up with a string of other television roles. He portrayed Elfred Schultz, the husband of the real-life murderer Laurie Bembenek, in ‘Calendar Girl, Cop, Killer? The Bambi Bembenek Story’ (1992); Del Calvin, a psychology professor who studies human behavior in ‘Fade to Black’ (1992); and investigative lawyer John Thorn in ‘Murder Between Friends’ (1994).
Busfield got the chance to work with Steven Spielberg, in ABC’s ‘The Byrds of Paradise’. Busfield was cast as Sam Byrd, the patriarch of the Byrd family. Set in Hawaii, the TV series was particularly memorable for its offbeat characters.
He made an appearance in a 1987 episode of ‘Matlock’, portraying a feature role. He then shared screen space with Robert Redford and Sidney Poitier in the 1992 comedy caper ‘Sneakers’. Spending the next few months in London, he shot the 1993 telefilm ‘Wall of Silence’, in which he was cast as Ephraim Lipshitz, a Mossad agent infiltrating a Hasidic Jewish community. In 1997, he went to Canada to film ‘Trucks’.
In Aaron Sorkin’s serial political drama ‘The West Wing’ (1999-2006), his portrayal of White House correspondent Danny Concannon garnered him much critical praise. His brother-in-law Joshua Malina also starred in the series as Will Bailey. His other important performances on screen include those of Cal Shanley in ‘Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip’ (2006-07), Benjamin Franklin in ‘Sleepy Hollow’ (2014-15), and John Garner in ‘Secret and Lies’ (2015).
Recently, Busfield appeared in a 2018 episode of ABC’s ‘Designated Survivor’.
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Busfield began his directorial career with three episodes of ‘Thirtysomething’. In the following years, he also directed episodes of ‘Rude Awakening’ (2000-01), ‘Ed’ (2001-03), ‘Without a Trace’ (2004-06), ‘Las Vegas’ (2003-07), ‘Lipstick Jungle’ (2008), ‘Damages’ (2007-11), and ‘The Night Shift’ (2015-17) to name a few.
Over the years, Busfield has garnered immense recognition as a stage actor and director. On Broadway, he appeared in the productions of ‘A Few Good Men’ and ‘Brighton Beach Memoirs’. Off-Broadway, he collaborated with Circle Repertory Company in 1982.
Busfield and his brother, Buck, set up the B Street Theater in Sacramento, California, where he is still active as a stage director and actor. They also co-founded Fantasy Theatre, a travelling troupe which focuses on content for children. He regularly contributes to the troupe as a playwright.
Timothy Busfield played Elliot Weston, a businessman trapped in a troubled marriage in ABC’s ‘Thirtysomething’ (1987-91). Created by Ed Zwick and Marshall Herskovitz, the series was a family drama that narrated the story of a group of baby boomers in their thirties living in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, and how they come to terms with the dichotomy between the early 1970s’ counterculture of their early youth and the yuppie lifestyle which dominated American culture during the 1980s. Busfield earned a Primetime Emmy for his performance.
Awards & Achievements
Nominated four times, Timothy Busfield was awarded the Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Drama Series for ‘Thirtysomething’ in 1991.
In 2016, he won the Audience Award for Best Fiction Short for ‘One Smart Fellow’ (2015). He shared the award with cinematographer Tommy Lohmann.
He received an Honorary PhD degree from the Michigan State University.
Timothy Busfield has been married three times. His first marriage, to actress and director Radha Delamarter, took place in 1981. She gave birth to their son Wilson (Willy). The couple divorced in 1986.
He then married fashion designer Jennifer Merwin on September 11, 1988. They have two children together, Daisy and Samuel. That marriage ended in 2008.
In January 2013, a representative for Busfield told the reporters that the veteran actor had proposed to actress Melissa Gilbert over the holiday season and that she had accepted. They wed on April 24, 2013 in a private ceremony at San Ysidro Ranch in Santa Barbara, California. The couple presently resides in Howell, Michigan.
Over the years, Busfield has been the owner of several standard-bred horses and still attends the Golden Bear racetrack at Cal Expo in Sacramento, California with his children.