Bradley Whitford (born October 10, 1959) is an American film and television actor. He has played White House Deputy Chief of Staff Josh Lyman on the NBC television drama The West Wing, Danny Tripp on Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip, Dan Stark in the Fox police buddy-comedy The Good Guys, Timothy Carter, a character who was believed to be Red John in the CBS series The Mentalist, and antagonist Eric Gordon in the film Billy Madison.
Whitford was nominated for three consecutive Emmy Awards from 2001–2003 for Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Drama Series for his role on The West Wing, winning the award in 2001. This role has also garnered him three consecutive Golden Globe Award nominations for Best Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role.
He was an occasional columnist for The Huffington Post, up until November 2009.
Early Life and Education
Whitford was born in Madison, Wisconsin, the son of Genevieve Louie (née Smith) and George Van Norman Whitford. He graduated from Madison East High School in 1977. He majored in English and Theater at Wesleyan University (B.A. 1981), where his roommate was the younger brother of future castmate Richard Schiff. Whitford then attended the Juilliard School’s Drama Division as a member of Group 14 (1981–1985), which also included actor Thomas Gibson.
Whitford first appeared on television in 1985 in an episode of The Equalizer. His film debut was in the 1986 film Doorman. He made his Broadway theatre debut in 1990 playing Lt. Jack Ross (followed a few months later in the lead role of Lt. Daniel Kaffee), in the Aaron Sorkin written play A Few Good Men. This was the beginning of a recurring working relationship between Whitford and Sorkin. Whitford also made a guest appearance on ER in the Emmy award-winning March 1995 episode “Love’s Labor Lost”.
Whitford joined the cast of Sorkin’s The West Wing as Josh Lyman with the show’s premiere in 1999. For his role, he won an Emmy Award in 2001 for Best Supporting Actor in a Drama Series. Whitford also wrote two episodes of the series (“Faith Based Initiative” in the sixth season and “Internal Displacement” in the seventh). After The West Wing ended in May 2006, Whitford appeared in Aaron Sorkin’s later series Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip playing the role of Danny Tripp. He appeared in the British drama Burn Up on the BBC in July 2008.
He starred on Broadway in Boeing-Boeing which began in previews on April 19, 2008 and opened on May 4, 2008. He left the show in September 2008, and was succeeded in the role by Greg Germann. He co-starred in the Joss Whedon/Drew Goddard horror film The Cabin in the Woods, filmed in 2009 but not released until April 2012. In 2010, Whitford starred as Dan Stark in the canceled Fox TV series The Good Guys opposite Colin Hanks.
In 2011, Whitford guest starred in In Plain Sight on USA Network as a man combatting paranoia. He appeared in the season three finale of The Mentalist as a minion of and decoy for the long-sought nemesis of Patrick Jane, Red John. He also appeared on Law & Order: Los Angeles as a lawyer. On September 15, 2011, the American Foundation for Equal Rights, in partnership with Broadway Impact, announced the complete cast—including Whitford—and roles for the one-night only staged reading of 8, a new play chronicling the historic trial in the federal legal challenge to California’s Proposition 8. Currently, Whitford plays Pete Harrison in the ABC comedy Trophy Wife (TV series) which was cancelled after one season and will get to guest star in ABC drama Castle (TV series) in early 2015.
Whitford was married to fellow Wisconsin native, actress Jane Kaczmarek, best known for her role as Lois on Malcolm in the Middle. They lived in San Marino, California with their three children, Frances Genevieve (b. October 31, 1997), George Edward (b. December 23, 1999) and Mary Louisa (b. November 25, 2002). In 2007 the family appeared in magazine advertisements for the 2008 Chrysler Town and Country van. On June 19, 2009, the couple announced that they were filing for divorce after 16 years of marriage. One of the last times they were seen together publicly was in September 2008, at the opening of a Los Angeles production of The House of Blue Leaves, in which Kaczmarek was starring.
Whitford is a political liberal and has appeared several times on Real Time with Bill Maher. He once co-hosted The Majority Report on Air America Radio alongside Janeane Garofalo, and made an appearance on the Al Franken Show Party Album.
During the run-up to the November 2004 general election, Whitford, who was then playing White House Deputy Chief of Staff Josh Lyman on the NBC TV drama series The West Wing, made a satirical video that purported to support then-President George W. Bush for re-election, but which actually lampooned Bush’s tax cuts for the rich.
On February 26, 2011, Whitford spoke at one of the many protests in Madison, Wisconsin (his birthplace) in opposition to Governor Scott Walker’s controversial budget bill.
During the run-up to the November 2012 general election, Whitford and Courage Campaign founder and chair, Rick Jacobs, appeared together in a video that explained “what’s really going on and who’s really behind California’s Proposition 30 and Proposition 32.” The video encouraged viewers to vote “yes” on Prop 30 and “no” on Prop 32 Proposition 30 was approved by California voters by a margin of 54 to 46 percent. Proposition 32 was defeated by a margin of 56 to 44 percent.
In May 2007, Whitford was honored by Alliance for Justice, a nonprofit organization, as the 2007 Champion of Justice. He was the keynote speaker for Class Day at Princeton University in June 2007. As of 2012, Whitford serves on the Board of Trustees of his alma mater, Wesleyan University.