Hollywood character actor Christopher McDonald at first specialized in playing uptight and slightly vexing young urban professionals. When the material demanded it, McDonald occasionally heightened these qualities to the obnoxious level for persuasive villainous portrayals, appearing as philandering husbands, condescending jocks, and manipulative powermongers to tremendous effect.
The Manhattan native grew up in Romulus, NY. A Renaissance man and overachiever in high school, McDonald studied dentistry at Hobart College in the upstate New York town of Geneva but soon discovered an enduring passion for drama, studying after his 1977 graduation at London's Royal Academy of Dramatic Art. When plum adolescent roles in the musical clunkers Grease 2 (1982) and Breakin' (1984) did little to further McDonald's career, he moved to Manhattan and sought tutelage from the legendary acting coach Stella Adler -- with such aggressive determination that he actually convinced the 83-year-old Adler to offer her services in exchange for domestic chores.
The actor landed one of his most visible parts circa 1986, in the Bette Midler-Shelley Long female buddy comedy Outrageous Fortune (1987). He also essayed a memorable nice-guy turn opposite Cybill Shepherd and Ryan O'Neal in the first act of the wonderful reincarnation comedy Chances Are (1989). But McDonald's watershed moment came with his portrayal of Geena Davis' browbeating husband, Darryl Dickinson, in Ridley Scott's blockbuster feminist road movie Thelma & Louise (1991). Thanks to the success of that picture, McDonald's screen time escalated, and he began tackling an average of four to six roles per year. He ushered in an outstanding portrayal of Jack Barry, the natty host of Twenty-One, in the Robert Redford-directed Quiz Show (1994); played an abusive golf pro in the Adam Sandler comedy Happy Gilmore (1996); and was suitably annoying as an ignorant dad in John Duigan's suburban drama Lawn Dogs (1997). That same year, McDonald also portrayed Ward Cleaver in the big-screen version of Leave It to Beaver.
McDonald resumé during the first several years of the millennium includes such Hollywood blockbusters as 61* (2001) and Spy Kids 2 (2002) and such arthouse hits as Requiem for a Dream (2000) and Broken Flowers (2005). In 2007, McDonald played Boss Hogg in the big-budget sequel The Dukes of Hazzard: The Beginning and Marty Schumacher in the Jamie Kennedy vehicle Kickin' It Old Skool. Four years later he essayed a recurring role on the hit HBO drama Boardwalk Empire.