Whether following in the footsteps of the seemingly irreplaceable Robert Reed as the all-wise patriarch of the Brady clan or raising the ire of a nation of embittered office workers as the blissfully malevolent Lumbergh in Mike Judge's popular workplace comedy Office Space, longtime character actor Gary Cole can always be depended on to bring life to his varied and oddly endearing characters, despite their sometimes questionable motivations. Even in his earliest role as Snoopy in a high school production of You're a Good Man Charlie Brown, the Park Ridge, IL, native knew his destiny lay on the stage; from that moment straight through Cole's higher education at Illinois State University, his dedication to the theater never wavered. So dedicated was Cole that, during his third year at I.S.U., the eager up-and-comer dropped out to help found the Remains Theater. Transferring over to Chicago's acclaimed Steppenwolf Theater in 1985, Cole quickly made a name for himself in such productions as Cat on a Hot Tin Roof and Balm in Gilead.
Though Cole had essayed a handful of television roles in the early '80s, it wasn't until his breakthrough role as a suspected murderer in the 1984 made-for-television feature Fatal Vision that audiences truly began to take notice. Cole's role as the drug-addicted son of an alcoholic father in the 1986 made-for-TV drama Vital Signs showed that he undoubtedly had the chops to make it on the small screen. Despite an increase in television roles, the ambitious actor continued to impress on the stage as well. Cole's first taste of weekly series life came with his role as a former cop who finds redemption as a late-night radio talk show host in the 1989 series Midnight Caller. In the following decade, he would expand his career into feature film territory.
Cole's silver-screen career began with a role as a Secret Service agent in the Clint Eastwood thriller In the Line of Fire (1993), and his natural skills onscreen lent a surprising amount of depth to the supporting role. A few supporting television performances were quick to follow, and in 1995, Cole cracked up audiences with his role as suburban philosopher Mike Brady in the hit comedy The Brady Bunch Movie. Cole would reprise the role in the following year's sequel A Very Brady Sequel, but not before returning to series work as the sheriff in the short-lived, but well-loved, oddity American Gothic. As his feature career gained momentum, Cole still remained loyal to the stage and small screen. In 1998, a role in the acclaimed HBO miniseries From the Earth to the Moon found him going as strong as ever, and on the heels of supporting roles in A Simple Plan and I'll Be Home for Christmas, Cole played what was perhaps his most widely recognized role to date in Office Space (1999). Cast as by-the-books corporate figurehead William "Bill" Lumbergh, Cole delivered a performance that was pure comic gold for anyone who has weathered the never-ending drone of life in cubicle-land.
In 2001, Cole loaned his voice to the hit "Adult Swim" cartoon Harvey Birdman, Attorney at Law, playing several characters, including Birdman himself. The next year, Cole continued to dabble in animated television with his performance as the titular character's father in the hit series Kim Possible. Back on the big screen, he took the role of the villainous heavy in the Eddie Murphy/Owen Wilson comedy I Spy and returned to the role of Mike Brady in the made-for-television sequel, The Brady Bunch in the White House. In 2003, he was cast in the recurring role of new Vice President "Bingo Bob" Russell for the fifth season of the critically acclaimed dramatic series The West Wing. The popular character actor could also be seen in supporting capacity in the 2004 comedies Win a Date with Tad Hamilton! and Dodgeball: A True Underdog Story.
Cole maintained his status as a talented comic with a series of vocal performances on the animated television show The Family Guy, while showcasing his versatility by appearing in the sequel to the American version of The Ring. In 2006 he played opposite Will Ferrell in the NASCAR comedy Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby. He appeared in the spy drama Breach, and lent a scary presence to the pot comedy Pineapple Express. He became a part of the HBO series Entourage for that show's final two seasons, and in 2011 he was in the hit family comedy Hop.