Jonathan Kimble Simmons was originally a singer, with a degree in music from the University of Montana. He turned to theater in the late 1970s and appeared in many regional productions in the Pacific Northwest before moving to New York in 1983. He appeared in Broadway and off-Broadway shows and also did some television -- his early roles included the portrayal of a white supremacist responsible for multiple murders in an episode of Homicide: Life on the Street. In that same vein, Simmons first gained wide exposure as Vern Schillinger, the leader of an Aryan Brotherhood-type organization in prison in the HBO series Oz.
Parlaying his small-screen notoriety into feature film opportunities, Simmons had a small part in the 1997 thriller The Jackal and played a leading role in Frank Todaro's low-budget comedy Above Freezing, a runner-up for the most popular film at the 1998 Seattle Film Festival. Also in 1997, Simmons increased his television prolificacy by taking on the role of Dr. Emil Skoda, the consulting psychiatrist to the Manhattan district attorney's office in the series Law and Order.
By 1999, Simmons was showing up in such prominent films as The Cider House Rules and the baseball drama For Love of the Game, directed by Sam Raimi. The director again enlisted Simmons for his next film, 2000's The Gift. After a supporting turn in the disappointing comedy The Mexican, Simmons teamed with Raimi for the third time, bringing cigar-chomping comic-book newspaperman J. Jonah Jameson screaming to life in the 2002 summer blockbuster Spider-Man. In 2004, he would reprise the role in the highly anticipated sequel, Spider-Man 2. That same year, along with appearing alongside Tom Hanks in the Coen Brothers' The Ladykillers, Simmons continued to be a presence on the tube, costarring on ABC's midseason-replacement ensemble drama The D.A.
His career subsequently kicking into overdrive, the popular character actor was in increasingly high demand in the next few years, enjoying a productive run as a voice performer in such animated television series' as Justice League, Kim Possible, The Legend of Korra, and Ultimate Spider-Man (the latter of which found him reprising his role as J. Jonah Jameson), as well as turning in memorable performances in Jason Reitman's Juno, Mike Judge's Extract, and as a hard-nosed captain in the 2012 crime thriller Contraband. Meanwhile, in 2005, he joined the cast of TNT's popular crime drama The Closer as Assistant Chief Will Pope -- a role which no doublt played a part in the cast earning five Screen Actors Guild Award nominations for Best Ensemble Cast.
Simmons continued to work steadily in movies, returning to the Spider-Man franchise in 2007. That same year he co-starred as the father of a pregnant teen in Juno, which led to him being cast regularly by that film's director Jason Reitman in many of his future projects including Up In the Air and Labor Day. It was Reitman who got Simmons the script for Whiplash, Damien Chazelle's directorial debut. The actor took the part of an abusive, but respected music teacher and the ensuing performance garnered Simmons multiple year-end awards including a Best Supporting Actor nomination from the Academy.