A native of rural Humboldt, IA, character actor Christian Clemenson left his home state when a scholarship that he netted as part of his paperboy route afforded him the opportunity to attend the prestigious Phillips Academy preparatory school in Andover, MA. That experience imparted Clemenson with a deep-seated love of theatrics, and he spent his Iowan summers during college acting in local stage productions. The upstart subsequently attended Harvard as an undergraduate and Yale Drama School as a grad student, then moved to Los Angeles in the mid-'80s, where he accepted a long series of bit parts and supporting roles in A-list features, typically cast as nebbishy professional types. Early films in which Clemenson appeared included Heartburn (1986), Legal Eagles (1986), Hannah and Her Sisters (1986), and Broadcast News (1987).
Beginning in the late '90s, Clemenson began placing a stronger emphasis on television work, with guest roles in series including Ally McBeal, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, The West Wing, and NYPD Blue. He received critical kudos for his portrayal of ill-fated executive Thomas E. Burnett Jr., a victim of the September 11th terrorist attacks, in Paul Greengrass' feature United 93 (2006), then joined William Shatner, Candice Bergen, and James Spader of David E. Kelley's offbeat seriocomedy Boston Legal in a recurring capacity during the show's second season; on the program, Clemenson played Jerry "Hands" Espenson, a troubled lawyer plagued by Asperger's Syndrome. He went on to win Best Guest Actor in a Drama Series in 2006 for that role, and continued to appear on the show, later attaining regular status and staying with the series until it folded in 2009. Clemenson would continue to appear regularly on screen as the years went on, appearing on shows like CSI: Miami and Harry's Law.