Tall, blonde, and possessing a choir of perfect teeth that would make any dentist jealous, James Van Der Beek emerged as one of the ultimate teen pin-ups of the late 1990s. First attaining prominence with the title role of Dawson Leary in the WB Network's Dawson's Creek, Van Der Beek proceeded to branch out with film and stage work, and in the process managed to be anointed in 1998 as one of People Magazine's "50 Most Beautiful."
Born March 8, 1977 to a cell phone salesman father and a mother who ran a gymnastics studio, Van Der Beek was raised in his hometown of Cheshire, Connecticut. The oldest of three children, he was an honors student and excelled at football until an injury sidelined his budding career. In its own way the injury proved to be serendipitous, as it led Van Der Beek to take up acting. Following a casting trip to New York with his mother, Van Der Beek made his professional debut at the age of 16 in the Off-Broadway production of Finding the Sun, which was written and directed by Edward Albee. More stage work ensued, as did some television work (most notably in the form of a 1995 stint on As the World Turns).
Van Der Beek made his film debut in the 1995 comedy Angus, aptly cast as a golden-boy football quarterback. Another movie, the little-seen Claire Danes/Jude Law vehicle I Love You, I Love You Not, followed in 1997, but it was his starring role in Dawson's Creek, premiering in January of 1998, that gave Van Der Beek his big break. The show's success with critics and audiences alike propelled Van Der Beek and his fellow cast members into the limelight, and soon Van Der Beek secured his first major film roles, first in the little-seen Harvest (1998), and then in the football comedy-drama Varsity Blues (1998). The film's modest reviews were overshadowed by its financial success, geared as it was toward a new generation of teenagers eager to see their favorite actors in glorious celluloid. The film's enthusiastic commercial response, coupled with Dawson's continuing success, virtually guaranteed the young actor that no matter what the future held for him, his career had certainly gotten off to a very positive start.
Though to this point Van Der Beek's success had been built on the image of the squeaky clean, all-American small town boy, a pair of efforts following the millennial turnover signaled that the actor who had become the very personification of white-bred wholesomeness was determined to create a new, decidedly more edgy image for himself. Though his initial effort ended in mystery as the segment featuring Van Der Beek as a closeted high school homosexual was cut from director Todd Solandz's Storytelling (2002) shortly before the film's release, his efforts would be cemented later that same year with the subsequent release of The Rules of Attraction. Directed by Pulp Fiction collaborator Roger Avery (Killing Zoe) and based on a novel by American Psycho author Brett Easton Ellis, The Rules of Attraction found the former innocent plunged into a strange world of drugs and sexual deviance that left many Dawson's Creek fans up in arms. As college student/drug dealer Sean Bateman (who also happens to be the brother of American Psycho maniac Patrick Bateman) Van Der Beek essayed what was without question his seediest role to date. With his Dawson's Creek and Rules of Attraction characters existing on the most extreme polar opposite ends of the spectrum imaginable, Van Der Beek made it no secret that his acting coach recieved a hearty workout as the actor attempted to balance hiumself between the two projects.
When Dawson's Creek finally came to an end, Van Der Beek appeared in Clive Barker's The Plague, Eye of the Beast, Formosa Betrayed, and Stolen. He spoofed his own image as a squeaky-clean guy by playing an obnoxious version of himself in the sitcom Don't Trust the B - in Apartment 23 and joined the cast of CSI: Cyber in 2015.