The only son of veteran British actors Nigel Davenport and Maria Aitken, Jack Davenport did not plan to follow his parents into show business. They even warned him against it, feeling that he falsely believed their lucrative careers were representative of the typical acting experience. But Davenport was too poor of an athlete to participate in any school sports and eventually wandered into the drama department, where he fell in love with performing. Born on March 1, 1973 in Suffolk, England, Davenport grew up in both Ibiza and Suffolk. He attended local schools until his parents' divorce in 1981, when he went to live at the Dragon School. Davenport then enrolled at his father's former school, Cheltenham College. After graduation, he took a year off before entering university, during which he took a summer drama course. Impressed by Davenport's performance as a rapper in a practice skit, the director of the Welsh national theater offered him a job. At 18, he moved to Wales to play bit parts in the theater's production of Hamlet. Davenport majored in English Literature and Film Studies at the University of East Anglia. When he finished school, his mother urged him to try getting a job behind the scenes in filmmaking or theater. At her suggestion, Davenport wrote actor/writer John Cleese to ask him if he could work as a production assistant on the set of his upcoming movie Fierce Creatures (1997) (in which his mother had a role). Cleese, instead, cast Davenport in the film. Fierce Creatures was barely in post-production when Davenport made his small-screen debut in This Life, a 1996 British television series about five young lawyers who share an apartment. His role as the self-absorbed Miles Stewart in the well-reviewed, much-watched show made him an instant celebrity in England. Davenport appeared as Malcolm in a television update of Macbeth (1998), before starring as a detective who is recruited into a mysterious troop of vampire hunters in the stylish hit miniseries Ultraviolet. After playing a similar role in the horror film The Wisdom of Crocodiles (1998), Davenport landed a supporting role in his first major international release, Anthony Minghella's The Talented Mr. Ripley (1999). Critics hailed Davenport for giving soul to what could have easily been the cardboard cutout role of Ripley (Matt Damon)'s doomed lover, gentle musician Peter Smith-Kinsley. A year later, international audiences enjoyed Davenport again when Mystery! kicked off its 21st season with his performance as Derek Jacobi's son in The Wyvern Mystery. Based on Irish writer J.S. Le Fanu's 1869 thriller, the two-part miniseries also starred Naomi Watts and Iain Glen. He then tried his hand at comedy in Coupling, a television sitcom dubbed by reviewers as a British Friends. While continuing to appear onscreen -- in films such as Subterrain (2001), Not Afraid, Not Afraid (2001), Gypsy Woman (2001), and The Bunker (2001) -- Davenport returned to the stage to star in The Servant at England's Lyric Theater.
Davenport is also an accomplished voice-over actor. He narrated the audio versions of John Buchan's The 39 Steps and Andy McNab's Crisis Four, as well as recorded parts in the radio productions of George Bernard Shaw's Man and Superman, Anthony Burgess' A Clockwork Orange, and Nicholas Monsarrat's A Cruel Sea. Most notably, however, he is the deep voice behind the famous "For everything else, there's MasterCard" commercials.
In 2003 he landed a part in the smash hit The Pirates of the Caribbean, playing Norrington not just in that film but in the next two sequels as well. He appeared in the 2004 period drama The Libertine. He appeared in the failed TV drama Swingtown, but found greater small-screen success a few years later as part of NBC's behind-the-scenes Broadway drama Smash.