Portland-born American actor Bret Harrison traveled the hard road as an up-and-comer. With experience under his belt as a child actor in regional theatrical productions, and a burning desire to be the next Tom Hanks, Harrison graduated from high school ahead of schedule and made a beeline from Oregon to Los Angeles, where reportedly within several months he secured representation and started landing appearances in Hollywood A-list features and prime-time series. Initially, several of Harrison's roles cast him as a somewhat geeky type -- notably, his evocation of Brad O'Keefe, the dweebish adolescent in love with Lynsey Bartilson's Lily Finnerty (and forced to compete for her affections with the über-hip Dean Peramotti [Mike Vogel]) on the sitcom Grounded for Life, and his performance as the (marvelously named) Lonny Munsack in the Jake Kasdan teen comedy Orange County (2002), starring Jack Black and Colin Hanks.
Harrison secured his first lead role in Robert Hall's evocative drama Lightning Bug, as Green, a young man torn violently between his desire to escape from his abusive stepfather on the tails of his own ability as a movie makeup artist, and the love for his girl that encourages him to stay put. Unfortunately for Harrison, the picture found extremely limited distribution but did receive a handful of enthusiastic critical responses. After Grounded for Life folded in 2005, he played Charlie in several episodes of the sitcom That '70s Show, but his character was killed off when he fell off the town's water tower. The actor was soon back to more prominent status, however, when he signed for the lead in the sitcom The Loop (2006-2007). In that program, Harrison starred opposite Mimi Rogers and Philip Baker Hall as the youngest suit on the corporate end of an airline. That series ran for two seasons, after which, Harrison receiving second billing opposite legendary Burt Reynolds in the feature gambling drama Deal (2008) -- as a collegiate poker player who turns and takes on his mentor in the World Series of Poker.
Despite his steady employment and several lead roles, Harrison hadn't found a part that truly broke him through to mainstream success until he was cast on the unusual fantasy-comedy-drama Reaper in 2007. On the series, he played the lead character, Sam Oliver, whose slacker existence is rocked by the revelation on his 21st birthday that his parents sold his soul to the Devil (Ray Wise) before he was even born. Having come of age, Sam is put to work collecting fugitive evil souls who have escaped from Hell.