A Staten Island native, Rick Schroder was billed as Ricky Schroder in the fledgling stage of his acting career, which began when he was just a baby (working on commercials) and has persevered ever since. By the time he made his film debut at nine-years-old as the emotionally tortured son of a washed-up boxer (Jon Voight) in The Champ (1979), Schroder had more than 60 television appearances to his name, many of which had been filmed before he had even learned to speak. Schroder played another traumatized boy in The Earthling (1980) and fared well in several subsequent made-for-TV features, but his breakout role wouldn't come until the 1982 premiere of Silver Spoons. The NBC sitcom starred Schroder as young Ricky Stratten, the wealthy son of a toy-store mogul, and employed the winning '80s formula of single parent + wealth + cute kid + wacky best friend = hit.
After the 1986 cancellation of Silver Spoons, the child actor officially became Rick Schroder and starred in several unremarkable small-screen features until landing the coming-of-age role of Newt Dobbs in the award-winning 1989 miniseries Lonesome Dove. This would become a trend for Schroder; despite his attempts to make a transition into the film world (his most notable successes being a supporting role in Crimson Tide  and a performance opposite a very young Brad Pitt in Across the Tracks ), the actor would find a much warmer reception in the television community. From bad seeds (1990's The Stranger Within and 1991's My Son, Johnny) to survivalists (1992's Miles From Nowhere and 1993's Return to Lonesome Dove), Schroder's roles were continually met with praise, and he seemed to have escaped the curse suffered by so many child actors.
As an adult, Schroder was fatefully cast as Detective Danny Sorenson in ABC's long-running cop drama NYPD Blue. Though he was decried by NYPD Blue loyalists as little more than a former child sitcom star, it wasn't long before his aptitude at the dramatic role convinced both critics and audiences of his acting capability. When Schroder left the series in 2001, it was a great disappointment to the fan following he had developed during his time on the series. However, fans of Schroder weren't left entirely in the lurch; in 2002, Schroder joined the cast of Poolhall Junkies along with Rod Steiger and Chazz Palminteri, and also starred in the German-helmed Consequence in 2003.