Though best known for his work as radio station bigwig Jimmy James on the television series NewsRadio, Stephen Root is one of the busier character actors at work today, and a familiar face to television and movie audiences. Born in Sarasota, FL, on November 17, 1951, Root received a degree in acting and broadcasting from the University of Florida, and after graduating passed an audition to join the touring company of the National Shakespeare Company. After three years with the NSC, Root settled in New York City, where he began working in off-Broadway theater, making his debut in a revival of Journey's End. His first Broadway role, in So Long on Lonely Street, was a bust at the box office, but the 1987 revival of All My Sons was a big hit which generated plenty of enthusiastic press for Root.
1988 saw Root making his motion-picture debut in the George Romero horror opus Monkey Shines, and over the next several years Root worked steadily in feature films, episodic television, and made-for-TV movies, scoring recurring roles on L.A. Law, Star Trek: The Next Generation, and Blossom; guest spots on Northern Exposure, Murphy Brown, and Quantum Leap; supporting parts in Ghost, Dave, and Robocop 3; and an acclaimed turn in A Woman Scorned: The Betty Broderick Story, as well as its sequel, Her Final Fury: Betty Broderick, The Last Chapter.
In 1993, Root was cast as R.O. on the television series Harts of the West; the show only lasted a season, but his next role on a series would last a bit longer; cast as Jimmy on the sitcom NewsRadio in 1995, Root would last with the show for five seasons, until the show was canceled after a disappointing final season following the death of co-star Phil Hartman. During hiatus from NewsRadio and after the series ended, Root continued his busy schedule, making memorable appearances in feature films (including Office Space and O Brother, Where Art Thou?) and guesting on other shows. Root also began doing voice work, speaking for Buck Strickland and Bill Dauterive on the animated series King of the Hill and the Sheriff on Buzz Lightyear of Star Command.
Root's small-screen voice-work would soon lead to his involvement in two popular big-screen animated features. In 2002's Ice Age, audiences could hear him along with Cedric the Entertainer as a pair of Rhinos. And the next year, Root lent his pipes to the blockbuster underwater adventure Finding Nemo.
While his voice became more familiar to moviegoers, Root continued to become more of a presence in live-action films as well. Turning in no less than four supporting performances in high-profile films, Root spent 2004 reteaming with the Coen brothers for The Ladykillers, showing up in a prominent role in Kevin Smith's Jersey Girl, and costarring in the broad comedies Dodgeball: A True Underdog Story, Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy, Mad Money, and Leatherheads.
He remained one of the most respected and in-demand character actors of his generation appearing in a variety of projects including Mad Money, The Soloist, Everything Must Go, Red State, Cedar Rapids, and J. Edgar. He also provided numerous voices for the Oscar-winning animated feature Rango.