Actor William McNamara's film breakthrough came in 1988 when he starred as Billy Kane in Peter and Paul Mones' urban drama The Beat. McNamara led a fairly peripatetic childhood; his interior designer mother was granted custody of McNamara after divorcing his real estate magnate father. She took him to Dallas for a time, and then Los Angeles, where McNamara met many movie stars who inspired him to become an actor. He and his mother eventually moved to New York, but McNamara continued working as a production assistant during the summers in Los Angeles. Despite some problems in his late teens, he finally ended up at Columbia University, where he studied acting and started working in a few television commercials. A summer stint with the Williamstown Theater resulted in his appearing in The Beat. Prior to that, McNamara acted in two foreign efforts, Dario Argento's Opera and the European miniseries The Secret of the Sahara (both 1987). After appearing in Peter Bogdanovich's Texasville (1990), McNamara turned to television movies, notably Wildflower (1991), which starred Patricia Arquette, and Doing Time on Maple Drive (1992), with Jim Carrey in a rare dramatic role. McNamara returned to feature films in 1992 with Aspen Extreme, and since then he has been getting larger roles in better quality films. His role in Copycat (1995) is particularly notable.