William Petersen

Active - 1981 - 2001  |   Born - Feb 21, 1953   |   Genres - Drama, Mystery

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Biography by Jason Buchanan

Ever since his film debut in director Michael Mann's 1981 crime drama Thief, actor William L. Petersen (born February 21st, 1953) has carved a successful niche for himself in the realm of crime-oriented television and film. Audiences were quick to warm to the actor thanks to his everyman appearance and ability to elicit sympathy by portraying authority figures whose rank rarely surpassed their humanity, and in the following decades, Petersen would hone this persona to a fine point in such efforts as Mann's 1986 thriller Manhunter and, much later, the popular CBS crime series CSI: Crime Scene Investigation. It was while studying on a football scholarship at Idaho State University that the Evanston, IL, native first discovered his love for the stage, and though the popular jock initially signed up for drama classes as a means of boosting his grade point average, his love for the stage soon surpassed his grip on the gridiron. A post-graduate move to Spain found Petersen studying Shakespearean acting, with a subsequent return to the States leading the burgeoning actor to Chicago. In addition to an association with the famed Steppenwolf Theater, Petersen and several of his peers co-founded Chicago's Remains Theater Ensemble in 1980. The next year, a small supporting role in Mann's Thief marked Petersen's first foray into the celluloid universe, and it was also around this time that Petersen made his Broadway debut with a starring role in The Night of the Iguana. The actor remained a fixture on CSI until 2008, and went on to co-star in the films Detatchment (2011) and Seeking a Friend for the End of the World (2010).

As the 1980s progressed, Petersen became an increasingly recognizable figure in the world of film, in particular thanks to solid performances in such efforts as To Live and Die in L.A., Manhunter, and Amazing Grace and Chuck, with his stature on the screen virtually cemented by the time he kicked off the 1990s with a turn as Pat Garrett in Young Guns II. Though roles in such films as Return to Lonesome Dove, Fear, and The Beast did indeed increase Petersen's recognition factor among the moviegoing and television-viewing masses, he more often than not seemed to be lost without Mann's direction and criminals to chase. Of course, all of this would be solved when the veteran actor stepped into the role of crime scene investigator for the 2000 television series CSI, and though feature work had certainly taken precedence over television thus far in his career, the transition seemed to benefit Petersen when the Emmy-nominated series soon shot to the top of the ratings.

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