James Van Der Beek emerged as one of the ultimate teen pin-ups of the late 1990s, all thanks to the title role of Dawson Leary on the WB Network's Dawson's Creek.
Born to a cell phone salesman father and a mother who ran a gymnastics studio, James was raised in Cheshire, Connecticut. The oldest of three children, he was an honors student and excelled at football until an injury at 13 sidelined his budding career. In its own way, the injury proved to be serendipitous, as it led James to take up acting. He started doing community theater to practice his craft. Years passed, but his love of acting continued to motivate him, so James and his mom travelled to New York and found an agent for him.
James made his professional debut at the age of 16 in the Off-Broadway production Finding the Sun, which was written and directed by Edward Albee. More stage work ensued, as did some television work (most notably a 1995 stint on As the World Turns). James made his film debut in the 1995 comedy Angus, aptly cast as a golden-boy football quarterback. Another movie, the Claire Danes/Jude Law vehicle I Love You, I Love You Not, followed in 1997, but the film got off to a rocky start and never received a wide release.
When James auditioned for the role of Dawson Leary, he thought his chances at the part were slim, considering he was 20 and the character was a 15 year old. However, the producers clearly liked what they saw and Dawson's Creek premiered in January of 1998, giving James his big break. The show's success with critics and audiences alike propelled James and his fellow cast members into the limelight, and he soon secured his first major film roles, first in the little-seen Harvest (1998), and then in the football comedy-drama Varsity Blues (1998).
The latter film's modest reviews were overshadowed by its financial success, geared as it was toward a new generation of teenagers eager to see their favorite actor in glorious celluloid. The film's enthusiastic commercial response, coupled with Dawson's continuing success, virtually guaranteed the young actor that no matter what the future held for him, his career had certainly gotten off to a very positive start.
During the 2000s, he continued to land film roles. Some of the best known titles include the Kevin Smith comedy Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back (2001), the romantic dramedy The Rules of Attraction (2002), the romantic drama Labor Day (2013) starring Josh Brolin and Kate Winslet and the science fiction drama Downsizing (2017), starring Matt Damon.
He also continued to take part in several series on television, including several episodes of the hit comedy How I Met Your Mother. For his regular role on Don't Trust the B---- in Apartment 23, he was nominated for a Teen Choice Award in 2012, his third since his debut on Dawson's Creek. CSI: Cyber (2015-2016) starring Patricia Arquette followed, then in 2017, he starred on the Viceland sitcom What Would Diplo Do?
In terms of his love life, James Van Der Beek was married to actress Heather McComb from 2003 to 2010. A few months after the formalization of his divorce, he entered into a second marriage, this time with Kimberly Brook. This union proved fruitful, leading to the birth of five children and the announcement of a sixth for spring 2020.
Labor Day (2014)
The Big Bang (2011)
Stolen Lives (2009)
Formosa Betrayed (2009)
Final Draft (2007)
Standing Still (2005)
The Rules of Attraction (2002)
Texas Rangers (2001)
Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back (2001)
Scary Movie (2000)
Varsity Blues (1999)
I Love You, I Love You Not (1996)
Castle in the Sky (1989)