Sam Waterston

Sam Waterston
Los Angeles Times

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Sam Waterston
TV: South side of the 7000 block of Hollywood Boulevard
Actor
Born Nov. 15, 1940 in Cambridge, Mass.

Sam Waterston says he knew at the age of 6 that he liked acting and spent the next decade or so fighting the inevitable.

"I resisted for the obvious reasons. It was, is, a very tough business. It wasn't as socially acceptable even then as now. It wasn't thought to be a proper profession, despite James Stewart's being a Princeton man," he said in a 1990 interview.

Waterston is what might be called a pure actor — versatile, dedicated, intelligent and very good indeed, at home in any medium and any period. Leslie Halliwell's "Filmgoer's Companion" identifies him as "a general purpose actor," which is possibly accurate but annoying because it could be said with equal accuracy of John Gielgud (the reporter's analogy, not Waterston's).

Waterston co-starred in "The Killing Fields" as New York Times reporter Sydney Schanberg. More often, in film, he has been part of the ensemble. In "The Great Gatsby" he was Tom Callaway, the observer, the alter ego for Scott Fitzgerald describing the times of Jay Gatsby. He was very good; he always is.

On television, Waterston has made his mark on one of the longest running series ever, the original "Law and Order" which he joined four years after it's premier in 1990.

Saying he subscribes to Meryl Streep's advice: "Stand up for your character," Waterston agreed to a promotion for his character from prosecutor to District Attorney after Fred Thompson left the show to pursue a presidential bid. Waterston said he initially rejected the notion of Jack McCoy, the acerbic prosecutor, succeeding Thompson's Arthur Branch as district attorney.

"Jack McCoy has been sort of anti-politics all his life and loves his job, so I couldn't think of any reason why he'd want to," the actor said. "Then they started talking to me about it, and it began to sound really interesting. Here you would have a guy insulting politics all his life forced into a political role. And you wouldn't have to do any exposition, because everyone would know it."

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Points of interest

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    Academy Awards

    Year Category Work
    1984 Best Actor The Killing Fields Nomination

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