Family & Companions
For many television viewers, actor Paul McCrane was forever identified as the ill-tempered Dr. Robert Romano, whose reign of terror as chief of staff on "ER" (NBC, 1994-2004) ended spectacularly when a falling helicopter crushed him on the roof of County General. But McCrane's lengthy career showed a much wider range of talent, including a Grammy-winning turn as a talented art school student in "Fame" (1980) as well as stints on sitcoms and the Broadway stage. McCrane began his on-screen career as sensitive young men in "Fame" and "The Hotel New Hampshire" (1984), but by the mid-1980s, he shed his youthful appearance for a grittier look and segued into explosive character turns in "RoboCop" (1986) and "The Shawshank Redemption" (1994). Meanwhile, "ER" brought him widespread attention as a character that audiences loved to hate, and the exposure afforded him turns on "From the Earth to the Moon" (HBO, 1998) and "24" (Fox, 2001-2010). He went on to play a driven, but slightly unstable district attorney on the popular legal series, "Harry's Law" (NBC, 2010- ), which solidified McCrane's status as one of the small screen's most dependable character actors.
Born on Jan. 19, 1961 in Philadelphia, PA, McCrane he was raised in Bucks County by his father, John, an actor and writer, and his mother, Eileen, a nurse. At Holy Ghost Preparatory School, McCrane developed an appetite for performing in numerous school plays, which led to his first professional role as Shirley Knight's son in John Guare's "Landscape of the Body" (1977) at 16 years old. The following year, he appeared opposite Diane Lane in the o-ff-Broadway production of Elizabeth Swados' musical "Runaways," which was presented by the New York Shakespeare Festival. McCrane made his screen debut as a bit player in "Rocky II" (1979) as a young boy who asked Sylvester Stallone's boxing champ to sign his arm cast. The following year, he won critical praise as Montgomery, an aspiring young singer struggling with his sexual identity in Alan Parker's Oscar-winning "Fame" (1980). McCrane also penned "Is It Okay If I Call You Mine?" and "Dogs in the Yard," the two songs his character sings in the film. Both were featured on the chart-topping soundtrack album, which earned him a shared Grammy in 1981.
Despite its success, "Fame" failed to ignite McCrane's movie career. Instead, he bounced between television and the stage for most of the early 1980s, including a Broadway revival of "The Iceman Cometh" (1985) opposite Jason Robards. His most significant feature of the period aside from "Fame" was the misbegotten film adaptation of John Irving's "The Hotel New Hampshire" (1984), where he again played a troubled gay character. In the late 1980s, McCrane mounted a screen comeback as a character actor when his trademark mane of red hair started to recede and his youthful features had morphed into a chiseled appearance. The physical changed allowed him to make an ideal choice for tough, verbally aggressive figures on both sides of the law. He wowed audiences as Emil, the most psychotic member of crime boss Kurtwood Smith's gang in Paul Verhoeven's futuristic action classic "Robocop" (1986) and settled briefly into a string of antagonistic roles in features and television, including a skeptical small town deputy in Chuck Russell's remake of "The Blob" (1988) and a Phil Spector-esque record producer in the second season of "Wiseguy" (CBS, 1987-1990).
In 1990, McCrane joined the cast of the ambitious, but short-lived "Cop Rock" (ABC), while dividing much of his time between the small screen and the stage. The former offered him a wider selection of roles beyond his recent character turns in features, including Vanity Fair editor John Bishop in "Zelda" (TNT, 1993), with Natasha Richardson as Zelda Fitzgerald, and a rare romantic turn as Cecilia Peck's love interest in Arthur Penn's "The Portrait" (TNT, 1993), starring Peck's famous father, Gregory Peck, and Lauren Bacall. Meanwhile, McCrane's stage efforts during the period included the original Broadway run of "Six Degrees of Separation" (1991). After a brief return to antagonistic roles as the sadistic Guard Trout in "The Shawshank Redemption" (1994), McCrane settled into steady television work where he demonstrated his versatility in a wide variety of roles. He was a series regular on the short-lived sitcom "Champs" (ABC, 1996) for producer Gary David Goldberg, before terrifying "X-Files" (Fox, 1993-2002) viewers as Leonard Betts, a mutant who could regenerate his body by devouring cancerous cells.
In 1997, McCrane landed the role that brought him his greatest exposure: the brash, bigoted but brilliant Dr. Robert "Rocket" Romano on "ER." Romano's talents as a surgeon were matched only by his boundless ego and combative nature, which put him at odds with nearly every member of the County General Hospital staff, until his fateful death in a freakish helicopter crash. For his efforts, McCrane received two Screen Actors Guild nominations with his cast for Outstanding Performance by an Ensemble, but more importantly, a permanent place in the minds of many viewers as one of the great hissable TV villains. Though "ER" commanded the majority of McCrane's attention until 2003, he made appearances on several other series, including a turn as Gemini and Apollo astronaut Pete Conrad in the miniseries "From the Earth to the Moon," and later as Graem Bauer, the duplicitous brother of Kiefer Sutherland's Jack Bauer on "24." In 2011, he enjoyed a rare comedic turn on "Harry's Law," a comedy-drama legal series by David E. Kelley. McCrane played district attorney Josh Peyton, the intense, self-absorbed courtroom combatant to the earthy Harriet "Harry" Korn (Kathy Bates). At first, the role seemed a reprisal Robert Romano, McCrane grew the character into his own. Once again, McCrane found himself in awards contention, this time for an Emmy as Outstanding Guest Actor in a Drama Series.
Cast (Feature Film)
Music (Feature Film)
Cast (TV Mini-Series)
Stage acting debut in "Landscape of the Body" by John Guare; played the son of Shirley Knight
Broadway debut, "Runaways"
Film acting debut in small role in "Rocky II"
Breakthrough film role as aspiring actor Montgomery MacNeil in "Fame"; also film singing debut
TV acting debut in the CBS TV-movie "Baby Comes Home"
Had featured role of Don Parritt in a Broadway revival of "The Iceman Cometh" alongside Barnard Hughes and Jason Robards
Last film for six years, "The Blob"
TV series debut as regular, the short-lived musical drama "Cop Rock" (ABC)
Had featured role in the Broadway production of John Guare's "Six Degrees of Separation"
Co-starred as John Bishop in the TNT biopic "Zelda", starring Natasha Richardson as Zelda Sayre Fitzgerald
Was series regular on the CBS police drama "Under Suspicion"
Made one-shot return to films as a guard in "The Shawshank Redemption"
Cast as a heart surgeon in the short-lived ABC sitcom "Champs"
Had recurring role as surgeon Dr. 'Rocket' Romano on the hit NBC medical drama "ER"; made regular as of the 1999-2000 season
Delivered memorable guest turn as Leonard Betts, a man who kept regenerating his body, in an episode of "The X-Files"
Directed Los Angeles stage production of "Home Grown"
Portrayed astronaut Pete Conrad in the HBO series "From the Earth to the Moon"