Despite being a well established screen actor with several dozen film and television credits, among them "The Bridges of Madison County" (1995), "The Devil's Own" (1997), and "Salt" (2010), Victor Slezak began his career as a stage actor. He studied acting at Uta Hagen's renowned HB Studio in New York City, and gradually began making a name for himself at regional playhouses across the country. Among the more prominent productions he appeared in were John Steinbeck's "Of Mice and Men," Arthur Miller's "A View from the Bridge," and Oscar Wilde's "The Importance of Being Earnest," the latter of which also starred Mary Louise Parker. By the early 1990s, however, Slezak had shifted his focus to screen acting, landing recurring parts on shows like "Treme" (HBO, 2010- ) and "Blue Bloods" (CBS, 2010- ), as well as supporting roles in critically acclaimed features such as "The Bridges of Madison County" and "Beyond Rangoon" (1995). Throughout his long and prolific film and television career, however, Slezak never lost his passion for the stage, appearing in Broadway productions alongside A-list talents like Kathleen Turner and Al Pacino, while also embarking on a second career as an acting teacher.
Born and raised in Youngstown, Ohio, Slezak's first brush with performing came when his teacher asked him to read the book of Genesis before the entire class. He noted how the class waited on his every word, thus providing an incredible rush of adrenaline for the soon-to-be aspiring actor. By the time high school rolled around, Slezak was fully immersed in the craft, and would go on to earn a prestigious acting scholarship to Ohio State University. He turned the scholarship down, however, and instead embarked on a 10-week apprenticeship at a local playhouse. Although initially thrilled at the possibility to learn the craft firsthand from established actors, Slezak found himself, as well as everyone around him, working incredibly long hours for very little pay. The experience left the teenage Slezak somewhat disillusioned with the idea that it was possible to make a reasonable living as an actor, and he abruptly gave it up. At 17 Slezak moved to New York City where he spent the next few years making a comfortable living working in the art department at a prominent advertising firm. Although the burn of acting still lingered, Slezak never regretted his decision to quit, until a chance meeting at a theater in Western New York State would change his life forever.
It had been years since Slezak stepped foot in a playhouse and he quickly realized how much he missed it. He soon devoured every book on acting he could find, and before long began taking classes with the famed acting coach Uta Hagen. By the early '80s Slezak began appearing on stage in numerous plays in New York City, as well as regional playhouses like the Hartford Stage in Connecticut. Never one to stay comfortable for too long, the allure of Hollywood stardom soon proved to be overwhelming, with Slezak leaving his New York stage career behind and heading west. By the late '80s Slezak was landing bit parts on popular shows like "Miami Vice" (NBC 1984-89) and "One Life to Live" (ABC 1968-2012; Hulu 2013- ), and before long he was able to parlay his small screen work into supporting parts in acclaimed dramas, including "The Bridges of Madison County," "Beyond Rangoon," and "The Cat's Meow" (2001), based on the mysterious circumstances behind the death of silent film mogul Thomas H. Ince. By the 2000s Slezak was landing roles on some of the most critically-lauded TV shows of the decade, including the political drama "The Good Wife" (CBS 2009- ), HBO's "Mildred Pierce" (2011), and David Simon's New Orleans-set drama, "Treme" (HBO 2010-14).
Cast (Feature Film)
Film Production - Main (Feature Film)
Supporting role in "The Bridges of Madison County"
Had a small part in the acclaimed political drama, "Beyond Rangoon"
Recurring role on HBO's "Treme"
Cast in the CBS cop drama "Blue Bloods"
Portrayed Ulysses S. Grant in "Hell on Wheels"