Family & Companions
Character actor Timothy Busfield was already a veteran of two television series by the time he rose to fame with his Emmy-winning performance as Elliot Weston, who struggled with infidelity and his wife's cancer on "thirtysomething" (ABC, 1987-1991). In its wake, Busfield starred and/or guested on several more programs; some notable - "The West Wing" (NBC, 1999-2006) - and others less than memorable - "Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip" (NBC, 2006-07). In many cases, however, his easygoing flair for both high drama and comedy were often the show's best asset. Along the way, Busfield developed into a dependable TV director and a likable lead in several features and made-for-TV movies.
Born June 12, 1957 in Lansing, MI, Busfield got his first exposure to acting through his father, who taught in the drama department at Michigan State University. His mother, also a college professor, taught literature. He landed his first professional acting job at 18 in a children's theater adaptation of Shakespeare's "A Midsummer Night's Dream." Busfield studied drama at East Tennessee State University and traveled frequently with the Actors Theater of Louisville, which took him to Europe and Israel. In 1981, he moved to New York City, NY, where he joined the Circle Repertory Company for their production of Lanford Wilson's "Talley and Son." That same year, he landed his first film role with a bit part as a mortar-bearing soldier in the comedy classic, "Stripes" (1981).
More stage work followed, including a stint as understudy to Matthew Broderick in "Brighton Beach Memoirs" in 1982. The following year, Busfield relocated to Los Angeles to join the cast of "Reggie" (ABC, 1983), a short-lived comedy based on the British television series "The Fall and Rise of Reginald Perrin" (BBC, 1976-79). The year 1984 proved to be a busy one for Busfield; not only did he land his first substantial film role as Arnold Poindexter, the goofiest of the geek fraternity brothers in the hit comedy "Revenge of the Nerds" (1984) and its 1987 sequel, but he joined the cast of the long-running drama "Trapper John, M.D." (CBS, 1979-1986), starring as the son of Pernell Roberts' Trapper John McIntyre. He held the role until the series' conclusion in 1986.
Following the demise of "Trapper John," he joined forces with his brother Buck to create the Fantasy Theatre, a professional touring company for children's audiences - and later Honorary State Children's Theater for California - based in his new hometown of Sacramento, CA. The Busfields also established the award-winning B Street Theater there in 1992, which was devoted to more adult productions. The following year, Busfield was cast as Elliot on "thirtysomething." The part was his first mature role to date, and the producers requested that he grow a beard to help sell his image as a married man and father. Over the course of the hit Yuppie show's three-season run, Elliot came to personify the best and worst aspects of the series: a successful advertising executive and father, Elliot also infuriated his friends and family (and viewers) with his marital infidelity and competitive streak with partner Michael Steadman (Ken Olin), all of which went on while his wife Nancy (Patricia Wettig) struggled with ovarian cancer. Despite his character's unpleasant tendencies, Busfield brought humor and honesty to the role, and was nominated three times for an Emmy before winning one in 1991, shortly before conflicts between the producers and cast brought the show to an abrupt conclusion.
Busfield had remained exceptionally busy during his "thirtysomething" stint, appearing as the nominal villain in the popular Kevin Costner fantasy "Field of Dreams" in 1989, and in 1990, replacing Tom Hulce as the lead in "A Few Good Men," a smash Broadway production written by Aaron Sorkin, with whom he would later enjoy fruitful collaborations. He also made his directorial debut with a 1990 episode of "thirtysomething," and would helm three episodes of the series before it ran its course. Roles in television features and theatrical films followed, including supporting turns in "Sneakers" (1992), "Quiz Show" (1994) and the likable kids' fantasy "Little Big League" (1994), which allowed Busfield to show off his baseball skills as the first baseman for the Minnesota Twins (an avowed baseball fan, Busfield occasionally served as pitcher in several minor league games).
Busfield returned to network television several times during the late 1990s for high profile shows that never quite caught on with viewers. He was the patriarch of the Byrd clan, which moved from Connecticut to Hawaii in the Steven Bochco-produced "Byrds of Paradise" (ABC, 1993-94), and starred as one of a group of former high school jocks still clinging to their glory days in "Champs" (ABC, 1996) for Ron Howard. By the late 1990s, Busfield was dividing his time between acting and directing for television, helming multiple episodes of several shows, including Sorkin's "Sports Night" (ABC, 1998-2000), as well as "Ed" (NBC, 2000-04), for which he also served as associate producer and guest star (as Ed's down-on-his-luck brother Lloyd). During this period, Busfield also began his recurring role as Pulitzer Prize-winning White House correspondent - and love interest to Allison Janney's C.J. Cregg - Danny Concannon on "The West Wing." He would appear sporadically on the show throughout its entire network run.
Busfield kept a foot on both sides of the camera from 2000 on; directing and executive producing the successful CBS drama "Without a Trace" (2002-09) and appearing occasionally as the wheelchair-bound divorce attorney for Anthony LaPaglia's Jack Malone. He also directed episodes of "Las Vegas" (NBC, 2003-08), "Damages" (FX, 2007-12), and "Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip." On the latter, he squeezed in time to co-star on the short-lived Aaron Sorkin series as Cal Shanley, the occasionally nerve-plagued control director for the program's self-titled show-within-a-show. Though that show went spectacularly down in flames, despite much marketing as the "next big thing," in 2007, Busfield moved on, serving as executive producer of the Brooke Shields-led drama, "Lipstick Jungle" (NBC, 2008-09).
Cast (Feature Film)
Director (TV Mini-Series)
Cast (TV Mini-Series)
Producer (TV Mini-Series)
Landed first acting job in a children's theater in Johnson City, TN at age 18 playing Puck in "A Midsummer Night's Dream" adaptation titled "Robin Goodfellow" (date approximate)
Feature film debut, "Stripes"
Moved to NYC; joined Circle Repertory Company for production of "Talley and Son" by Lanford Wilson
Understudied Matthew Broderick and Zeljko Ivanek in Broadway production of Neil Simon's comedy-drama "Brighton Beach Memoirs" (date approximate)
TV series debut, playing Reggie Potter's (Richard Mulligan) son Mark on short-lived ABC sitcom "Reggie"
Moved to Los Angeles, CA
Joined cast of CBS medical drama "Trapper John, M.D."; played title character's son Dr. J.T. McIntyre during show's last two seasons
Played supporting role of Poindexter in comedy sleeper "Revenge of the Nerds" (1984) and its sequel "Revenge of the Nerds II: Nerds in Paradise" (1987)
Co-founded with brother Buck the Fantasy Theatre in Sacramento, a professional touring acting company for young audiences, which performed in Northern California schools and sponsored an annual Young Playwrights contest
Moved to Sacramento, CA (date approximate)
Co-starred as Elliot Weston on acclaimed ABC yuppie serial drama "thirtysomething"
Broadway debut, "A Few Good Men"
Hosted made-for-cable TV documentary "Don't Divorce the Children"
TV directorial debut, helmed episode "Her Cup Runneth Over" for "thirtysomething"
TV-movie debut, "Strays" (USA Network)
Played first leading, top-billed role in "The Skateboard Kid"
Co-founded with brother Buck another small professional theater in Sacramento, the "B" Street Theater (date approximate)
Played Sam Byrd on ABC drama series "The Byrds of Paradise"
Returned to series TV on short-lived ensemble comedy "Champs" (ABC)
Acted in "Buffalo Soldiers" (TNT)
Starred in USA Network movie "Trucks"
Played lead role in UPN movie "Dream House"
Cast in recurring role as reporter Danny Concannon on "The West Wing" (NBC), joined as regular cast member in 2004-05 season as White House deputy press secretary
Directed two episodes of ABC's "Sports Night"
Executive produced and directed several episodes of NBC comedy "Ed"; also had recurring role as Lloyd Stevens
Directed episodes of NBC drama "Las Vegas"
Directed and appeared on several episodes of "Without a Trace" (CBS), also co-executive produced
Re-teamed with Aaron Sorkin for NBC drama "Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip," playing the control-room director
Directed several episodes of FX legal drama "Damages"
Executive produced short-lived NBC series "Lipstick Jungle"
Co-starred in Hallmark Hall of Fame drama "Beyond the Blackboard" (CBS)