In his role of "Dutch" on the edgy police drama "The Shield," (FX, 2001-08) supporting actor Jay Karnes stood out as the show's moral compass amidst an ensemble of shady, thuggish cops. After receiving invaluable training with theater companies in Los Angeles, Karnes began making guest appearances on many of network television's most popular shows. Brief turns on series such as "Chicago Hope" (CBS, 1994-2000) and "Star Trek: Voyager" (1994-2001) helped to establish the adaptable actor in Hollywood. A small role in the Madonna-headlined romantic comedy "The Next Best Thing" (2000) preceded what would become Karnes' breakout role on the groundbreaking series "The Shield," as the intellectual yet everyman detective who harbored an infrequently seen darker side. After the show's celebrated finale, he continued to impress with recurring roles on the outlaw biker saga "Sons of Anarchy" (FX, 2008-14) and on the action series "Burn Notice (USA Network, 2007-13) as a believably cold-blooded killer. Possessing a malleability and range only aided by his "average Joe" appearance, Karnes became a highly-regarded - and steadily employed - supporting actor on some of the best television being produced in the new millennium.
Born on June 27, 1963 in Omaha, NE, Karnes originally had his sights set on being an attorney, and went on to study political science at the University of Kansas at Lawrence. But he also enjoyed theater, and while studying for his LSAT in preparation for law school, he made what would become a life-changing decision - to audition for the Nebraska Shakespeare Festival. The bold move won him paying roles in "A Midsummer Night's Dream" and "Hamlet." Soon enough, his earlier plans for law school were shelved permanently. Karnes joined several repertory troupes, including a Los Angeles Shakespeare company, and it was during a performance in "Romeo & Juliet" as Mercutio that he was discovered by television producer Joe Stern, best known for "Law & Order" (NBC, 1990-2010) and "Judging Amy" (CBS, 1999-2005). Stern cast him in another play, "The Tavern," by the Los Angeles' Matrix Theater Company. Soon thereafter, Karnes met his future wife, actress Julia Campbell.
By the late 1990s, Karnes began to work his way through a slew of TV guest appearances - showing up in small parts on shows such as "The Pretender" (NBC, 1996-2000) and "Chicago Hope" (CBS, 1994-2000 ) as well as "Star Trek: Voyager" (UPN, 1994-2001) and the Stern-produced "Judging Amy." On the big screen, he took a lead role in the independent feature "The Joyriders" (1999), starring Martin Landau and Kris Kristofferson. He followed the next year with a small part in "The Next Best Thing" (2000), an embarrassingly bad romantic comedy starring Madonna and Rupert Everett. Episodic television, however, allowed for more frequent work, providing Karnes with several guest turns on shows like "Ally McBeal" (Fox, 1997-2002), "Nash Bridges" (CBS, 1995-2001) and "Frasier" (NBC, 1993-2004). Talent and persistence paid off, when showrunner Shawn Ryan - who first noticed Karnes on "Nash Bridges" where he had previously served as a writer - cast the unknown as Det. Holland "Dutch" Wagenbach on his new unconventional drama series, "The Shield" (FX, 2001-08).
The gritty cop show, inspired by the LAPD Rampart scandal, followed the exploits of a largely corrupt fictional police division in Los Angeles. As Dutch, Karnes' socially awkward, highly intelligent character was widely considered to be the moral center of the show, frequently butting heads with brutal Strike Team leader Vic Mackey (Michael Chiklis), who seldom hesitated to bend regulations and the law to suit his needs. His nuanced, multi-layered portrayal of Dutch was often at its best when exploring the complex relationship with friend and partner Det. Claudette Wyms (C.C.H. Pounder) - one of the more original and believable cop pairings on television. During the third season, Dutch famously strangled a stray cat to reportedly feel what serial killers he frequently busted felt when they committed their crimes. This dark side made Dutch even more layered, but offscreen, Karnes was forever hounded, usually in good humor, for his controversial feline crime. One of the more beloved characters on the show, Karnes was the only actor other than Chiklis to appear in all episodes. The edgy series was extremely well-received, winning Emmy and Golden Globe awards during its run, which ended in 2008 to great fanfare and acclaim.
As always, Karnes impressed his employers enough that when creative types moved on from one project, they remembered him for their next project. A head writer on "The Shield," Kurt Sutter made sure Karnes had immediate employment with a recurring role on his biker gang drama, "Sons of Anarchy" (FX, 2008-14). As obsessed ATF agent Josh Kohn, Karnes proved he could play creepy just his well as he could play conscientious, before meeting an unseemly and violent demise at the end of the show's first season. He continued to appear on TV frequently, with more recurring guest roles on shows such as "Brothers & Sisters" (ABC, 2006-11) and "Burn Notice" (USA Network, 2007-13), the latter of which effectively showcased his insane side as a rogue agent out to take down burned CIA agent Michael Westen (Jeffrey Donovan) through all means necessary. Karnes took a supporting role in another small feature film, the family drama "Chasing 3000" (2010), starring Ray Liotta, and also popped up on the science fiction series "V" (ABC, 2009-11) in 2011.
Played Martin Landaus son in "The Joyriders"
Cast in "The Next Best Thing" opposite Rupert Everett and Madonna
Starred as Detective Holland "Dutch" Wagenbach, a recently divorced, by-the-book detective in FX's "The Shield"