An offbeat presence in films and on television since 2000, character actor Jimmi Simpson gave memorable performances as off-center, occasionally sinister figures in such projects as "Rose Red" (ABC, 2002), "Zodiac" (2006), "The Invention of Lying" (2009) and "Date Night" (2010). Simpson's lanky frame and intense gaze evoked memories of Christopher Walken's early career, and the two actors shared a similar path in terms of their roles, though Simpson's knack for comedy allowed him to work more regularly in that genre - most notably in a recurring role as one of the weird McPoyle brothers on "It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia" (FX, 2005- ). Simpson soon graduated from independent features and television to Hollywood projects like "Date Night" and "Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter" (2012) and the action-drama "Breakout Kings" (A&E, 2011-12), in which he played a psychologist-turned-convict who aided the law in tracking down escaped prisoners. He stayed true to his roots with smaller, oddball projects like the comedy "Knights of Badassdom" (2013), but his mainstream breakout on "House of Cards" (Netflix 2013- ) underscored his growing popularity as one of the most versatile character actors in the business.
He was born James Raymond Simpson, the youngest of three brothers, in Hackettstown, NJ on Nov. 21, 1975. After gaining his acting degree from Bloomberg University in Pennsylvania, he worked in theater in North Carolina before heading for the Williamstown Theatre Festival in Massachusetts, where he was fortunate to land an agent. From there, Simpson traveled to New York City and worked in theater while making his first forays into features and television. Both debuts set in stone Simpson's expertise at playing confrontational, even unpleasant characters. In "Loser" (2000), he and actor Zak Orth were the over-entitled college roommates of naïve Midwesterner Jason Biggs, while the miniseries "Rose Red" cast him as a skeptical college reporter who meets a grisly fate while investigating a haunted house. The latter project also introduced him to New Zealand actress Melanie Lynskey, whom he married in 2007.
With his angular features and measured, often biting speech patterns, Simpson soon found regular work as a character actor on features and television. Though frequently cast as heels of varying stripes, he could also play broad comedy, as seen by his slow-witted sidekick to Matt Dillon in "Herbie: Fully Loaded" (2004) or as Liam McPoyle, the incestuous, seemingly in-bred half of a sibling duo who made life difficult for the anti-heroes of "It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia." He was also equally adept at dramas and action films, as noted by his turn as the outlaw Big Brother in the revisionist Western "Seraphim Falls" (2006) or as a haunted survivor of the Zodiac Killer's attack in David Fincher's "Zodiac" (2007). Simpson's talents were best served in independent features, where he could invest in roles that were not immediately defined by their moral choices. In "A Quiet Little Marriage" (2008), he played the drug-addicted brother of lead and co-writer Cy Carter, whose fears about parenthood are confirmed by his sibling's deadbeat existence. The following year, he contributed a wry comic turn as a self-satisfied amateur scientist to the mockumentary "The Mother of Invention" (2010).
Simpson's dependable performances eventually gained the attention of mainstream feature and television producers, who tapped his quirky talents for their own projects. He landed a starring role in the Broadway production of "The Farnsworth Invention," a 2008 drama penned by Aaron Sorkin about the creator of the television set, which earned Simpson a Theatre World Award for his performance as the unjustly forgotten Farnsworth. Ricky Gervais brought him aboard his directorial debut, "The Invention of Lying" (2009) in a brief but memorable turn as a Coca-Cola pitchman who sold his product in unflinchingly blunt terms, while the top-rated "House, MD" (Fox, 2004-12) cast him as a priest suffering from a genetic condition that mimicked the symptoms of AIDS. He was a crooked cop on the trail of hapless suburbanites Steve Carell and Tina Fey in "Date Night" (2010), and a criminal psychologist named Mary on several episodes of the cult favorite series "Psych" (USA Network, 2006-14). His widest exposure during this period undoubtedly came from his recurring appearances on "Late Night with David Letterman" (CBS, 1993-2015) as Lyle the Intern, an insouciant hipster who barged onto the talk show in an attempt to win his way into the host's good graces.
In 2011, Simpson was featured as a physicist aiding an eccentric billionaire (Sam Elliott) in recreating the conception of the world in "The Big Bang," a largely unseen neo-noir with Antonio Banderas. He also signed on to his first weekly series, "Breakout Kings," produced by "Prison Break" (Fox, 2005-09) execs Nick Santora and Matt Olmstead. Simpson played Lloyd Lowery, a former behaviorist whose gambling addiction led him to a 25-year stint in prison. While there, he participated in a program with the U.S. Marshal's office to help catch escaped convicts. Lowery's unique perspective on the criminal mind helped the team anticipate their fugitive quarry's next move, though his attempts to provide aid to his fellow team members were often met with hostility. That same year, Simpson was cast in the offbeat action-horror film "Abraham Lincoln, Vampire Hunter" (2012) as Joshua Speed, who aided the 16th President in his struggle to rid the world of the undead. This was followed by big screen roles in "The Truth About Emanuel" (2013), action thriller "White House Down" (2013) and nerd-culture comedy "Knights of Badassdom" (2013). The following year, Simpson co-starred on political thriller "House of Cards" (Netflix 2013- ) as Gavin Orsay.
Cast (Feature Film)
Cast (TV Mini-Series)
Made his screen debut in the comedy "Loser"
Joined the cast of "It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia"
Began regularly appearing on "Late Night with David Letterman" as Lyle the Intern
Appeared in the comedy "Date Night"
Starred on the series "Breakout Kings "
Appeared in the action movie "White House Down "
Took on the role of Gavin Dorsay on the series "House of Cards"
Nabbed a recurring part on the crime series "Hap and Leonard"
Joined the cast of the series "Westworld"