Family & Companions
Actor-director Tate Donovan began his career in front of the camera while barely out of his teens, only to discover a second vocation as a television director some 20 years later. Blessed with boyish good looks and a winning smile, Donovan made early feature film appearances in modest offerings like the teenage sci-fi adventure "Space Camp" (1986). Supporting roles in "Clean and Sober" (1988) and "Memphis Belle" (1990) offered more adult material and paved the way for Donovan's first starring role in the romantic-comedy "Love Potion No. 9" (1992), co-starring Sandra Bullock. Behind the scenes, Bullock became one of several A-list actresses Donovan would become romantically involved with, followed by the likes of Jennifer Aniston and Lauren Graham. He starred alongside Jon Cryer in the short-lived sitcom "Partners" (Fox, 1995-96) then voiced the Greek demigod "Hercules" (1997) for the Disney animated feature. During his time as a regular cast member on the teen drama "The O.C." (Fox, 2003-07), Donovan began to segue into directorial work, a dual role he continued during his three-year stint on the legal drama "Damages" (FX, 2007-2010; Audience Network, 2011- ). Multi-talented and ambitious, Donovan's willingness to diversify assured him the kind of job security rarely enjoyed in the unpredictable professional landscape of Hollywood.
The youngest of seven children born to surgeon J. Timothy Donovan, and his wife, Eileen McCallister, Tate Buckley Donovan arrived on Sept. 25, 1963. A native of New York City, NY, Donovan was raised in Tenafly, NJ, where he attended public high school. An actor since his teens, Donovan attended the University of Southern California to study theatre in the early-1980s. It was there that he met fellow actor and future lifelong friend, George Clooney. Donovan made his big screen debut right out of college with a small role in the 1984 comedy "No Small Affair," starring Jon Cryer and Demi Moore, followed by the substantial role of Kevin Donaldson, the cocky older camp vet in the sophomoric sci-fi adventure "SpaceCamp" (1986). Two years later, Donovan turned heads with his gripping portrayal of a recovering drug addict in director Glenn Gordon Caron's "Clean and Sober" (1988), starring Michael Keaton. This led to Donovan landing a solid supporting role opposite Don Johnson in "Dead Bang" (1989), a competent, if uninspired action-thriller directed by the late John Frankenheimer.
Continuing to enjoy steady employment well into the next decade, Donovan shined brightly in his co-starring roles as WWII bomber pilot Lieutenant Luke Sinclair in "Memphis Belle," a BAFTA-nominated war drama directed by Michael Caton-Jones. Though "Memphis Belle" failed to live up to studio expectations, the film helped Donovan seize his first leading role in the charming, but minor "Love Potion No. 9" (1992). Donovan next appeared in three independent art-house features: "Inside Monkey Zetterland" (1992), "Ethan Frome"(1993) and director Alan Rudolph's "Equinox" (1993), before following up with a role in the Disney family comedy, "Holy Matrimony" (1994).
In the mid-1990s, Donovan reunited with former co-star Jon Cryer to headline the delightfully funny, but tragically short-lived sitcom, "Partners" (Fox, 1995-96). A bigger hit with critics than with viewers, "Partners" was unfortunately canned after only 22 episodes. In 1997, Donovan returned to Disney for his highest profile effort at that point, providing the adult voice for the title character in the animated feature, "Hercules." That same year, Donovan returned to TV, joining his "Memphis Belle" co-stars Eric Stoltz and Reed Diamond to play three troubled brothers in a memorable episode of "Homicide: Life on the Street" (NBC, 1993-99), while simultaneously juggling a recurring role as a client-turned-potential love interest for Calista Flockhart's titular lawyer on "Ally McBeal" (Fox, 1997-2002). Switching back and forth between networks, Donovan also won a recurring role as the love interest of his then-real-life girlfriend, Jennifer Aniston, on her smash hit series "Friends" (NBC, 1994-2004).
Donovan's career went through a slight cooling period with the dawn of the new millennium. During the early 2000s, the actor appeared in a string of experimental short films such as 2000's one-joke pony, "Jesus and Hutch," in which he played the Son of God as a 1970's-style crime fighter, and leading parts in low-rent films such as Christopher Coppola's "G-Men from Hell" (2000). Even so, Donovan wisely kept one foot in the mainstream, taking small supporting roles in more commercial fare like the techno-thriller "Swordfish" (2001). Two years later, Donovan returned to series television to take a supporting role in the short-lived political drama, "Mister Sterling" (NBC, 2003-04). Fortunately for this veteran of cancelled series and almost-hits, a hit proved just around the corner. In 2003, Donovan courted a hip, young audience on his first bona fide hit series when he took on the role of Jimmy Cooper, the Newport Beach-based dysfunctional dad of heroine Marissa (Mischa Barton), on "The O.C." (Fox, 2003-07). During his three season tenure on the hit drama, Tate even found time to direct a few episodes.
Donovan's newfound popularity also resulted in higher profile film roles, including playing the late father of the brood Vin Diesel must protect in the Disney comedy "The Pacifier" (2005). Growing progressively more comfortable playing mature, but hip patriarch roles, Donovan eased into his next role as Carson Drew, the father of America's favorite teen detective in the eponymous "Nancy Drew" (2007), starring Emma Roberts. Going completely in the opposite direction, he took on the title role in the little-seen indie biopic about Beat Generation hero "Neal Cassady" (2007). That same year, Donovan joined the cast of the acclaimed legal drama "Damages" (FX, 2007-2010; Audience Network, 2011-12) as Tom Shayes, the right-hand man of notoriously ruthless attorney Patty Hewes (Glenn Close). Donovan's impressive tenure with the show ended after three seasons, when his character was murdered by the vengeful son of a Bernie Madoff-like financier. Just as with "The O.C.," Donovan also directed several episodes of the series, as well as a pair of installments on another of the network's more popular shows, the cosmetic surgery potboiler "Nip/Tuck" (FX, 2003-2010). Other directorial work included helming episodes of the series "The Good Guys" (Fox, 2010), "Gossip Girl" (The CW, 2007-12) and the musical-comedy hit "Glee" (Fox, 2009-15).
Cast (Feature Film)
Misc. Crew (Feature Film)
Cast (TV Mini-Series)
Feature acting debut, "No Small Affair" opposite Jon Cryer
TV-movie debut, "Not My Kid" (CBS)
Episodic TV debut, "Magnum, P.I." (CBS)
Worked as a still photographer on two wildlife documentaries for "Mutual of Omaha's Spirit of Adventure"
First film in a featured role, "Memphis Belle"
Landed first leading role in "Love Potion No. 9"
Made Broadway debut in the Roundabout revival of "Picnic" opposite Ashley Judd
Co-starred with Jon Cryer on Fox sitcom "Partners"
Played memorable guest role on "Homicide: Life on the Street" (NBC) as the brother of Det. Kellerman (Reed Diamond)
Provided the voice for Disney's animated feature "Hercules"; also voiced the character for ABC animated TV spin-off "Hercules: The Wonder Boy Years"
Played the love interest of Jennifer Aniston's Rachel on a few episodes of NBC sitcom "Friends"
Returned to series TV playing a priest in an Irish Catholic family in "Trinity" (NBC)
Featured in the Broadway production of "Amy's View," starring Judi Dench
Appeared in off-Broadway production of "Lobby Hero"
Portrayed Jimmy Cooper on Fox teen drama "The O.C."
Starred in the George Clooney directed "Goodnight, and Good Luck," a 1950s-era drama that chronicled broadcaster Edward R. Murrow's campaign to bring down Senator Joseph McCarthy
Made directing debut with an episode of "The O.C." (Fox)
Cast as the title character's father in the big-screen adaptation of "Nancy Drew"
Cast as Tom Shayes, a partner at the firm of Glenn Close's Patty Hewes on FX legal drama "Damages"
Began directing episodes of "Damages" (FX)
Cast in the Broadway production of David Lindsay-Abaire's "Good People"
Directed an episode of the Showtime series "Weeds" in the sixth season
Directed the Valentine's themed episode of "Glee" (Fox)
Cast in political thriller "Argo," directed by Ben Affleck