Family & Companions
A capable character actor who projected both menace and sympathy, Jonathan Banks spent the better part of a decade bouncing around in small film and television roles before finally winning notice as Zack, a murderous henchman in the hit action comedy "Beverly Hills Cop" (1984). Banks went on to earn both wider recognition and an Emmy Award nomination for his turn as Ken Wahl's cynical boss on the popular crime series, "Wiseguy" (CBS, 1987-1990). But instead of taking that next step, Banks continued to struggle in a long stretch of guest appearances without a regular series role, while also being lost in the background in a number of films like "Under Siege 2: Dark Territory" (1995) and "Dark Blue" (2003). He did make himself known on the second season of "Dexter" (Showtime, 2006-2013) as an FBI agent in pursuit of the Bay Harbor Butcher, but even then he was unable to find that one breakout role that propelled his career. That all changed when he was cast as Mike Ehrmantraut, a former cop-turned-drug fixer on the award-winning series "Breaking Bad" (AMC, 2008-2013) and its prequel "Better Call Saul" (AMC 2015- ). Finally, after decades of looking for that one defining role, Banks received the due he so richly deserved while opening new doors for his already venerable career.
Born on Jan. 31, 1947 in Washington, D.C., Banks was raised by his civil servant father and professor mother who taught at Indiana State University. In fact, Banks attended that same university on scholarship where he was classmates with another future actor, Kevin Kline. But wanting to charge his career forward, he dropped out in 1968 to stage manage a road company of "Hair." When the company toured Australia, Banks stayed behind to direct and manage companies of "Grease" and "Jesus Christ Superstar." He returned to the U.S. in the early 1970s and went to Los Angeles in 1974, where he co-starred with Jean Simmons in the company of "A Little Night Music." While appearing on stage, Banks made his television debut in an episode of "Barnaby Jones" (CBS, 1973-1980) and soon followed with more TV work, including a pilot-turned-television movie called "The Macahans" (ABC, 1976), which led to further roles in several longform movies like "Alexander: The Other Side of Dawn" (NBC, 1977), "The Night They Took Miss Beautiful" (NBC, 1977) and "The Girl in the Empty Grave" (NBC, 1977).
After making his film debut as a marine at a party in Hal Ashby's "Coming Home" (1977), Banks spent the remainder of the decade mostly playing small parts, such as a nameless sergeant in the miniseries "Ike" (ABC, 1979). He landed his first break when he was chosen to play Dutch Schultz in "The Gangster Chronicles" (NBC, 1981), a series that was well-received by critics but lasted only a scant seven episodes before being pulled from the air. The following year he was on "Report to Murphy" (CBS, 1982), a short-lived sitcom about an idealistic parole officer (Michael Keaton), while on the big screen he won notice as a San Francisco detective who gets killed during the opening hotel shootout in "48 Hrs." (1982). After playing a hitchhiker who encounters Jessica Lange in "Frances" (1982), Banks was the bad guy who kills Axel Foley's (Eddie Murphy) friend and vows to kill Foley himself in "Beverly Hills Cop" (1984). Following a small turn in "Gremlins" (1984), Banks went back to TV to play Kommander Kroll, the evil slug out to kill a family transferred to the future on "Otherworld" (CBS, 1985).
Finally, after almost a decade of struggling to find the right role, Banks received his due as Frank McPike on the crime series, "Wiseguy" (CBS, 1987-1990), where he played the superior officer and mentor to series lead, Ken Wahl, and earned an Emmy Award nomination for Best Supporting Actor in 1989. Seven years later, he reprised the role for the made-for-TV movie of the same name in 1996. Meanwhile, Banks went back and forth between television and film, typically landing roles that were barely worthy of note until playing a mercenary in the Steven Segal action thriller, "Under Siege 2: Dark Territory" (1995). Demonstrating his comedic abilities, Banks was the bar owner with a crush on Sharon Lawrence on the sitcom "Fired Up" (NBC, 1997-98). Following a series of television movies, he found steady work with a slew of guest starring roles on popular shows like "Partners" (CBS, 1995-2000), "Diagnosis Murder" (CBS, 1993-2001), "The District" (CBS, 2000-04), "CSI: Crime Scene Investigation" (CBS, 2000-2015), "Without a Trace" (CBS, 2002-09) and "ER" (NBC, 1994-2009).
Of course, Banks continued appearing in movies like "Crocodile Dundee in Los Angeles" (2001), "Dark Blue" (2003) and "Reign Over Me" (2007), but it was television that appeared to offer him the more consistent work as well as the more interesting characters. Graduating to darker cable programs, Banks had roles as FBI Deputy Director Max Adams, who pushes aside Frank Lundy (Keith Carradine) while searching for the Bay Harbor Butcher on season two of "Dexter" (Showtime, 2006-2013). After more guest appearances on shows like "Lie to Me" (NBC, 2008-2011), "Cold Case" (CBS, 2003-2010) and "Castle" (ABC, 2008-2016), Banks landed the role of his career playing Mike Ehrmantraut, a former cop-turned-fixer, cleaner and hit man for a drug kingpin (Giancarlo Esposito) on the critically acclaimed "Breaking Bad" (AMC, 2008-2013). Joining the show during season two as a guest star to help Walt (Bryan Cranston) and Jesse (Aaron Paul) out of a particularly difficult mess, Banks was quickly written into the series as a regular the following season. Cold, calculating and unwilling to take unnecessary risks, Banks' Mike performs his duties with ruthless precision, only to routinely butt heads with the increasingly egomaniacal Walt. Mike also appeared in the series' 2002-set prequel, "Better Call Saul" (AMC 2014- ). Between seasons, Banks appeared in films including the comedy "Identity Thief" (2013), "Authors Anonymous" (2014), "Horrible Bosses 2" (2014) and action comedy "Term Life" (2016).
By Shawn Dwyer
Cast (Feature Film)
Writer (Feature Film)
Cast (TV Mini-Series)
Played Frid in an L.A. production of "A Little Night Music" starring Jean Simmons
Made his TV debut on an episode of "Barnaby Jones"
Made feature film debut as "Party Marine" in "Coming Home"
Played Dutch Schultz in "The Gangster Chronicles" series
Played Vinnie in "Report to Murphy" series
Co-starred as Zack in "Beverly Hills Cop"
Played Kommander Kroll in "Otherworld" series
Wrote "Saturday Night Special", feature film released directly to video
Co-starred as Scotty in "Under Siege 2: Dark Territory"
Reprised role of McPike in "Wiseguy" TV-movie on ABC
Co-starred as Frank McPike in "Wiseguy" (CBS)
Co-starred in the NBC sitcom "Fired Up"
Appeared in "Crocodile Dundee in Los Angeles"
Played a high-ranking cop in "Dark Blue"
Co-starred on the short lived series "Day Break"
Had breakout role of Mike Ehrmantraut on the acclaimed series "Breaking Bad"
Appeared in the comedy "Identity Thief"
Took on the role of Professor Buzz Hickey on the acclaimed comedy "Community"
Reprised his role on "Breaking Bad" for the prequel spin-off series "Better Call Saul"
Appeared in the thriller "Term Life"
Played a racist sharecropper in Netflix's historical drama "Mudbound"
Appeared in action thriller "The Commuter"