One of today's most prolific character actors, Stephen Root is widely recognized for his roles as eccentric billionaire Jimmy James on NBC's Emmy-winning sitcom ''NewsRadio'' (1995-1999) and as the voice of Bill Dauterive and Buck Strickland in the Fox animated sitcom ''King of the Hill'' (1997-Present). He also had the recurring role of Republican campaign consultant Bob Mayer on the final two seasons (2005-2006) of the NBC political drama ''The West Wing.''
On the big screen, Root got his first big break while portraying the mumbling Milton Waddams in the cult classic comedy "Office Space" (1999). He has also appeared in films like "Ghost" (1990), "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" (1992), "O Brother, Where Art Thou?" (2000), "Finding Nemo" (2003; voice of Bubbles), "The Ladykillers" (2004), "Jersey Girl" (2004), "Dodgeball: A True Underdog Story" (2004), "Ice Age: The Meltdown" (2006; voice) and "No Country for Old Men" (2007). He will be seen in the upcoming films "Mad Money," "Over Her Dead Body," "Leatherheads" and "Bob Funk."
Root also displayed his talent on stage and made his Broadway debut in the play ''So Long on Lonely Street,'' which was followed by the Tony Award winning production of ''All My Sons'' (1987), starring opposite Richard Kiley.
Childhood and Family:
In Sarasota, Florida, Stephen Root was born on November 17, 1951, to Leona Estelle and Rolland Clair Root, a construction supervisor. During the 1970s, he attended the University of Florida, in Gainesville, Florida, where he received a degree in acting and broadcasting. In 2003, he donated $100,000 to his alma mater to fund an acting studio, which is now called the Stephen Root Acting Studio.
Root is married and has a teenage son.
King of the Hill
Holding acting and broadcasting degrees, Stephen Root passed an audition to join the touring company of the National Shakespeare Company. After three years with the NSC and with other repertory companies, Root settled in New York City and made his off-Broadway theater debut in a revival of R. C. Sherriff's "Journey's End." He also made his first Broadway performance in the play "So Long on Lonely Street," which was short-lived. Root would find more notice in 1987 in a revival of Arthur Miller's "All My Sons" (1987), with Richard Kiley.
Afterward, Root made two German films shot in New York and began receiving parts in film projects. He landed his first American feature in George Romero's "Monkey Shines: An Experiment in Fear" (1988), in which he was cast as a cold-blooded scientist trying to steal a serum. He followed it up with roles as a police sergeant none too sympathetic to Demi Moore's lead character in Jerry Zucker's runaway success romantic drama-fantasy-thriller film "Ghost" (1990) and as Gary Murray in the action-comedy-horror film starring Kristy Swanson, "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" (1992).
Root also worked on TV and played a small role in the NBC Emmy-winning, fact-based movie about the rise and fall of 1920s' Ku Klux Klan leader D.C. Stephenson, "Cross of Fire" (1989; starring John Heard). He also worked in a number of guest roles and is probably best remembered as Kevin McDonald in the CBS movie "A Woman Scorned: The Betty Broderick Story," and its sequel, "Her Final Fury: Betty Broderick The Last Chapter" (both in 1992).
Root also co-starred as R.O. Moon in the CBS short-lived Western series starring Beau Bridges, "Harts of the West" (1993-1994), and scored his big break as Jimmy James, the station's eccentric, extroverted billionaire owner, in the NBC Emmy winning sitcom co-created by Mike Judge, "NewsRadio" (1995-1999), alongside Dave Foley, Maura Tierney, Phil Hartman, Khandi Alexander, Vicki Lewis, Andy Dick, Joe Rogan and Jon Lovitz.
"It's ('NewsRadio') one of those few things in a lifetime things because none of us really were stars. Phil [Hartman] was, but most of us were just good character actors. It was one of those things where everything was going for the good of the show, the writers had the same sense of humor, the actors had the same sense of humor, we would write for each other on the floor. Even the interns could throw in a funny line because it was that free of an atmosphere. That just doesn’t happen on 99.9 percent of sitcoms because they’re so structured. Also what was unusual was that everybody could deliver. Everybody was fast.'' Stephen Root
Meanwhile, Root was nominated for a CableACE Award for Best Supporting Actor in a Movie or Miniseries for his performance opposite Cicely Tyson in the TV movie ''The Road to Galveston'' (1996). He also voiced the regular character of Guillaume Fontaine Delatour "Bill" Dauterive on the Fox animated sitcom, also created by Mike Judge, "King of the Hill" (1997-Present). He also voiced Hank's boss Buck Strickland and dozens of other characters over the course of the series' run. For his work in the show, Root could not accept on-screen credit because of his contract with NBC.
During his ''King of the Hill'' stint, Root co-starred alongside Jennifer Aniston and Ron Livingston in Mike Judge's first live-action effort as writer-director, the comedy "Office Space" (1999). Although it failed to ignite big box office sales, the film has become a cult classic and has since sold very well on video and DVD.
In the late 1990s, TV viewers also caught Root delivering a memorable dramatic turn as NASA flight director Chris Kraft in the Tom Hanks-co-produced HBO twelve-part miniseries about the landmark Apollo expeditions to the moon during the 1960s and early 1970s, "From the Earth to the Moon" (1998), which was largely based on Andrew Chaikin's book, "A Man on the Moon." He also joined the cast of the short-lived Alfred Molina sitcom on CBS, "Ladies Man" (1999-2001).
Entering the new millennium, Root was hired by the Coen brothers for their film "O Brother, Where Art Thou?," a dark comedy loosely based on the story of Homer's "Odyssey" and the 1989 novella "A Dozen Tough Jobs by Howard Waldrop" in which he played the blind disc jockey, alongside George Clooney, John Turturro and Tim Blake Nelson. He would later teamed up with them again in their 2004 film starring Tom Hanks, "The Ladykillers," a remake of the 1955 Ealing comedy of the same name in which Root portrayed Mr. Gudge, the intolerant but easily-flattered manager of the Bandit Queen Casino.
Root was next cast as Greenie in writer/director Kevin Smith's drama/comedy film "Jersey Girl" and co-starred as Gordon Pibb in writer/director Rawson Marshall Thurber's comedy "Dodgeball: A True Underdog Story" (both in 2004), for which he was nominated for an MTV Movie Award for Best On-Screen Team (shared with co-stars Vince Vaughn, Christine Taylor, Justin Long, Alan Tudyk, Joel Moore and Chris Williams). He also had a recurring voice role in the Disney Channel's Emmy-winning cartoon series "Kim Possible" and got his first lead cartoon role in the CGI rendered Sci-Fi Channel series ''Tripping the Rift'' (2004-2005).
When asked if he had to audition for ''Tripping the Rift,'' Root revealed, "No, the guys who originally did it, Chuck Austen and Chris Moeller, came to me and said they had an idea and were thinking of me for the voice of the captain. So we did a five minute demo of it and they shopped that around for a year and a half before they sold it. Then it just went on from there."
Root subsequently voiced Home Base in the Nickelodeon animated comedy series "The X's" (2005-2006) and appeared in the NBC political drama "The West Wing," as campaign consultant Bob Mayer. He was also seen in the Fox satirical animated series "American Dad.” He returned to the big screen in 2006 in the dark comedy film "Idiocracy,” opposite Luke Wilson and Maya Rudolph. Shot in 2004, the film was eventually released in September 2006.
More recently, in 2007, Root once again teamed up with the Coen brothers for "No Country For Old Men," a critically acclaimed film adaptation of the well-received novel of the same name by Cormac McCarthy. In the film, featuring Tommy Lee Jones, Josh Brolin, and Javier Bardem, Root portrayed the businessman behind the drug transaction who hires Woody Harrelson's character.
Root will soon be seen alongside Diane Keaton, Queen Latifah and Katie Holmes in the upcoming comedy-crime film "Mad Money," a remake of the ITV drama of the same name which is set for release on January 18, 2008. He also has completed writer/director Jeff Lowell's upcoming film titled "Over Her Dead Body," alongside Eva Longoria Parker, Paul Rudd, Lake Bell, Jason Biggs and Lindsay Sloane, and the George Clooney directed romantic comedy set in the world of 1920s professional football, "Leatherheads," which also stars Clooney, John Krasinski and Renée Zellweger.
Root is currently working on a comedy film by writer/director Craig Carlisle titled "Bob Funk," in which he will co-star with Eddie Jemison, Rachael Leigh Cook and Amy Ryan. TV viewers will hear his voice in an episode of the second season of the ABC Family animated comedy series "Slacker Cats."