“24” George Mason
Xander Berkeley is widely recognized as George Mason (2001-2003) on Fox’s hit spy series “24.” The 6' tall, slim, blond character actor, who often plays arrogant and unsympathetic characters, has appeared in such films as Mommie Dearest (1981), Sid and Nancy (1986), Internal Affairs (1990), Safe (1995), Leaving Las Vegas (1995), Heat (1995), Air Force One (1997), Timecode (2000), North Country (2005), Seraphim Falls (2006) and Fracture (2007). He will soon star in a yet-untitled TV pilot alongside wife Sarah Clarke, Famke Janssen and Dorian Missick.
Childhood and Family:
In Brooklyn, New York, Xander R. Berkeley was born on December 16, 1955. He graduated from Hampshire College and honed in on his acting skills at HB Studio, in New York, New York.
While on the set of "24," Berkeley met actress Sarah Clarke (born on February 16, 1972), who played Nina Myers on the Fox hit series. They became engaged in May 2002 and were married on September 7, 2002. The couple has one child together, Olwyn Harper Berkeley, born on September 23, 2006.
Besides acting, Berkeley is an accomplished painter and sculptor. He is also a skilled make-up artist and designed his own make up on "24" when his character was suffering from radiation.
“The inclination started pretty early with me. I seemed not to have much interest in toys as a very young child. I was more into costumes. Since my mother sewed, I was able to live out these different characters, but it wasn't about performing. It was about transforming and going off into the woods and becoming a character from another time and place. That was the thing that I found transportive. The lapse was not too long because I did school plays here and there along the way, along with exposure to a community theater (Black River Playhouse) out in New Jersey, where I was growing up. A friend's father was the artistic director and when I was 14, I was lured into building sets during the summer.” Xander Berkeley (when asked at what point he decided to pursue acting as a vocation)
Acting at a New Jersey experimental theater as a child, Xander Berkeley later sharpened his skills under the supervision of Uta Hagen and Lee Strasberg. By this time, he had made early stage performances, which included "Days in a Can," "Early Dark" and "The Happy Hunter."
In 1981, Berkeley landed his film debut in the movie Mommie Dearest, starring Faye Dunaway. In director Frank Perry's adaptation of the 1978 best selling memoir by Christina Crawford, Berkeley portrayed the adult version of Christopher Crawford, the adopted son of screen queen Joan Crawford. On how he got the role, Berkeley recalled, “I had been in New York doing theater and studying with lots of different people and getting a taste of lots of different techniques and methods of working. It was just sort of a crash course for about four or five years and then I went to Los Angeles. I had an agent that came to see me in a play by Reynolds Price, a southern novelist who wrote Early Dark, one of the best plays that I've ever done. There was a lot of attention. I got a good review in the New York Times and a lot of agents came. This agent had just gone with William Morris and got me to join him when he moved from the east coast to the west coast office. Through an introduction that he made in that initial burst of meetings with Lynn Stalmaster, who is one of the great casting directors, I was cast in Mommy Dearest not too long after that.
The following years saw Berkeley on such TV shows as CBS’ medical drama/dark comedy "M*A*S*H," NBC’s detective series starring Pierce Brosnan, "Remington Steele," NBC’s action/adventure series "The A-Team," CBS’ anthology series "The Twilight Zone" and ABC's comedy/mystery/romance show starring Bruce Willis and Cybill Shepherd, "Moonlighting." He returned to the big screen and made his first collaboration with director Alex Cox in the sordid biographical of Sex Pistols bassist Sid Vicious and his girlfriend Nancy Spungen, Sid and Nancy (1986), starring Gary Oldman and Nancy Spungen. He followed it up with featured roles in two Cox’s films, the strange comedy/western/musical Straight to Hell (featuring Sy Richardson, The Clash frontman Joe Strummer and Courtney Love) and Walker, based on the life story of William Walker (played by Ed Harris), the American adventurer who proclaimed himself president of Nicaragua in 1855 and ruled the country until 1857.
Berkeley wrapped up the 1980s with roles on CBS’ busted pilot "Dr. Paradise" and on NBC’s movie L.A. Takedown, helmed by Michael Mann. He entered the new decade appearing in Mike Figgis' dramatic film, Internal Affairs, starring Richard Gere and Andy Garcia, and in Stephen Frears' neo-noir film starring John Cusack, Anjelica Huston and Annette Bening, The Grifters, based upon a pulp fiction novel by Jim Thompson.
“With The Grifters (1990), it just happened suddenly. It's really just getting a sense from talking to the costume person, who often has a better sense than talking to the director. You know, ‘So this is what I'm wearing. Okay, so he's that kind of guy.’ It's amazing how often wardrobe is the thing, maybe because that was my genesis. When I know the look of the character and I do not have much lead time, if there is make-up involved, it transforms the way you look at the character. You immediately go to an instinctive level, ‘What kind of guy is this?’ and ‘What color is needed here in this part of the movie?’ My mantra has always been, ‘How do I help tell this story? What is needed in this point in the movie? What could take it further? Do they need something that's just going to blend in?’” Xander Berkeley
In 1995, Berkeley eventually got his first leading role in features as the husband of Julianne Moore's character in Todd Haynes' arguably most critically successful film to date, Safe, a drama/thriller set in an affluent neighborhood of the San Fernando Valley in 1987.
“There was a lot more time required and available with Safe (1995) to prepare. Instead of going further out from myself in one direction or another, it was a question of drawing everything in and becoming aware of a guy who is much less free in his body and voice and mannerisms and gestures and everything; someone that walks in straight lines and has less animation in general than I have. Being an actor and a sort of an extrovert to begin with, that was like reigning in and focusing and a real sense of linear focus for me. That was just the work that I did in preparation. Todd (Haynes) came out and Julianne (Moore) was out from New York at that time and we did all the rehearsals over at my house. We did some over at Todd's little apartment, but I had enough area at my house to be able to approximate the different rooms and locations that we would be shooting in. That was a luxury. The bigger the role, sometimes the more lead time you have and time to get focused.” Xander Berkeley (on Safe, 1995)
Following his first film-starring role, Berkeley received small parts in Mike Figgis' Leaving Las Vegas, a romantic drama film based on a semi-autobiographical novel by John O'Brien, which starred Nicolas Cage and Elisabeth Shue, and Michael Mann's Heat, a crime/thriller/drama film starring Al Pacino, Robert De Niro and Val Kilmer. He also supported Harrison Ford in Wolfgang Petersen's 1997 action/thriller film Air Force One, in which he played Secret Service Agent Gibbs. Additionally, TV audiences could catch him as astronaut Buzz Aldrin in the Family Channel TV movie Apollo 11.
“In the case of Air Force One (1997), the filmmakers couldn't make their minds up about my motivation. Why had I become a traitorous Secret Service man and why was I turning on the president? Why was I letting the Russian terrorist on the plane? Was it for greed or money or because I was this deep mole in the Communist Party since I was in high school and somehow covered my tracks skillfully enough to pass all the filters that would be required to be a Secret Service man for the president? They had not made up their minds and they did not want to have their options limited. They wanted to be able to make their minds up at some point during the course of the filming, so I was forced to play it ‘open to interpretation.’” Xander Berkeley (on Air Force One, 1997)
In the new millennium, Berkeley was cast as Marshal Nathan Van Cleef in Tom Dey's action comedy movie Shanghai Noon, starring Jackie Chan and Owen Wilson. He also starred as Evan Wantz in writer-director Mike Figgis' experimental drama film Timecode. The film, with four frames of simultaneous action, also stars Salma Hayek, Stellan Skarsgård and Kyle MacLachlan. Berkeley revealed, “The burden in Timecode was increased because I had to sort of direct within because he made me the guy that's running these pitch meetings. I had to control actors giving pitches and it's sort of like having to rip the meat out of the piranha's jaw in order to hand it to the next one without showing the seams in the process. Because, when actors get on a roll, you know that by minute 35 or whatever it was on our digital watches we were all wearing and keeping an eye on when the camera moved off of us, I'm running a pitch meeting and I know that everybody has to have spoken within a very short period of time, so there is this incredible challenge of having to be outside of it and inside at the same time because I had to control things. Getting everybody into the conference room by minute 37, getting certain things orchestrated from within - it was a whole different set of challenges in Timecode that were at play.”
From 2001 to 2003, Berkeley joined the cast of Fox spy thriller series starring Keifer Sutherland, "24," playing George Mason, the District Director of the Los Angeles division of the Counter Terrorist Unit (CTU). He had a recurring part during the show’s first season and eventually was picked up as a main cast member in the show’s second season. He said, “They (the “24” producers) just offered me the role and I didn't even know exactly which role it was. They said that they thought I was going to be the head of the CTU and then they ended up killing that guy off in another episode.”
After “24,” Berkeley appeared in several episodes of CBS’ popular, Emmy-winning crime-drama series "CSI: Crime Scene Investigation," playing Sheriff Rory Atwater (2003-2004), and Cartoon Network's animated series "Teen Titans," providing the voice of Mento/General Immortus (2004-2005). Meanwhile, he continued working in films and was seen in Niki Caro's Academy Award-nominated film based on the case Jenson v. Eveleth Taconite Co., North Country, starring Charlize Theron, and Matthew Cole Weiss' romantic drama comedy Standing Still, played Adam Garcia's long-lost junkie father.
Recently, Berkeley starred in writer-director David Wike's dark comedy Champions (with Kevin Corrigan, Ebon Moss-Bachrach and Clea DuVall) and David Von Ancken's drama Seraphim Falls (starring Pierce Brosnan and Liam Neeson). His latest film, Fracture, a legal/crime suspense film directed by Gregory Hoblit, was released on April 20, 2007. In the film that stars Anthony Hopkins and Ryan Gosling, Berkeley played Judge Moran. He has completed an untitled TV series pilot alongside wife Sarah Clarke, Famke Janssen and Dorian Missick.