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Dean Norris

One of the busiest character actors of the late 20th and early 21st century, Dean Norris worked steadily in features and on television, essaying an astonishing number of policemen, detectives, military men and the occasional criminal, all without name recognition or acclaim until his much-lauded turn as a DEA agent on "Breaking Bad" (AMC, 2008-2013). His flinty exterior made him an ideal screen match for such Hollywood tough guys as Mel Gibson and Arnold Schwarzenegger, though he could be found more often on small screen dramas ranging from "NYPD Blue" (ABC, 1993-2005) and "The X-Files" (Fox, 1993-2002; 2016- ) to "24" (Fox, 2001-2010) and "The West Wing" (NBC, 1996-2006). In 2008, he was cast as Hank Schrader, the blustery brother-in-law to Bryan Cranston's teacher/meth kingpin on "Breaking Bad," which became a major critical hit for five years. In addition to increasing his profile, the series also allowed Norris to show a greater range of emotions than in previous projects, which in turn, made him a much-desired character player in higher profile feature projects. Norris' tenacity and professionalism gave living proof that acting careers could still blossom after decades in the business. Born Dean Joseph Norris in South Bend, IN on April 8, 1963, he was one of five children and the only son of Jack Norris, a furniture store owner who moonlighted as a singer in a band, and his wife, Rosie. After graduating from Clay High School, Norris was accepted at Harvard, which made him the first member of his family to attend college. He accepted a job with an investment banking firm while still a student at Harvard. The company's frequent business trips to New York City also allowed him to audition for roles in theater, as well as a chance to train with the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art, which accepted him after graduation from Harvard in 1985. Upon completion of his studies in London, Norris began appearing in supporting roles on television. His burly frame and intense presence made him ideal for hardnosed authority figures like policemen and military officers, which comprised the majority of his early projects, including his feature film debut in "Lethal Weapon 2" (1989). More action-oriented films soon followed, including "Total Recall" (1990) and "Terminator 2: Judgment Day" (1991), though on occasion, he worked outside of the genre, most notably in a recurring turn as a priest on "NYPD Blue." In 1995, he made an appearance on "The X-Files," which marked his first collaboration with "Breaking Bad" creator Vince Gilligan. Norris worked steadily throughout the 1990s and 2000s, moving from independent and low-budget projects like "Without Limits" (1998), which cast him as Olympian-turned-coach Bill Dellinger, who was instrumental in training distance running legend Steve Prefontaine, to major films and television series like "Gattaca" (1997), "Starship Troopers" (1997) and "24." His first stint as a series regular came in 2003 with the Sci Fi Channel series "Tremors," a spin-off of the popular science fiction comedy-thriller franchise. Television soon became his primary showcase, including appearances on "The West Wing," "Nip/Tuck" (FX, 2003-09) and "Bones" (Fox, 2005-17). However, his profile increased considerably after he was cast as Hank Schrader, DEA agent and brother-in-law to terminally ill teacher-turned-meth dealer Walter White (Bryan Cranston) on "Breaking Bad." Initially portrayed as a blowhard, Hank developed into a more sympathetic character over the course of the series' five seasons, especially after being shot and paralyzed after unknowingly taking a drug cartel bullet for Walter. Audiences soon came to see him as a fiercely loyal family man who hid his own fear of coming across as weak, most notably in a lengthy second season story arc when he suffered traumatic stress after a nearly fatal explosion while on border patrol. For his work on "Breaking Bad," Norris received a Best Supporting Actor nomination from the Saturn Awards, as well as a Writers Guild Award nomination for Outstanding Performance by an Ensemble in a Drama. The critical acclaim that surrounded "Breaking Bad" led to additional work for Norris outside of the series, including recurring roles on "Medium" (NBC/CBS, 2005-2011) and "CSI: Crime Scene Investigation" (CBS, 2000-15), as well as guest appearances on "True Blood" (HBO, 2008-14), among countless other series. In 2012, he returned to features opposite Mel Gibson in "Get the Gringo" (2012) before adding a slew of supporting roles in features to his already busy slate, including "The Frozen Ground" (2013) with Nicolas Cage and John Cusack. After the conclusion of "Breaking Bad," Norris co-starred in the Stephen King drama "Under the Dome" (CBS 2013-15) and the nail salon-set comedy-drama "Claws" (TNT 2017- ), and began a recurring role as a military intelligence officer in "The Big Bang Theory" (CBS 2007- ). During the same period, he also appeared in films including Ridley Scott's "The Counselor" (2013), crime comedy "Small Time" (2014), Jason Reitman's comedy-drama "Men, Women and Children" (2014), and Atom Egoyan's "Remember" (2015). Norris also appeared in the broad comedy "Fist Fight" (2017), Colin Trevorrow's critical misfire "The Book of Henry" (2017), espionage drama "Beirut" (2018) and the Bruce Willis remake of "Death Wish" (2018).
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