John Shea

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John Shea
JohnShea crop.jpg
Born John Victor Shea III[1]
(1949-04-14) April 14, 1949 (age 65)
North Conway, New Hampshire, U.S.
Occupation Actor
Years active 1975-present
Spouse(s) Laura Pettibone (m. 1971–2000)
Melissa MacLeod (m. 2001)[1]

John Victor Shea III (born April 14, 1949) is an American actor and director who has starred on stage, television and in film. He is best known for his role as Lex Luthor in the 1990s TV series Lois & Clark: The New Adventures of Superman and also starred in the short-lived 1990s TV series WIOU as Hank Zaret. Later on in the 2000s he starred on the series Mutant X as Adam Kane.

Early life[edit]

Shea was born in North Conway, New Hampshire, near where his father was teaching at Fryeburg Academy, Maine, and was raised in the Sixteen Acres area of Springfield, Massachusetts in a family of five. His parents were Elizabeth Mary (née Fuller) and Dr. John Victor Shea, Jr.,[2] who served in the U.S. Army in World War II, fought in the Battle of the Bulge, and was a teacher, coach and later assistant Superintendent of Schools. It was his mother who introduced him to literature, poetry, classical music, and art and urged him to study the piano; his father, a scholar-athlete at Bates College, taught him positive thinking and the values of the ancient Greek ideals of body, mind, and spirit.

Shea attended Catholic schools in Springfield, graduating from Cathedral High School where he captained the varsity debate team and played varsity football and track. Shea received his early theatre training at Bates College under Lavinia Schaffer and Bill Beard. He also performed on the varsity debating and football teams and co-edited the college literary magazine, Puffed Wheat, before graduating with a BA in 1970.[1] He studied acting and directing at the Yale School of Drama under Dean Robert Brustein, gaining an MFA in Directing in 1973.[1] During his time at the School of Drama, he also performed at the Yale Repertory Theatre, in the Yale cabaret with schoolmates Joe Grifasi and Meryl Streep, and studied filmmaking with Arthur Penn, Sidney Lumet, and George Roy Hill in the film program at the Art and Architecture School.

After two summers during college acting in Mac Dixon's Theatre Workshop of Nantucket productions, in 1973 Shea worked with John Wulp's Nantucket Stage Company as an assistant director and actor in a production of Dracula. This production, with set and costume designs by Edward Gorey, later transferred from Nantucket to Broadway, starred Frank Langella, won Tony Awards, ran for three years, and gave Shea his first glimpse into what it takes to create a critical and commercial success.

Stage and screen debuts[edit]

After a directing apprenticeship at both the Chelsea Theatre under Robert Kalfin and the Public Theater with Joseph Papp, he made his Broadway debut at the age of 26 in Kalfin's production of Isaac B. Singer's "Yentl" opposite Tovah Feldshuh, for which he received the Theatre World Award. Yentl started Off Broadway at the Chelsea Theatre Center at the Brooklyn Academy of Music and, after a favorable reception, was moved to the Eugene O'Neill Theatre by producer and Actor's Studio co-founder, Cheryl Crawford, and was later made into a film starring Barbra Streisand. After seeing his performance Lee Strasberg invited Shea to join the Actors Studio where he spent several years observing Method acting techniques.

in 1977, during his first trip to trip to Los Angeles to get experience in front of a camera, he was a guest star roles in such TV series as Eight Is Enough and Man from Atlantis and co-starred in "The Last Convertible", a mini-series for Universal. Shea made his television film debut playing Joseph in The Nativity (1978) opposite Madeleine Stowe as Mary, a biblical epic shot in Spain. His feature film debut came in Matthew Chapman's English film noir Hussy (1980) opposite Helen Mirren. Shea was given above the title billing with Mirren by producer Don Boyd which established him a star in England and allowed him to work there during his career.

His American film debut was in Constantin Costa-Gavras's Academy Award-winning Missing (1982) with Jack Lemmon and Sissy Spacek. Based on a true story retold in the book The Execution Of Charles Horman, Shea impersonated Horman, an American journalist who was kidnapped, tortured, and executed by the Pinochet regime during the military coup that over threw the Allende government in Chile. The film, shot on locations in Mexico, also won the Palme d'Or at the Cannes Film Festival and helped launch Shea's international acting career. Costa-Gavras cast Shea without an audition after seeing his performance as a machiavellian English punk rock producer in Steven Poliakoff's play American Days at the Manhattan Theatre Club, directed by Jacques Levy.


Since Missing, Shea has starred in many films, including Armyan Bernstein's Windy City[3] (opposite Kate Capshaw[3] for which he won a "Best Actor" award at the Montreal Film Festival in 1984); Stealing Home with Mark Harmon, Jodie Foster and Blair Brown; the French thriller Lune de Miel with Nathalie Baye (also known as Honeymoon; the film was shot in both French and English); Uri Barbash's epic Unsettled Land (Israel, 1987) with Kelly McGillis and an Israeli cast; Alan Alda's comedy A New Life with Alan Alda and Ann-Margret; Jim Goddard's The Impossible Spy with Eli Wallach and Michal Bat-Adam, also shot in Israel ("Best Actor" Golden Panda Award in China); the futuristic Freejack (1992) with Rene Russo and Emilio Estevez; and the Disney comedy Honey, I Blew Up the Kid with Rick Moranis and Lloyd Bridges.

In 1982 Shea co-hosted, with Kathryn Walker, the June 12th Anti-Nuclear Rally in Central Park, the largest political rally in the history of the United States. Over a million people filled Central Park to hear performances by James Taylor, Jackson Browne, Bruce Springsteen, Peter, Paul, and Mary, Rita Marley, and Pete Seeger and speeches by Orson Welles, Meryl Streep, Dr. Helen Caldicott and others. This rally was the subject of the 1984 documentary film In Our Hands by Robert Richer and Stan Warnow, in which Shea appears.

He made his debut into Indian cinema with the 2009 Tamil drama Achchamundu! Achchamundu!, directed by Indo-American film director Arun Vaidyanathan, becoming the first American actor to work in a Tamil film. In his only animated film, Light Years directed by Harvey Weinstein, Shea voiced the central character Sylvain. Shea recently wrote and directed Grey Lady, a romantic thriller set on Nantucket, starring Eric Dane, Natalie Zea, Adrian Lester, Carolyn Stotesberry, Chris Meyer, and Amy Madigan. The independent film, produced by Beacon Pictures and shot by Andrzej Bartkowiack, is currently in post-production. [4]

Independent films[edit]

Shea has also starred in a number of independent films, including The Adventures of Sebastian Cole (1998) with Adrian Grenier; Scott Dacko's political thriller The Insurgents (2007) with Mary Stuart Masterson; "An Invisible Sign" (2011) with Jessica Alba; and Jim Hemphill's romantic comedy "The Trouble With the Truth" (2012) with Lea Thompson; film critic Roger Ebert's review called Shea's performance in this film "towering". In addition, Shea co-wrote and directed the independent film Southie (1998) starring Donnie Wahlberg, Rose McGowan, Amanda Peet, Anne Meara, Will Arnet, Jimmy Cummings and Lawrence Tierney. Southie won the Seattle International Film Festival award for Best Film, represented the United States at the Montreal International Festival, and was distributed by Lions Gate Films. Southie was the first film shot entirely in South Boston, Massachusetts, once a power base for the Irish mob. He has also served on the Board of Advisors of the Nantucket Film Festival since its inception, a festival dedicated to the art of screenwriting.,

Stage work[edit]

Since his Broadway debut in "Yentl" Shea has continued to work in Off-Broadway and Broadway theatre productions, starring in Arthur Kopit's End of the World starring with Linda Hunt and Barnard Hughes, directed by Hal Prince; Paula Vogel's Pulitzer Prize winner How I Learned to Drive with Molly Ringwold; Anne Meara's Down the Garden Paths with Eli Wallach and Anne Jackson; Eugene O'Neill's Long Day's Journey Into Night (Joseph Jefferson Award nom., Best Actor) at Chicago's Goodman Theatre; the original production of A. R. Gurney's The Dining Room at Playwright's Horizons; Peter Parnell's romantic comedy The Sorrows of Stephen at the Public Theatre; Andre Serban's production of Bulgakov's The Master and Margarita also at the Public Theatre with F. Murray Abraham and Wally Shawn (in which he played Christ); Steven Poliakoff's American Days at the Manhattan Theatre Club, for which he received a "Best Actor" nomination from the Drama Desk Awards; Theodore Mann's production of Romeo and Juliet on Broadway at Circle in the Square; Philip Barry's The Animal Kingdom opposite Sigourney Weaver directed by John Wulp; the title role in Nancy Hasty's The Director, directed by Evan Bergman; Israel Horowitz's The Secret of Madame Bonnard's Bath on Theatre Row; in the National Theatre of England's production of Ibsen's Rosmersholm, he played opposite Suzanne Bertish at LaMama. At the Williamstown Theatre he performed in Daniella Frank in a two character play opposite Bianca Jagger, directed by Jack Hofsis.

Shea is the Artistic Director Emeritus of the Theatre Workshop of Nantucket where he helped produce forty productions and acted in David Harrower's Blackbird, a revival of The Director, in Donald Margulies' Time Stands Still, and, annually, in Orson Welles' Moby Dick Rehearsed in which he plays Ahab. In the summer of 2013 he directed a 40th anniversary production of Edward Gorey's Dracula.

Shea made his Carnegie Hall debut playing "The Soldier" in Tom O'Horgan's production of Igor Stravinsky's L'Histoire du Soldat, with Pinchas Zukerman and Andre de Shields. In 1986, he made his London West End debut starring in Joseph Papp's production of Larry Kramer's drama The Normal Heart at the Albery Theatre.

Shea is also a regular reader on Selected Shorts for Symphony Space, broadcast nationwide on Public Radio International. His reading of Truman Capote's A Christmas Memory won AudioFile Magazine's Earphones Award in 1999, as part of the anthology Selected Shorts: Classic Tales, Vol. XII.[5] For his work reading Ted Bell's international thriller "Assassin," Shea received an Audie Award-nomination as "Best Male Narrator." He has also performed all of Bell's other novels: Hawke, Spy, Pirate, Czar, Warlord, Phantom, Warrior, Nick of Time, and The Time Pirate among other audio books, including Jonathan Tropper's One Last Thing Before I Go for which he won an Audiofile Award.

Shea as Lex Luthor


Besides his more high-profile starring roles in the television series Lois & Clark and Mutant X, Shea's diverse international television work includes guest-appearances on TV series Sex and the City, Law & Order, and Law & Order: Criminal Intent as well as being a recurring character on Gossip Girl and The Good Wife. In Grant Tinker's CBS series WIOU, written by John Eisendrath and Kathryn Pratt, Shea led an ensemble cast including Helen Shaver, Harris Yulin, Mariette Hartley, Dick Van Patten, Rosie Perez, Joe Grifasi, and Fran Drescher.

Among his television films he was featured in Family Reunion playing Bette Davis' grandson; he starred in Small Sacrifices (opposite Farrah Fawcett) which won a Peabody Award, and in Jim Goddard's British production of Kennedy with Martin Sheen and Blair Brown; Shea portrayed Robert F. Kennedy and spent six months with Goddard and Sheen to help accurately recreate the Kennedy presidency from his election to assassination. Kennedy won the BAFTA Award for Best Television Film.

Other film work includes the period drama A Will of Their Own with Lea Thompson; Jim Goddard's exploration of a German family torn apart in WW II in Hitler's S.S. (opposite Bill Nighy) shot in England and Germany; the family drama Do You Know the Muffin Man? with Pam Dawber; Sandy Johnson and Stan Hay's BBC road comedy Coast to Coast with Lenny Henry and Pete Postlethwaite; the film adaptation of A.R Gurney's play The Dining Room for PBS's Great Performances; Robert Ludlum's political thriller The Apocalypse Watch, shot in England, co-starring Patrick Bergen and Virginia Madsen; the British romantic comedy Magic Moments with Jenny Seagrove; and a remake of Hitchcock's Notorious shot in Paris. Shea received a Prime Time Emmy Award for Outstanding Supporting Actor for his role as the beleaguered father who hires a surrogate mother in the film based on a true story, Baby M opposite JoBeth Williams.

Personal life[edit]

John has been married twice. He and his first wife, the fine arts photographer Laura Pettibone, had one child together, Jake. He and his current wife, the artist Melissa MacLeod, a co-founder of the cooperative (X) Gallery on Nantucket, have two children, Miranda and Caiden.



External links[edit]

Preceded by
Sherman Howard
for Superboy
Actors portraying
Lex Luthor

for Lois and Clark
Succeeded by
Michael Rosenbaum
for Smallville