Benjamin McKenzie

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This article is about the American actor. For the Australian Idol contestant, see Ben McKenzie (Australian Idol).
Benjamin McKenzie
Benjamin McKenzie 2014 (cropped).jpg
McKenzie filming for Gotham, July 2014
Born Benjamin McKenzie Schenkkan
(1978-09-12) September 12, 1978 (age 37)
Austin, Texas, U.S.
Other names Ben McKenzie
Alma mater University of Virginia, (B.A.)
Occupation Actor, producer
Years active 2000–present

Benjamin McKenzie Schenkkan (born September 12, 1978),[1] known professionally as Benjamin McKenzie or Ben McKenzie, is an American actor and producer. He is known for playing Ryan Atwood in the television series The O.C. and for playing Ben Sherman in Southland. He appeared in the films Junebug[2] and 88 Minutes. His first starring role in a feature film was in the 2008 indie release Johnny Got His Gun.[3] Since 2014, McKenzie stars as James Gordon in the television series Gotham.

Early life and education[edit]

McKenzie was born in in Austin, Texas[1] as Benjamin McKenzie Schenkkan, one of three boys born to Frances Victory Schenkkan, a poet, and Pieter Meade "Pete" Schenkkan, an attorney.[4][5] His middle name, McKenzie, is his paternal grandmother's maiden name. His grandfather, Robert F. Schenkkan, was a professor at the University of Texas at Austin, and worked with President Lyndon B. Johnson on passing the Public Broadcasting Act of 1967.[6][7] He is a nephew of Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright Robert Schenkkan, Jr.

For middle school, he attended St. Andrew's Episcopal School, where he was friends and flag football teammates with future Super Bowl MVP Drew Brees.[8] He attended Austin High School, playing wide receiver and defensive back for the school's football team. From 1997 – 2001, he attended the University of Virginia, his father and paternal grandfather's alma mater, where he majored in Foreign Affairs and Economics.[9] He uses his middle name as his stage name to avoid confusion with actor Ben Shenkman.[10]


From 2001 to 2003 McKenzie worked in part-time jobs and sought acting work in New York and Los Angeles before being cast as Ryan Atwood in The O.C.[11] On August 5, 2003, Fox premiered the television series, about affluent teenagers with stormy personal lives in Orange County, California. The show became an overnight success and made McKenzie famous. His performance in The O.C. earned him a "Choice Breakout TV Star - Male" and "Choice TV Chemistry" nominations in The Teen Choice Awards and a "Choice TV Actor - Drama/Action Adventure" and "Choice TV Actor: Drama" wins. McKenzie reportedly earned about $15,000 and $25,000 per episode throughout the show's run.

The O.C. was the first time McKenzie played what The New York Times later described as the "quiet, guarded leading man" role he would repeatedly portray.[11] As a result of the show's success, McKenzie appeared in magazines including People, In Touch Weekly and Us Weekly. He was ranked No. 5 in Independent Online's "100 Sexiest Men Alive" and twice appeared on Teen People magazine's annual list of "25 Sexiest Stars under 25". McKenzie was also voted one of InStyle's "10 Hottest Bachelors Of Summer" in July 2005. The O.C. dropped in ratings dramatically during its third and fourth seasons, and ended in early 2007.[12]

While appearing in The O.C., McKenzie made his feature film debut in Junebug alongside Amy Adams and Embeth Davidtz. The film was nominated for "Best International Film" and "Outstanding Ensemble Acting" in the Amanda Awards and won the Sarasota Film Festival award for "Outstanding Ensemble Acting". It also received high praise at the 2005 Sundance Film Festival.[13] According to Production Weekly, McKenzie was set to star in the thriller Snakes On A Plane, formerly known as Pacific Air 121, but later dropped out to film 88 Minutes, which starred Al Pacino.[14]

In 2008, McKenzie earned critical acclaim for his solo performance in the "live on stage, on film" version of Dalton Trumbo's 1939 novel Johnny Got His Gun, his first starring role in a feature film. He stars as Joe Bonham, a role previously played by James Cagney, Jeff Daniels, and Timothy Bottoms.[15] The movie premiered at the Paramount Theater in Austin, TX, McKenzie's hometown, while he was filming the pilot for Southland.

In 2009, he appeared on the short movie, The Eight Percent. The movie won the Delta Air Lines Fly-in Movie Contest and entered as an official selection on the Tribeca Film Festival's Short film category.

McKenzie starred as rookie police officer Ben Sherman on the NBC drama Southland, which premiered on April 9, 2009. The show was canceled while in production on its second season. TNT bought the rights for the show and showed the seven episodes that had been produced. The show was subsequently renewed. However, the show was once again cancelled after the fifth season.

McKenzie returned to Fox in the Batman prequel Gotham, which premiered on September 22, 2014. In the series, he portrays James Gordon as a young detective new to Gotham City.[16][11]

Personal life[edit]

As of September 2015, McKenzie is expecting his first child, with his Gotham co-star, Morena Baccarin.[17][18]


Year Title Role Notes
2005 Junebug Johnny Johnsten
2007 88 Minutes Mike Stempt
2008 Every Monday Matters Himself Documentary
2008 Johnny Got His Gun Joe Bonham
2009 Eight Percent, TheThe Eight Percent John Keller Short film
2011 Batman: Year One Bruce Wayne/Batman (voice) Direct-to-video
2011 Blisters: How Three Became Four, TheThe Blisters: How Three Became Four Dave Short film; also producer
2012 Adventures in the Sin Bin Michael
2012 Decoding Annie Parker Tom
2013 Goodbye World Nick Randworth
2014 Some Kind of Beautiful Brian
Year Title Role Notes
2002 District, TheThe District Tim Ruskin Episode: "Faith"
2003 JAG Petty Officer Spencer Episode: "Empty Quiver"
2003–07 O.C., TheThe O.C. Ryan Atwood Main cast; 92 episodes
2004 MADtv Ryan Atwood Season 9, episode 22
2009–13 Southland Ben Sherman Main cast; 42 episodes
2011 Scooby-Doo! Mystery Incorporated Odnarb (voice) Episode: "The Wild Brood"
2013 Men at Work Bryan Episode: "Tyler the Pioneer"
2014–present Gotham James Gordon Main cast


Year Award Category Work Result Ref
2004 Teen Choice Award Choice Breakout TV Star – Male O.C., TheThe O.C. Nominated
Choice TV Actor – Drama/Action Adventure O.C., TheThe O.C. Nominated
2005 Choice TV Actor: Drama O.C., TheThe O.C. Nominated
Choice TV Chemistry (with Mischa Barton) O.C., TheThe O.C. Nominated
2012 PRISM Award Male Performance in a Drama Series Multi-Episode Storyline Southland Nominated
2015 People's Choice Awards Favorite Actor In A New TV Series Gotham Nominated [19][20]

Further reading[edit]


  1. ^ a b "Benjamin McKenzie". Archived from the original on September 10, 2015. Retrieved September 24, 2015. 
  2. ^ Junebug's Benjamin McKenzie Retrieved 2007-1-14. People Magazine.
  3. ^ Benjamin McKenzie Variety Retrieved 2008-10-8. Variety (magazine)
  4. ^ "Pieter Meade Schenkkan (Attorney)". PlainSite. Retrieved 26 September 2015. 
  5. ^ "Barnes: Pete Schenkkan is a poet of the law". Austin American-Statesman (Texas). January 28, 2013. Archived from the original on September 24, 2015. His wife, Frances Victory Schenkkan, is a prize-winning poet. One son, Ben McKenzie, who opted to use his middle name, sizzles on the TV cop drama “Southland” after melting hearts on “The O.C.” His other sons, both former actors, are involved in nonprofits and the law. 
  6. ^ "Robert Schenkkan Obituary - Austin, TX". Legacy. Austin American-Statesman. Retrieved 26 September 2015. 
  7. ^ Powers, William; Greninger, Sue Alexander. "In Memoriam: Robert F. Schenkkan". The University of Texas at Austin. Retrieved 26 September 2015. 
  8. ^ "A brush with greatness - why I want Drew Brees to win tonight",; retrieved March 8, 2010.
  9. ^ "Before Batman". U.Va. Magazine (University of Virginia Alumni Association). Winter 2014. 
  10. ^ "Life — High Profile". The Cavalier Daily (University of Virginia). January 21, 2004. 
  11. ^ a b c Hale, Mike (2014-11-23). "Sometimes, Old-Fashioned Pays Off". The New York Times. pp. AR19. Retrieved 18 January 2015. 
  12. ^ "'The O.C.' Cancelled Due to Poor Ratings". January 4, 2007. Retrieved December 30, 2014. 
  13. ^ Benjamin McKenzie Us Weekly Magazine BiographyUs Weekly.[dead link]
  14. ^ "Benjamin McKenzie set to star in Pacific Air 121". WMovieWeb. Retrieved February 4, 2008. [dead link]
  15. ^ "Dalton Trumbo's Johnny Got His Gun" (PDF). Variety. Retrieved December 30, 2014. 
  16. ^ Andreea, Nellie (February 8, 2014). "Ben McKenzie To Star As Detective James Gordon In Fox's Batman Series ‘Gotham’". Deadline. Retrieved February 8, 2014. 
  17. ^ Corriston, Michele (September 28, 2015). "Pregnant Morena Baccarin Says She Plans to Marry Gotham Costar Ben McKenzie". People. Retrieved September 28, 2015. 
  18. ^ Lovece, Frank (September 28, 2015). "Morena Baccarin, Ben McKenzie plan to marry, her divorce docs say". Newsday. Retrieved September 28, 2015. 
  19. ^ "People's Choice Awards 2015 hosts, nominees announced". November 4, 2014. Retrieved January 8, 2015. 
  20. ^ "NOMINEES & WINNERS". People's Choice Awards. Retrieved January 8, 2015. 

External links[edit]

Preceded by
Gary Oldman
James Gordon Actor
Succeeded by