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Judd Nelson
Photo: Greg Doherty/Getty Images

Judd Nelson

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Actor Judd Nelson has made a career out of playing bad guys and antiheroes. His portrayal of a tough teenager in 'The Breakfast Club' helped him become a star.

Who Is Judd Nelson?

Judd Nelson is an American actor who made his film debut in Making the Grade in 1984. The next year, his role in The Breakfast Club made him a star. He next starred in St. Elmo’s Fire, however, what followed was a series of box office disappointments. In 1996, he signed on to his first sitcom series, Suddenly Susan. Since then, he has appeared in numerous films and TV movies.

Early Life

Nelson was born on November 28, 1959, in Portland, Maine. The son of a lawyer and a court mediator, Nelson has made a career out of playing bad guys and antiheroes. After two years at Haverford College, he left school to pursue acting. Nelson moved to New York City in 1980 where he studied at the Stella Adler Conservatory.

Big Break and 'The Breakfast Club'

In 1984, Nelson made his film debut as the street-smart Eddie Keaton in Making the Grade. The next year, his layered portrayal of a tough teenager in The Breakfast Club helped him become a star. The film, which also starred Molly Ringwald, Emilio Estevez, Ally Sheedy and Anthony Michael Hall, focused on five teenagers serving in-school detention on a weekend. In his next big role, Nelson reunited with Estevez and Sheedy for the post-college drama St. Elmo's Fire. This time he portrayed a political aide who trades in his beliefs for a higher salary.

Around the mid-1980s, Nelson and several other actors and actresses, such as Ally Sheedy, Estevez, Rob Lowe, Andrew McCarthy and Demi Moore, were labeled as the "Brat Pack." Members of this so-called pack were characterized as a young and reckless group that often went out partying. In an interview with Entertainment Weekly, Nelson said, "At the time this whole gang was supposedly cruising the Sunset Strip, I was living in New York."

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Later Years

What followed was a series of box office disappointments for Nelson. He had some success with the 1991 film New Jack City, but otherwise, most of his films failed to draw in movie-goers. In 1996, Nelson branched out in a new direction signing on to his first situation comedy television series, Suddenly Susan. The show starred Brooke Shields as Susan, a copy editor copy who becomes a magazine columnist after dumping her fiancé at the altar. Nelson played Jack, her boss and almost brother-in-law. There was a lot of romantic tension between their two characters, which eventually led to a relationship. Nelson left the show in 1999.

Since then, Nelson has appeared in numerous films and television movies, including Light It Up (1999), Cabin by the Lake (2000) and The Black Hole (2006). He has also guest-starred on many popular shows, such as C.S.I.: Crime Scene Investigation and Las Vegas. More recently, Nelson lent his voice to the animated series Ben 10: Omniverse. He also had a recurring role on the hit musical drama Empire starring Terrence Howard and Taraji Henson in 2015.  

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