James Van Der Beek

James Van Der Beek Biography

Film Actor, Theater Actor, Television Actor (1977–)
American actor James Van Der Beek first earned fame as the star of the teen drama 'Dawson's Creek,' before making a successful turn to comedy with 'Don't Trust the B' and 'What Would Diplo Do?'

Who Is James Van Der Beek?

Born in Connecticut in 1977, James Van Der Beek began his acting career while in high school. He first became known to audiences in the late 1990s through the teen drama Dawson's Creek, bolstering his fame with a starring role in the sports flick Varsity Blues. Saddled by his Dawson's shadow for years, Van Der Beek found new professional life by poking fun at himself, leading to an acclaimed turn in the short-lasting but memorable sitcom Don't Trust the B---- in Apartment 23. Following mixed success with network prime-time fare like Friends With Better Lives and CSI: Cyber, Van Der Beek returned to his comedic groove with What Would Diplo Do?, playing an exaggerated version of the electronic dance music DJ. 

James Van Der Beek Photo

James Van Der Beek visits the Build Series to discuss his new show 'What Would Diplo Do?' at Build Studio on August 3, 2017 in New York City. 

Movies and TV Shows

'Dawson's Creek' Star

On January 20, 1998, James Van Der Beek first appeared on television as aspiring filmmaker Dawson Leery in Dawson's Creek, a role that propelled him to stardom and left him typecast for years afterward. Set in fictional Capeside, Massachusetts, the teen drama followed the escapades of Dawson and friends Joey, Pacey and Jen as they navigated issues related to friendship, sex and family secrets.

While drawing some criticism for unrealistic dialogue, Dawson's Creek became a cultural touchstone for teens and young adults. Additionally, along with Van Der Beek, the show provided a platform for other breakout stars like Michelle Williams, Katie Holmes and Joshua Jackson.

In January 2018, Van Der Beek shared a two-decade-old photo of himself, Williams, Jackson and Holmes on Instagram, closing the lengthy caption with "This one will always have a special little place in my heart." A few weeks later, the cast reunited for a 20th year reunion set up by Entertainment Weekly, during which time they relived the experience of growing up together in a relatively secluded set location, and shared their feelings on their old show's place in pop culture at large.

'Varsity Blues,' 'The Rules of Attraction' and Other Films

As he was reaching the heights of his Dawson Creek fame, Van Der Beek also starred in the high school football drama Varsity Blues (1999), as too-smart-for-his-own-good quarterback Jonathon "Mox" Moxon. A fan favorite for its quotable lines, the movie also prominently featured Jon Voight as the authoritarian football coach, and such notable young talents as Paul Walker, Amy Smart and Scott Caan.

Van Der Beek then co-starred as a college campus drug dealer in The Rules of Attraction (2002), an adaptation of the Bret Easton Ellis novel. The film drew mixed reviews but was praised for its stylistic flourishes.

The actor also made cameos as Dawson Leery/himself for Scary Movie (2000) and Jay & Silent Bob Strike Back (2001), and starred in smaller independent features, like Formosa Betrayed (2009). The actor made his return to network programming in 2010 with the medical drama Mercy. However, the show was canceled after one season.

Crying Meme and Funny or Die

In 2011 a two-second gif surfaced of Van Der Beek, as Dawson Leery, erupting into a bawl after being dumped by Joey. One of the internet's early memes, it gave the actor an opportunity to poke fun at himself and make an introduction to new audiences. He subsequently starred in the VanDerWeek skits for Funny or Die, among them the hilarious "DILF Khakis," and was featured in Ke$ha's sexy and surreal music video for "Blow."

That same year he headlined another adaptation, a TV version of Jodi Picoult's Salem Falls, and two years later he landed a supporting role in Jason Reitman's Labor Day.

'Don't Trust the B,' 'CSI' and Others

In 2012 he began starring in ABC's Don't Trust the B---- in Apartment 23 as an exaggerated version of himself, an actor desperately hoping to hold onto fame. The show drew an enthusiastic if modest audience, but wasn't helped by the network airing episodes out of order, and was pulled in January 2013.

Van Der Beek returned to comedy for Friends With Better Lives, which lasted a few episodes after joining the game late in 2014. He then gave criminal drama a shot with CSI: Cyber, which endured for two seasons before ending in March 2016; he later recalled the experience as "a desert for me, creatively."

In the meantime, the actor made both recurring and one-off appearances in several popular programs, including Criminal Minds, How I Met Your Mother, Franklin & Bash, One Tree Hill and Ugly Betty.

Showing his storytelling skills, Van Der Beek co-wrote and starred in the short Power/Rangers (2015), an adult version of the popular kids TV series that drew some interest for development into an animated series. He later had a small role in Downsizing (2017), a mainstream sci-fi comedy with Matt Damon and Kristen Wiig.

'Carters Get Rich' and 'What Would Diplo Do?'

In 2017 Van Der Beek joined the cast of the six-episode British comedy Carters Get Rich, about a family's sudden success after their 11-year-old son sells an app to Silicon Valley. His performance as a high-rolling tech CEO marked another successful turn in a mid-career stretch that was increasingly becoming known for its laughs.

The actor took things one step further that summer with What Would Diplo Do? Conceived as a promo video, with Van Der Beek again going the hyperbolic route to portray the world-famous electronic dance music DJ, it eventually developed into a scripted series for Viceland, with its star also taking over as showrunner. 

'Vampirina' Voice Work and 'Pose'

In late 2017, the actor began his run on the new Disney animated show Vampirina, about a vampire girl who learns to fit in with her friends after moving from Transylvania to Pennsylvania. Van Der Beek voiced the character of benign vampire daddy Boris Hauntley, across from Lauren Graham's Oxana Hauntley, the co-owners of the Scare B&B.

Around that time it was also announced he was joining the cast of Ryan Murphy's Pose, to premiere in June 2018, as a financial executive amid the excesses of New York City in the 1980s.

Wife and Children

In August 2010, Van Der Beek married producer Kimberly Brook in Tel Aviv, Israel. They welcomed daughter Olivia that September, with son Joshua (2012) and sisters Annabel (2014) and Emilia (2016) eventually joining the brood. In February 2018, he tweeted the announcement that Kimberly was pregnant again, with a photo of the four children feeling their mother's bare belly.

Van Der Beek was previously married to actress Heather McComb, from July 2003 to March 2010.

Early Years: Athlete to Actor

James David Van Der Beek was born on March 8, 1977, in Cheshire, Connecticut, the oldest of James Sr. and Melinda Van Der Beek's three children.

James Sr. had played minor league baseball before becoming a telephone company executive, and his first son was also driven by dreams of athletic glory, until suffering a concussion while playing football in the eighth grade. He eventually gravitated toward theater, an activity closer to his mom's career path of dancer turned gymnastics studio owner.

Van Der Beek earned an academic scholarship to attend Cheshire Academy, where he sang with the choir, served as a campus tour guide and was named class president, among other activities.

Early Roles

The talented teenager also saw his acting career get off the ground while in high school. After appearing in an episode of Nickelodeon's Clarissa Explains It All, in 1994 he made his stage debut in an Off-Broadway production of Edward Albee's Finding the Sun.

In 1995 the young actor made his big screen debut in Angus, as a bully, and landed a multi-episode role in the soap opera As the World Turns. With more work coming his way in TV (Aliens in the Family), film (I Love You, I Love You Not) and theater (My Marriage to Ernest Borgnine), he dropped out of Drew University to pursue acting full time.


In October 2017, following the first of the sexual assault accusations launched at Harvey Weinstein that spawned the #MeToo movement, Van Der Beek revealed that he had also been subjected to unwanted sexual advances. "I've had my a** grabbed by older, powerful men," he tweeted, adding that he completely understood the "unwarranted shame, powerlessness & inability to blow the whistle" that resulted from being in that position. Van Der Beek's comments came shortly after Terry Crews admitted he, too, had been grabbed by an older Hollywood executive, providing another perspective on predatory behavior in the industry.

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