Rainn Wilson

Rainn Wilson Biography

Film Actor, Television Actor (1968–)
Rainn Wilson is an Emmy-nominated actor known for his roles in a variety of film and TV projects, including ‘The Office,’ ‘Monsters vs. Aliens,’ ‘Super’ and ‘Backstrom.’


Born on January 20, 1968, in Seattle, Washington, Rainn Wilson pursued a stage career before making his way to TV and film, eventually landing a part on HBO's Six Feet Under. He then earned acclaim and three consecutive Emmy nominations for his role as Dwight Schrute on The Office, which ran for nine seasons. Having also done work in movies such as Juno, Monsters vs. Aliens and Super, Wilson returned to episodic television in 2015 in the controversial crime procedural Backstrom

Education and Early Career

Rainn Dietrich Wilson was born on January 20, 1968, in Seattle Washington. He went on to attend Tufts University in Medford, Massachusetts, and New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts, graduating from the latter in 1989. One of his NYU classmates was fellow actor Philip Seymour Hoffman.

Wilson forged a career on the stage initially, appearing in regional and Off-Broadway productions for a time. In 1995 he made his Broadway debut in a revival of William Shakespeare’s The Tempest (starring Patrick Stewart) in both understudy and principal-performer capacities. Then in 1997, Wilson was part of the cast of another revival, the comedy London Assurance. Wilson would later speak disparagingly of the quality of his performance in the production, though the experience also inspired him to take on work that spoke more honestly to him as an actor.

Array of TV and Film Roles

Around this time, Wilson began to do a variety of TV and film projects, appearing on the ABC daytime soap One Life to Live in 1997 before appearing in films like 1999's Galaxy Quest (with Tim Allen and Sigourney Weaver) and 2000's Almost Famous, in which Wilson played Rolling Stone magazine editor David Felton. Other parts followed in TV projects such as Charmed, Dark Angel and CSI: Crime Scene Investigation. Wilson eventually joined the cast of HBO’s acclaimed Six Feet Under in 2003, playing mortician-in-training Arthur Martin.

Emmy Nods for 'The Office'

Wilson’s breakout role came in 2005 with the debut of NBC’s The Office, co-starring Steve Carell, Mindy Kaling, John Krasinski and Jenna Fischer, among others. Wilson played salesman Dwight Schrute, whose foibles and distinctive persona earned notorious buzz. The Office became a major hit, running for nine seasons. Wilson stayed with the show for its entire run and received supporting actor Emmy nominations for three years consecutively, from 2007 to 2009, also earning ensemble honors via the Screen Actors Guild Awards.

I have no problem being known as Dwight [from 'The Office'] until the day that I die. I'm so blessed and lucky.

Return to Series Work: 'Backstrom' and More

During his Office run, Wilson continued to work in film as well, with roles in My Super Ex-Girlfriend (2006), co-starring Uma Thurman and Luke Wilson, Juno (2007), Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen (2009), the animated Monsters vs. Aliens (2009) and Hesher (2010). Wilson also garnered a lead role in the 2011 comedy Super, co-starring Ellen Page (reunited from Juno), about a man who dons a heroic costume with no real powers/special abilities and has generally poor judgement.

Wilson returned to TV in the Fox drama/crime procedural Backstrom, playing a Portland-based, emotionally wounded detective known for his offensive personality. The series debuted in January 2015, with reviewers generally not taking to the show and additional criticisms being aimed at the title character's racist and homophobic statements. Wilson has defended Det. Everett Backstrom as a figure and stated that the show could lead to increased conversations about prejudice and divisive rhetoric.

In 2016, Wilson appeared on Cameron Crowe’s Showtime television series Roadies.

Personal Life

Wilson is married to writer Holiday Reinhorn, author of the 2005 story collection Big Cats. The couple has a son, Walter.

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Rainn Wilson (Photo: David Shankbone (Own work) [CC BY 3.0] via Wikimedia Commons)

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