Born in California in 1970, Will Forte turned to comedy writing and performing after an early career as a stockbroker. He joined the cast of Saturday Night Live in 2002, becoming best-known for his portrayal of the inept action hero MacGruber. After earning acclaim for his dramatic turn in the 2013 film Nebraska, Forte rediscovered TV comedy success in 2015 as the star of The Last Man on Earth.
Early Years and Career
Orville Willis Forte IV was born on June 17, 1970, in Alameda County, California, to parents Orville III and Patti. Raised with his older sister, Michelle, in Northern California, Forte displayed creative tendencies as a child, though no obvious interest in acting. He took a drama class at Acalanes High School, but otherwise was preoccupied as a member of the football and swimming teams, and was voted president of the class of 1988.
After graduating from UCLA in 1993 with a degree in history, Forte followed his father into the financial industry and become a broker at Smith Barney Shearson in Beverly Hills. However, he soon realized he was unhappy in that environment, and he quit after a few years to try his hand at writing and performing.
Show Business Career
Forte joined the Groundlings, an influential improv and sketch comedy troupe, and in 1997 he scored his first major gig as a writer for The Jenny McCarthy Show. He followed with what he called his "dream job" as a writer for The Late Show with David Letterman, but left after nine months to work for the sitcom 3rd Rock From the Sun, and later jumped to That '70s Show as a writer and producer.
After initially turning down a chance to join the Saturday Night Live cast in 2001, Forte was hired as a writer and featured performer for the long-running show in 2002. Known for his absurd sketches, Forte became a regular cast member after just one year, but it wasn't until he was nearly fired after his third season that he finally became comfortable inhabiting the creations of other writers.
Forte eventually embraced the role of "MacGruber," a character developed by writer Jorma Taccone. Spoofing the late '80s/early '90s TV program MacGyver, Forte's easily distracted action hero never managed to diffuse the ticking bomb that appeared in each episode. The sketch was developed into a feature-length movie in 2010, reaping little success at the box office but eventually gaining a cult following.
Electing to leave SNL around this time, Forte landed a recurring role as the cross-dressing Phil on the popular sitcom 30 Rock and small parts in various movies. He then pivoted to more weighty fare for the Irish film Run & Jump (2013), and continued on that track for Alexander Payne's award-winning Nebraska (2013). Paired with screen veteran Bruce Dern in this emotionally charged family drama, Forte earned accolades for his vulnerable performance, including a Best Supporting Actor nod from the National Board of Review.
Forte returned to his comedy roots with the production of The Last Man on Earth in 2015. Originally involved as a writer, he eventually signed on as the leading actor and showrunner for this offbeat sitcom about the survivor of an apocalyptic plague. A hit with critics, the show earned Forte Emmy nominations for outstanding lead actor and writing in a comedy series.
Forte, who officiated at his sister's wedding in 2007, remains close to his family. He has been romantically linked to fellow Last Man actress January Jones.
Regarded as one of Hollywood's nice guys, Forte helped fund a camp for disabled children founded by a former Acalanes High student. He has also served as a national spokesperson for the non-profit organization Stem Cell Initiative for Eyes (SCIfEyes).
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