To be a convincing character actor, you have to be versatile, to be able to play a benign best-friend type, then turn into a malevolent bastard on command. Few do that better than William Fichtner, the handsome Buffalo, NY native who plays DA Frank Crenshaw in the Steve Carell-Tina Fey comedy 'Date Night,' and who has made a career of alternately playing Best Buds and Total Jerks.

Fichtner got his start in the late '80s on the classic daytime drama 'As the World Turns,' then followed it with bit parts in films like 'Quiz Show,' 'Heat,' and 'Albino Alligator.' Before long, though, Fichtner's ability to portray a somewhat menacing antagonist -- or an equally likable best friend -- put him in blockbusters like 'Contact,' 'Armageddon,' 'Black Hawk Down,' and 'The Longest Yard.' To be a convincing character actor, you have to be versatile, to be able to play a benign best-friend type, then turn into a malevolent bastard on command. Few do that better than William Fichtner, the handsome Buffalo, NY, native who plays DA Frank Crenshaw in the Steve Carell-Tina Fey comedy 'Date Night,' and who has made a career of alternately playing Best Buds and Total Jerks.

Fichtner got his start in the late '80s on the classic daytime drama 'As the World Turns,' then followed it with bit parts in films like 'Quiz Show,' 'Heat' and 'Albino Alligator.' Before long, though, Fichtner's ability to portray a somewhat menacing antagonist -- or an equally likable best friend -- put him in blockbusters like 'Contact,' 'Armageddon,' 'Black Hawk Down,' and 'The Longest Yard.'

TV fans, of course, have known him in recent years as FBI agent Alex Mahone in 'Prison Break,' a role which has given him the chance to stretch out and show what he can do with a character who changes over time and blends light with dark with every shade in between. It's always gratifying to see That Guy get a chance to show what he can really do with a juicy role.

Here's what you need to know about William Fichtner:

Age: 53

Hometown: Born in East Meadow, Long Island; raised in the Buffalo suburb of Cheektowaga

Number of Movies He's Appeared In: 34

You Probably Recognize Him From: 'Prison Break,' of course. He also ticked us off as the prickly Sully in 'The Perfect Storm.' But he showed us his good-guy personae in 'Contact' as Jodie Foster's blind astronomer sidekick Kent Clark (awesome name, by the way). In 'Blades of Glory' he scored as Darren McElroy, the cold-as-ice mogul who 'un-adopts' Jon Heder by dropping him off on a deserted highway in the snow. He also crashed a Space Shuttle into an asteroid in 'Armageddon,' Bummer, right?

Most Successful Movie: He had a bit part as the bank manager in 'The Dark Knight,' which did $533 million at the box office.

Frequently Works With:
Doug Liman ('Mr. & Mrs. Smith,' 'Go'), David Morse ('Contact,' the upcoming 'Drive Angry')

Television Work: 'Prison Break,' 'Invasion,' 'The West Wing,' 'MDs,' 'Grace Under Fire'

Five Fun Facts:

Lent his voice to the video games 'Grand Theft Auto: Vice City' and 'Turok'

Is a die-hard Buffalo Sabres hockey fan.

It's 'Fichtner,' not 'Fitchner'!

Has a Bachelor Arts Degree in Criminal Justice.

Three of his favorite roles are 'Go, 'Contact' and 'The Amateurs.'

CATEGORIES Features