Ben McKenzie

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Ben McKenzie
Ben McKenzie (17032849756).jpg
McKenzie at WonderCon in April 2015
Benjamin McKenzie Schenkkan

(1978-09-12) September 12, 1978 (age 42)
EducationStephen F. Austin Texas High School (Austin, Texas)
Alma materUniversity of Virginia (B.A.)
  • Actor
  • director
  • writer
Years active2002–present
Known forThe O.C., Gotham
(m. 2017)
RelativesRobert Schenkkan (paternal uncle)

Benjamin McKenzie Schenkkan (born September 12, 1978) is an American actor, writer, and director. His first high-profile role was in 2003, starring as Ryan Atwood in the television series The O.C. and subsequently starred as Ben Sherman in Southland. From 2014 to 2019, he starred as James Gordon in the television series Gotham, for which he also wrote and directed episodes. McKenzie's first starring role in a feature film was in the 2008 film adaptation of Dalton Trumbo's Johnny Got His Gun. He also appeared in the films Junebug and 88 Minutes, and voiced Batman in Batman: Year One. In January 2020, McKenzie made his Broadway debut in the Bess Wohl play Grand Horizons.

Early life and education[edit]

Benjamin McKenzie Schenkkan was born on September 12, 1978 in Austin, Texas.[1] He is of Dutch-Jewish, English, and Scottish descent. He is one of three sons born to Frances Victory Schenkkan, a poet, and Pieter Meade Schenkkan, an attorney.[2][3] His middle name, McKenzie, is his paternal grandmother's maiden name. His grandfather, Robert F. Schenkkan, was a professor at the University of Texas at Austin, and worked with President Lyndon B. Johnson on passing the Public Broadcasting Act of 1967.[4][5] He is a nephew of Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright Robert Schenkkan.[4]

For middle school, he attended St. Andrew's Episcopal School, where he was friends and flag football teammates with future Super Bowl MVP Drew Brees.[6] He attended Stephen F. Austin High School, playing wide receiver and defensive back for the school's football team. From 1997 to 2001, he attended the University of Virginia, his father and paternal grandfather's alma mater, where he majored in foreign affairs and economics.[7] He uses his middle name as his stage name to avoid confusion with actor Ben Shenkman.[8]


2001–2007: Early career and The O.C.[edit]

After graduating college in 2001, McKenzie moved to New York City where he worked in part-time jobs and performed in some off-off-Broadway productions.[9][10] During this period, he also participated in summer stock theater and the Williamstown Theatre Festival.[10]

At age twenty-three,[11] he moved to Los Angeles where he waited tables and slept on the floor of his friend Ernie Sabella's apartment.[12][9] He was soon cast as Ryan Atwood in The O.C.[9] On August 5, 2003, Fox premiered the television series, about affluent teenagers with stormy personal lives in Orange County, California. The show became an overnight success and made McKenzie famous. His performance in The O.C. earned him "Choice Breakout TV Star – Male" and "Choice TV Chemistry" nominations in the Teen Choice Awards as well as "Choice TV Actor – Drama/Action Adventure" and "Choice TV Actor – Drama" wins. McKenzie reportedly earned between about $15,000 and $25,000 per episode throughout the show's run.

The O.C. was the first time McKenzie played what The New York Times later described as the "quiet, guarded leading man" role he would repeatedly portray.[9] As a result of the show's success, McKenzie appeared in magazines including People, In Touch Weekly and Us Weekly. He was ranked No. 5 in Independent Online's "100 Sexiest Men Alive" and twice appeared on Teen People magazine's annual list of "25 Sexiest Stars under 25". McKenzie was also voted one of InStyle's "10 Hottest Bachelors of Summer" in July 2005. The O.C. dropped in ratings dramatically during its third and fourth seasons, and ended in early 2007.[13]

While appearing in The O.C., McKenzie made his feature film debut in Junebug alongside Amy Adams and Embeth Davidtz. The film was nominated for "Best International Film" and "Outstanding Ensemble Acting" in the Amanda Awards and won the Sarasota Film Festival award for "Outstanding Ensemble Acting". It also received high praise at the 2005 Sundance Film Festival.[14] According to Production Weekly, McKenzie was set to star in the thriller Snakes on a Plane, formerly known as Pacific Air 121, but later dropped out to film 88 Minutes, which starred Al Pacino.[15]

2007–2019: Southland and Gotham[edit]

In 2008, McKenzie earned critical acclaim for his solo performance in the "live on stage, on film" version of Dalton Trumbo's 1939 novel Johnny Got His Gun, his first starring role in a feature film. He stars as Joe Bonham, a role previously played by James Cagney, Jeff Daniels, and Timothy Bottoms.[16] The movie premiered at the Paramount Theater in Austin, McKenzie's hometown, while he was filming the pilot for Southland.

In 2009, he appeared in the short movie The Eight Percent. The movie won the Delta Air Lines Fly-in Movie Contest and entered as an official selection on the Tribeca Film Festival's Short film category. McKenzie starred as rookie police officer Ben Sherman on the NBC drama Southland, which premiered on April 9, 2009. The show was canceled while in production on its second season. TNT bought the rights for the show and showed the seven episodes that had been produced. The show was subsequently renewed. However, the show was once again canceled after the fifth season.

From September to October 2010, he starred in an off-Broadway transfer of The Glass Menagerie at the Mark Taper Forum in Los Angeles.[17]

McKenzie returned to Fox in the Batman prequel television show Gotham, which premiered on September 22, 2014. In the series, he portrayed James Gordon as a young detective new to Gotham City.[18][9] In the same series, he made his directorial debut with the season 3 episode "These Delicate and Dark Obsessions".[19] McKenzie went on to direct "One of My Three Soups" and write "The Demon's Head" from the fourth season. He shot Live!, a real-time action thriller, in Birmingham, Alabama in early summer 2018, with the film slated for release in 2019.

2019–present: New projects and theater[edit]

On June 24, 2019, McKenzie, along with an ensemble cast, presented The Investigation: A Search for the Truth in Ten Acts, a dramatic reading of Special Counsel Robert S. Mueller III's Report on the Investigation into Russian Interference in the 2016 Presidential Election. McKenzie portrayed President Donald Trump's former National Security Advisor Michael Flynn, as well as the President's son and political advisor Donald Trump, Jr.[20]

McKenzie made his Broadway debut on January 23, 2020 in the Second Stage production of Grand Horizons at the Hayes Theater.[21] McKenzie stars as Ben, one of two sons struggling with their elderly parents' divorce. A limited-run production, the play began previews on December 23, 2019[22] and closed on March 1, 2020.

Personal life[edit]

In September 2015, actress Morena Baccarin said in a legal declaration involving her divorce that she planned to marry her Gotham co-star, McKenzie, adding that she was pregnant with their child.[23][24] Their daughter was born on March 2, 2016.[25] Baccarin and McKenzie announced their engagement in November 2016. They were married on June 2, 2017, (Baccarin's 38th birthday) in Brooklyn, New York.[26] They announced the birth of their son in March 2021.[27]



Year Title Role Notes
2005 Junebug Johnny Johnsten
2007 88 Minutes Mike Stempt (credited as Benjamin McKenzie)
2008 Every Monday Matters Himself Documentary
2008 Johnny Got His Gun Joe Bonham
2009 The Eight Percent John Keller Short film
2011 Batman: Year One Bruce Wayne / Batman (voice)
2011 The Blisters: How Three Became Four Dave Short film; also a producer
2012 Adventures in the Sin Bin Michael
2012 Decoding Annie Parker Tom
2013 Goodbye World Nick Randworth
2014 Some Kind of Beautiful Brian
2019 The Report Scrubbed CIA Officer
2019 Line of Duty Dean Keller


Year Title Role Notes
2002 The District Tim Ruskin Episode: "Faith" (credited as Benjamin McKenzie)
2003 JAG Petty Officer Spencer Episode: "Empty Quiver" (credited as Benjamin McKenzie)
2003–2007 The O.C. Ryan Atwood 92 episodes
2004 MADtv Ryan Atwood 1 episode
2009–2013 Southland Ben Sherman 43 episodes
2011 Scooby-Doo! Mystery Incorporated Odnarb (voice) Episode: "The Wild Brood"
2013 Men at Work Bryan Episode: "Tyler the Pioneer"
2014–2019 Gotham James Gordon 100 episodes
Director - These Delicate and Dark Obsessions, One of My Three Soups and 13 Stitches
Writer - The Demon's Head and The Trial of Jim Gordon


Year Title Role Notes
2010 The Glass Menagerie Jim O'Connor Mark Taper Forum: September 1 – October 17, 2010
2020 Grand Horizons Ben Hayes Theater: December 23, 2019 – March 1, 2020

Awards and nominations[edit]

Year Award Category Nominated work Result
2004 Teen Choice Awards Choice Breakout TV Star – Male
The O.C.
Choice TV Actor – Drama/Action Adventure Nominated
2005 Choice TV Actor Drama Nominated
Choice TV Chemistry (shared with Mischa Barton) Nominated
2012 PRISM Award Male Performance in a Drama Series Multi-Episode Storyline
2015 People's Choice Awards Favorite Actor In A New TV Series[28][29]
2016 Teen Choice Award Choice TV Actor Drama Nominated
2019 Teen Choice Awards Choice Action TV Actor[30] Nominated

Further reading[edit]

  • Romano, Mary (2005). Benjamin McKenzie: Rising Star. Triumph. ISBN 978-1-57343-689-2.


  1. ^ "Benjamin McKenzie". Archived from the original on September 10, 2015. Retrieved September 24, 2015.
  2. ^ "Pieter Meade Schenkkan (Attorney)". PlainSite. Archived from the original on September 27, 2015. Retrieved September 26, 2015.
  3. ^ "Barnes: Pete Schenkkan is a poet of the law". Austin American-Statesman. Austin, Texas. January 28, 2013. Archived from the original on September 23, 2015. His wife, Frances Victory Schenkkan, is a prize-winning poet. One son, Ben McKenzie, who opted to use his middle name, sizzles on the TV cop drama Southland after melting hearts on The O.C. His other sons, both former actors, are involved in nonprofits and the law.
  4. ^ a b "Robert Schenkkan Obituary - Austin, TX". Legacy. Austin American-Statesman. Retrieved June 19, 2020.
  5. ^ Powers, William; Greninger, Sue Alexander. "In Memoriam: Robert F. Schenkkan". The University of Texas at Austin. Retrieved September 26, 2015.
  6. ^ "A brush with greatness - why I want Drew Brees to win tonight" Archived July 16, 2011, at the Wayback Machine,; retrieved March 8, 2010.
  7. ^ "Before Batman". U.Va. Magazine. University of Virginia Alumni Association. Winter 2014.
  8. ^ "Life — High Profile". The Cavalier Daily. University of Virginia. January 21, 2004.
  9. ^ a b c d e Hale, Mike (November 23, 2014). "Sometimes, Old-Fashioned Pays Off". The New York Times. pp. AR19. Retrieved January 18, 2015.
  10. ^ a b McHenry, Jackson (January 23, 2020). "With Grand Horizons, Ben McKenzie Is Getting Back Into Theater". Vulture. Retrieved January 23, 2020.
  11. ^ Ben McKenzie on Final Season of Gotham, retrieved January 23, 2020
  12. ^ Behind the Scenes: Casting The O.C. Ben McKenzie Peter Gallagher Adam Brody, Rachel Bilson, retrieved January 23, 2020
  13. ^ "'The O.C.' Cancelled Due to Poor Ratings". FoxNews. January 4, 2007. Archived from the original on February 2, 2015. Retrieved December 30, 2014.
  14. ^ "Benjamin McKenzie". Us Weekly. Archived from the original on March 12, 2008.
  15. ^ "Benjamin McKenzie set to star in Pacific Air 121". MovieWeb. Archived from the original on November 12, 2007. Retrieved February 4, 2008.
  16. ^ "Dalton Trumbo's Johnny Got His Gun" (PDF). Variety. October 13, 2008. Retrieved December 30, 2014.
  17. ^ David Ng (August 12, 2010). "Ben McKenzie of 'Southland' and 'The O.C.' to star in 'Glass Menagerie' at Mark Taper Forum". LA Times Blogs - Culture Monster. Retrieved January 23, 2020.
  18. ^ Andreeva, Nellie (February 8, 2014). "Ben McKenzie to Star As Detective James Gordon in Fox's Batman Series 'Gotham'". Deadline Hollywood. Retrieved February 8, 2014.
  19. ^ "(GTH-316) "Heroes Rise: These Delicate and Dark Obsessions"". The Futon Critic. Retrieved April 13, 2017.
  20. ^ "Law Works: The Investigation". June 24, 2019. Archived from the original on January 21, 2020. Retrieved June 24, 2019.
  21. ^ "Second Stage Theater". Archived from the original on February 29, 2020. Retrieved January 23, 2020.
  22. ^ "Grand Horizons". Internet Broadway Database. January 23, 2020. Retrieved January 23, 2020.
  23. ^ Gomez, Patrick (September 21, 2015). "Gotham's Morena Baccarin and Benjamin McKenzie Dating". People. Retrieved October 2, 2019.
  24. ^ Lovece, Frank (September 28, 2015). "Morena Baccarin, Ben McKenzie plan to marry, her divorce docs say". Newsday. Retrieved September 28, 2015.
  25. ^ Mandell, Andrea (March 11, 2016). "Exclusive: Morena Baccarin, Ben McKenzie welcome baby girl". USA Today. Archived from the original on May 12, 2016. Retrieved May 5, 2016.
  26. ^ Jordan, Julie; Stone, Natalie (June 7, 2017). "Morena Baccarin and Ben McKenzie Are Married!". People. Retrieved June 19, 2020.
  27. ^ Campione, Katie (March 9, 2021). "Morena Baccarin and Husband Ben McKenzie Welcome Son Arthur: '2021 Is Looking Up'". People. Retrieved March 10, 2021.
  28. ^ "People's Choice Awards 2015 hosts, nominees announced". November 4, 2014. Retrieved January 8, 2015.
  29. ^ "NOMINEES & WINNERS". People's Choice Awards. Retrieved January 8, 2015.
  30. ^ Moreau, Jordan (June 19, 2019). "'Avengers: Endgame,' 'Riverdale,' 'Aladdin' Top 2019 Teen Choice Award Nominations". Variety. Retrieved July 19, 2019.

External links[edit]

Preceded by
Gary Oldman
James Gordon Actor
2014 – 2019
With: J. K. Simmons in DCEU
Succeeded by
Jeffrey Wright