Family & Companions
A character actor in films and on television for over three decades, Sam McMurray's career longevity was due entirely to his ability to slip effortlessly and believably into a wide variety of roles and deliver consistently fine performances in projects ranging from "Raising Arizona" (1987) to "The Tracy Ullman Show" (Fox 1987-1990), "The Sopranos" (HBO 1999-2007) and "Breaking Bad" (AMC 2008-2013). Given his skill at comedic roles - he specialized in playing blowhards, unctuous professionals and self-described lives of the party, as well as a host of zany characters on "Ullman" - one could be forgiven for believing that McMurray had come up through the improv/sketch comedy ranks. But the native New York began his career on stage in the 1970s before finding regular work in episodic television. He established himself a decade later as Nicolas Cage's crass brother-in-law in "Raising Arizona" and a versatile sketch player on "The Tracy Ullman Show," which led to more comedy work and numerous but short-lived stints as a cast member on TV series. Though never a household name, McMurray enjoyed immediate face recognition by audiences, which kept him busy as a guest player of choice on countless comedy and dramatic series well into the 21st century. Sam McMurray's talents granted him the same degree of respect and reliability enjoyed by many of the entertainment business's best-loved character actors.
Born April 15, 1952 in New York City, Sam McMurray was raised in Greenwich Village by his parents, actors Richard McMurray and Jane Hoffman. He initially considered a career in journalism, but chose acting as a career instead, a decision that reportedly disappointed his father, who believed that writing was the more creative job. McMurray performed in college productions and regional theater before making his professional debut in "The Merry Wives of Windsor" for Joseph Papp's Shakespeare in the Park. By the mid-1970s, he had moved into features and television, appearing opposite Woody Allen in "The Front" (1976) and in "Baby It's You" (1983), John Sayles' directorial debut. By the mid-1980s, McMurray had left New York for Los Angeles and earned his break-out projects: the Coen Brothers' "Raising Arizona," which cast him as Nicolas Cage's sleazy brother-in-law, and "The Tracy Ullman Show," which allowed him to flex his comedic muscles in a variety of broad and offbeat roles. Though neither were huge hits, they granted McMurray both visibility and a fan base that paved the way for his long career.
Like most character actors, McMurray appeared in numerous projects per year, moving swiftly from high-profile efforts like "L.A. Story" (1991) and "Addams Family Values" (1993) to low-budget features like "Stone Cold" (1991) and "Class Act" (1992). Between features, he logged countless hours on episodic television, mostly as a guest player, though there were several attempts at a weekly series, including "Stand By Your Man" (Fox 1992) and a TV version of "A League of Their Own" (CBS 1993), which cast McMurray in Tom Hanks' role. He was also an in-demand voice-over actor, most notably for Jim Henson Productions' "Dinosaurs" (ABC, 1991-94) and numerous animated projects. By the new millennium, McMurray remained extraordinarily busy, enjoying a recurring role as Kevin James' boss on "King of Queens" (CBS 1998-2007) and showcase guest turns on such critically acclaimed shows as "Freaks & Geeks" (NBC 1999-2000) as Samm Levine's philandering cut-up father and as veteran doctors on "The Sopranos" (HBO 1999-2007) and "Breaking Bad" (AMC 2007-2013). In 2013 alone, he played U.S. Attorney Pat Wexler on the breakout favorite "Scandal" (ABC 2012- ) and as Teri Polo's conflicted father on the socially-conscious drama "The Fosters" (ABC Family 2013- ).
Cast (Feature Film)
Film debut in "The Front"
Breakout role in "Raising Arizona"
Cast member on "The Tracy Ullman Show"
Supporting role in the cult favorite "The Wizard"
Recurring voice-over role on "Dinosaurs"
Producer on "Slappy and the Stinkers"
Plays Dr. Vic Schweiber on "Freaks and Geeks"
Cast as Uncle Junior's oncologist on "The Sopranos"
Recurring role as Supervisor O'Boyle on "King of Queens"
Cast as Walter White's oncologist on "Breaking Bad"
Recurring role as U.S. Attorney Pat Wexler on "Scandal"