Family & Companions
Corbin Bernsen made it look so easy to play the bad guy, especially with his career-defining role of divorce lawyer Arnie Becker on the 1980s legal drama behemoth, "L.A. Law" (NBC, 1986-1994). With his steely exterior and unrivaled intensity, the actor made a career out of portraying charming yet unsavory characters. But the talented Bernsen was not all 'bad boy' business - he navigated between genres seamlessly, appearing in countless made-for-TV dramas like the biopic "Line of Fire: The Morris Dees Story" (NBC, 1991) and thrillers like "Shattered" (1991), but also delivered the laughs as a prima donna baseball player in the feature comedy "Major League" (1989). He gave a chilling performance as an insane dentist exacting revenge in the cult horror film "The Dentist" (1996) and was pitch-perfect as a stern ex-cop on the dramedy series "Psych" (USA Network, 2006-14). But it was Bernsen's memorable turn as the sleazy, womanizing Becker on the hit drama "L.A. Law" that catapulted him to fame and punctuated his long career as a truly talented and multi-layered actor.
Corbin Dean Bernsen was born on Sept. 7, 1954 in North Hollywood, CA to film and television producer, Harry Bernsen, and Jeanne Cooper, who reigned as Kay Chancellor on the long-running soap opera "The Young and the Restless" (CBS, 1973- ) since its inception. Bernsen initially - and ironically - wanted to become a lawyer; instead, he graduated from the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) with a bachelor's degree in theatre arts and a master's degree in playwriting. Early in his career, he had small parts in many films, including the action drama "Three the Hard Way" (1974), which was produced by his father, as well as "King Kong" (1976) and "Eat My Dust" (1976). The handsome, now New York-based young man managed to pay the bills by working as a carpenter and by modeling - often appearing in soap opera magazines alongside his mother. Taking after her in other ways, he landed a two-year recurring role in 1984 as Ken Graham on the daytime soap opera "Ryan's Hope" (ABC, 1975-1989). Returning to the West Coast, he found little work, save for a bit part in Blake Edwards' "S.O.B." (1981), and waited for his ship to come in.
In 1986, his long wait was well worth it when he landed the role of a lifetime on the new drama series from TV wunderkind Steven Bochco, "L.A. Law" (NBC, 1986-1994). As the manipulative, womanizing divorce lawyer Arnie Becker, Bernsen was the only member of the cast - including Jimmy Smits, Susan Dey and Harry Hamlin, among others - to stay with the show through its entire run. Often dealing with hot-button issues such as abortion, domestic violence, and racism, as well as the tensions between the well-paid senior lawyers and their staff, "L.A. Law" was a monster hit, both critically and ratings-wise - much to the 1980s as "ER" would be to the 1990s, ensemble drama-wise. So perfect was Bernsen in his role as the caddish Becker that he earned two Emmy nominations for Outstanding Lead Actor in a Drama Series.
Bernsen parlayed his success on "L.A. Law" into guest starring roles on hit sitcoms like "Seinfeld" (NBC, 1990-98), magazine covers, and a burgeoning film career where he was often cast as a charming bad boy, not unlike his TV alter ego. At his TV show's peak, he appeared as Shelley Long's arrogant husband in "Hello Again" (1987), played a narcissistic actor in the musical comedy "Bert Rigby, You're a Fool" (1989), and the spacey ringleader of a band of thieves in "Disorganized Crime" (1989). Most memorably in terms of big screen roles, Bernsen also starred alongside Tom Berenger and Charlie Sheen in the blockbuster hit "Major League," as a temperamental ball player-turned-team owner. Despite went on to reprised his role in the film's sequels, "Major League II" (1994) and "Major League: Back to the Minors" (1998).
Bernsen played a string of villainous characters on the big and small screens throughout his career. In 1991, he starred as the Southern Poverty Law Center founder Morris Dees in the made-for-TV biopic "Line of Fire: The Morris Dees Story" and reunited with Berenger in the Hitchcockian thriller "Shattered" (1991). Bernsen also incited mass fear in the cult horror film "The Dentist" (1996) as a crazed doctor who performed cruel dental acts on his innocent patients. Bernsen kept up his guest starring stints in a number of mediocre made-for-TV thrillers and on popular dramas like "Touched by an Angel" (CBS, 1994-2003) in 1997 and "The West Wing" (NBC, 1999-2006) in 2001, as a shrewd senator. In 2005, Bernsen joined the ensemble cast of the dark comedy "Kiss Kiss Bang Bang" opposite Robert Downey, Jr. and Val Kilmer. Years after his successful run on "L.A. Law," Bernsen revived his TV series career with a lead role on the crime-comedy series "Psych" (USA Network, 2006-14) as a no-nonsense ex-cop and the father of a slacker who pretends to be a psychic (James Roday). Doing double-duty, he even delved back into his soap opera roots with a recurring role beginning in 2009 on his mother's soap, "The Young and the Restless" where he played a priest, Father Todd Williams.
By Candy Cuenco
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Made film debut in action feature "Three the Hard Way"
Landed regular role on ABC soap opera "Ryan's Hope"
Rose to fame playing the amoral and womanizing, but utterly charming attorney Arnold Becker on "L.A. Law" (NBC)
First starring role in a motion picture, "Hello Again"
Played primadonna 3rd baseman Roger Dorn in "Major League"
Helped launch Theatre of the Night
Starred as legal rights activitist Morris Dees in "Line of Fire" (NBC)
Tried sitcoms with short-lived "A Whole New Ballgame" (ABC)
Starred on syndicated action series "The Cape"
Landed leading role in USA Network movie "Bloodhounds" and its sequel "Bloodhounds II"
Had title role in "The Dentist" (HBO)
Signed agreement with British-based Ardent Productions, which optioned first screenplay
Reprised role in "The Dentist II" (HBO), also co-produced
Acted in TV movie "Two of Hearts" and its sequel "Young Hearts Unlimited" (Fox Family Channel)
Signed to play Captain Von Trapp in touring production of "The Sound of Music"
Reprised role of Arnie Becker in "L.A. Law: The Movie" (NBC)
Competed on two seasons of ABC's "Celebrity Mole"
Cast in TV moive "Call Me: The Rise and Fall of Heidi Fleiss" (USA Network), starring Jamie-Lynn DiScala
Starred in murder mystery "Kiss Kiss Bang Bang" opposite Robert Downey Jr.; film premiered at Cannes
Cast in USA Network series "Psych" as a former police sergeant and the father of detective Shawn Spencer (James Roday)
Made cameo in "The Big Year"
Cast opposite Bruce Willis and Catherine Zeta-Jones in comedy feature "Lay the Favorite"; film based on memoir by Beth Raymer