A stage-trained British actor who became a star in film and on television in his native country, Eamonn Walker made the successful transition to Hollywood where he rose to prominence as the incarcerated Muslim leader Kareem Said on the gritty HBO drama series "Oz" (1997-2003). Prior to his work on the popular program, Walker made a name for himself on British television with the sitcom "In Sickness and in Health" (BBC, 1985-1992) and the police procedural "The Bill" (ITV, 1984-2010). He had an acclaimed feature debut in "Young Soul Rebels" (1991) and stood out in the Jude Law thriller "Shopping" (1994), but it was "Oz" that alerted U.S. audiences to his talents. From there, he co-starred in films like "Unbreakable" (2000), "Once in the Life" (2000) and "Lord of War" (2005), though television offered the actor his choicest roles. He landed a string of short-lived series like "Justice" (Fox, 2006), "Kings" (NBC, 2009) and "Lights Out" (FX, 2011), while appearing in films like "The Messenger" (2009) and "The Company Men" (2010). By the time he landed on "Chicago Fire" (NBC, 2012- ), Walker was one of TV's most consistent working actors.
Born on June 12, 1962 in London, England, Walker spent most of his time growing up in Islington, though he spent six months living in his mother's native Trinidad when he was nine years old. After attending Hungerford School, he planned on a career in social work at the University of North London, only to veer toward entertainment when he began training as a dancer at the Explosive Dance Theatre Company. But Walker suffered an injury to his calf that put a halt to his dance career, leading him to cross the pond and study acting at the New York Film Academy. Returning to London in 1983, Walker started his professional career in the punk music musical "Labelled With Love," which was set in working-class London and based on the seminal Squeeze album East Side Story (1981). From there, Walker segued into television with episodes of "Dempsey and Makepeace" (ITV, 1985-86) and "Dramarama" (ITV, 1983-89), before becoming a regular on the sitcom "In Sickness and in Health" (BBC, 1985-1992) for a pair of seasons.
Turning to police drama, Walker played PC Malcolm Haines on "The Bill" (ITV, 1984-2010) between 1988-89, before making his feature debut in "Young Soul Rebels" (1991), a coming-of-age drama that examined the late-1970s youth culture movement. After appearing on the series "Bergerac" (BBC One, 1981-1991), he starred in episodes of "Love Hurts" (BBC One, 1992-94) and "One Foot in the Grave" (BBC One, 1990-2000), and landed his second feature with a supporting turn in Paul W.S. Anderson's crime thriller "Shopping" (1994), starring Jude Law. Walker returned to series television the following year to play convict Snoopy Oswald on the prison drama, "The Governor" (ITV, 1995-96), and was on the other side of the law as a veteran detective who goes undercover to bust a drug operation in the miniseries "Supply & Demand" (ITV, 1997). Walker went on to play his most widely recognized role, Kareem Said, a convict and leader of the Nation of Islam on the acclaimed prison series "Oz" (HBO, 1997-2003). Imbuing Said with quiet grace and power, as well as a streak of self-righteousness, Walker stood out among an excellent cast on a widely acclaimed series and netted a CableACE Award for his work in 1997.
Between the third and fourth seasons of "Oz," Walker was featured in "Homicide: The Movie" (NBC, 2000) in a pivotal role as a news cameraman grieving over the loss of his son to drugs who goes over the edge and shoots a mayoral candidate pushing for drug legalization. Later that year, he was featured in "Once in the Life" (2000), a drug-themed drama about two ne'er-do-well brothers that was written, produced and directed by star Laurence Fishburne. Following a supporting turn in M. Night Shyamalan's "Unbreakable" (2000), Walker delivered a powerhouse performance in the title role of the contemporary take on William Shakespeare's "Othello" (ITV, 2001) before his character on "Oz" was killed off during the sixth season in order for him to tackle a supporting role in Antoine Fuqua's "Tears of the Sun" (2003). He went on to appear in episodes of the legal drama "The Jury" (Fox, 2004) and the British procedural "Rose and Maloney" (ITV, 2002-05), while playing a ruthless Liberian dictator who buys weapons from a rapidly devolving arms dealer (Nicolas Cage) in Andrew Niccol's underrated "Lord of War" (2005).
Back on television, Walker had a three-episode arc on "ER" (NBC, 1994-2009) before landing a regular role as a former prosecutor-turned-defense attorney on the short-lived legal drama, "Justice" (Fox, 2006). After becoming the first African-American actor to play "Othello" at the reconstructed Globe Theatre in 2007, he had an episode of the British archeology drama "Bonekickers" (BBC One, 2008), before landing a supporting turn in the straight-to-DVD martial arts flick "Blood and Bone" (2009). In "Cadillac Records" (2009), Walker was Howlin' Wolf to Jeffrey Wright's Muddy Waters and Beyoncé's Etta James, a period biopic that covered the ups and downs of Chess Records founder Leonard Chess (Adrien Brody). From there, he had a supporting role opposite Woody Harrelson and Ben Foster in "The Messenger" (2009), and returned to television with a regular role on the biblically-themed "Kings" (NBC, 2009) and the short-lived boxing drama "Lights Out" (FX, 2011). Following roles in features like "A Lonely Place to Die" (2010) and "The Company Men" (2010), Walker next played the father of a murder victim on the British series "Inspector George Gently" (BBC, 2007- ) and returned to American TV sets as a veteran firefighter and battalion chief on "Chicago Fire" (NBC, 2012- ).
By Shawn Dwyer
Cast (Feature Film)
Played an East End London punk in the musical "Labelled With Love", a British stage production based on the Squeeze album "East Side Story"
Was a regular on the British sitcom "In Sickness and in Health" (BBC)
Film debut in the 1977-set British drama "Young Soul Rebels"
Guest starred on an episode of the long running BBC detective drama "Bergerac"
Acted in the "One Foot in the Grave" TV-movie "One Foot in the Algarve" (BBC)
Featured in the fast-moving drama "Shopping", starring Jude Law and Sadie Frost
Played incarcerated Muslim leader Kareem Said in the HBO prison series "Oz"
Starred on Lynda LaPlante's ITV police drama series "Supply & Demand" as a streetwise cop who goes undercover in the drug trade
Co-starred in the reunion TV-movie "Homicide: The Movie" (NBC)
Featured in "Once in the Life", Laurence Fishburne's directorial debut, following two con men brothers who botch a robbery
Portrayed "Othello" in a revisionist British TV adapation that moved the character to contemporary times and made him a police commissioner; aired on ITV