There are always a handful of dependable character actors working in film or television that audiences automatically recognize, even if they do not know their names. Actor Shea Whigham is one of those people. Whigham is best known for his role as Eli Thompson on the period gangster show "Boardwalk Empire" (HBO, 2010-14), playing the brother of the venal Atlantic City politician "Nucky" Thompson. It is a role that offered Whigham plenty of room to shine, although one of the gifts of a good character actor is holding back until the right dramatic opportunity to steal the scene. The rugged Whigham had quietly worked for years before getting his career breakthrough on the show, mainly appearing in small independent features like the Vietnam war drama "Tigerland" (2000), David Gordon Green's acclaimed "All the Real Girls" (2003) and the romantic black comedy "Wristcutters: A Love Story" (2006). In 2011 Whigham teamed up with his "Boardwalk Empire" co-star, Michael Shannon, in the independent thriller "Take Shelter," and the following year he appeared in a smaller part in the Oscar-nominated romantic drama "Silver Linings Playbook."
Born in Tallahassee, FL in 1969, Whigham was the son of college football player Frank Whigham, and athletics played a huge role in his early years, particularly soccer and tennis. He played on the tennis team at Lake Mary High School. When it came time to attend college, acting was the farthest thing from his mind, having landed a tennis scholarship. Eventually, however, Whigham caught the acting bug while at school. He co-founded the Rorschach Group with his actor/roommate Kirk Acevedo, gaining experience as both a performer and artistic director. Whigham's brother, Jack, is also part of the entertainment industry, working as a talent agent at CAA.
After making a splash in Joel Schumacher's "Tigerland," Whigham did not immediately catapult to fame. He continued working in the trenches of the acting profession, landing prominent roles in small pictures like "All the Real Girls" and "Wristcutters: A Love Story," as well as nabbing the occasional television role, such as co-starring opposite Sam Neill in the TV movie "Submerged" (2001), appearing on a few episodes of "ER" (NBC, 1994-2009) and guest-starring on an episode of "Medium" (NBC, 2005-2011). He also popped up in bigger feature films playing small parts, like in the skateboard movie "Lords of Dogtown" (2005), street racing favorite "Fast & Furious" (2009) and in the Nicolas Cage crime flick "Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans" (2009). With the success of "Boardwalk Empire," Whigham also started cropping up in even bigger-budget productions, like "The Lincoln Lawyer" (2011), Oliver Stone's "Savages" (2012) and David O. Russell's "Silver Linings Playbook" (2012). After reprising his role as Stasiak in the surprisingly well-received "Fast & Furious 6" (2013), Whigham appeared in two of the biggest films of the 2013 Oscar season with key supporting roles in Russell's late '70s-set caper comedy "American Hustle" (2013) and Martin Scorsese's antic exploration of the 1990s stock market bubble, "The Wolf of Wall Street" (2013).
Cast (Feature Film)
Landed his first starring role in the film "Tigerland"
Co-starred in the indie drama "All the Real Girls"
Starred in the black comedy "Wristcutters: A Love Story"
Landed the meaty role of Eli Thompson on HBO's "Boardwalk Empire"
Had a recurring role on "Agent Carter"
Played Ray Liptrapp on "Vice Principals"
Played Moe Dammick on season 2 of "Fargo"
Appeared in "Kong: Skull Island"
Appeared in the sequel "Sicario: Day of the Soldado"
Starred as Thomas Carrasco on Sam Esmail's "Homecoming"
Played FBI tactical lead Mitch Decker on TV mini-series "Waco"
Played Dr. Woodbury Laurence in Drew Goddard's '60s-set thriller "Bad Times at the El Royale"