A frequent guest star who played a wide variety of characters on popular television shows, actor Michael Jace finally received his due as the spiritual, but closeted homosexual police officer Julien Lowe on Shawn Ryan's hard-hitting cop show "The Shield" (FX, 2002-08). While surrounded by criminals and corruption on all side, Jace's character brought a sense of noble inner turmoil to a show celebrated for its edgy external conflicts. Prior to "The Shield," Jace played a diversity of characters on shows like "NYPD Blue" (ABC, 1993-2005), "Law & Order" (NBC, 1990-2010) and "Star Trek: Deep Space Nine" (syndicated, 1993-99), while breaking into features with parts in "Forrest Gump" (1994), "Strange Days" (1995) and "Boogie Nights" (2001). He gained a degree of stardom thanks to playing NBA icon Michael Jordan in the TV movie, "Michael Jordan: An American Hero" (Fox Family Channel, 1999), but became a known commodity following his seven seasons on "The Shield." After the show finished its run in 2008, Jace went back to guest turns on shows like CSI: Crime Scene Investigation" (CBS, 2000-15), "Burn Notice" (USA Network, 2007-13) and "The Mentalist" (CBS, 2008-15), while continuing to look for that one role that could propel his career to the next level. However, Jace's life took an unexpectedly dark turn on May 19, 2014, when he was arrested and charged with the murder of his wife April. Jace was convicted of second-degree murder for that crime on May 31, 2016.
Born July 13, 1965 in New York City, Jace was raised in Hackensack, NJ, where he grew up playing high school basketball and baseball. After graduating, he attended college and developed an interest in acting when he saw his girlfriend rehearsing for a play. From there, he fully devoted himself to his new profession with the same zeal that he had when playing sports, eventually studying his craft at the Classic Stage Conservatory in New York. Following graduation, Jace worked in regional theater across the United States, before he moved to Los Angeles to further his career. Almost immediately, he landed his first television gig on that mainstay for New York actors, "Law & Order," (NBC, 1990-2010), and quickly followed with a turn as a young district attorney on "NYPD Blue" (ABC, 1993-2005) and as a cop on "L.A. Law" (NBC, 1986-94). Jace went on to a succession of television guest appearances, landing roles on "Chicago Hope" (CBS, 1994-2000) and "Star Trek: Deep Space Nine" (syndicated, 1993-99), where he was the first officer aboard another starship.
Making the jump to the big screen, Jace had a small part as a Black Panther in the Vietnam portion of "Forrest Gump" (1994), and went on to play a member of the Coast Guard in the adaptation of the Tom Clancy political thriller "Clear and Present Danger" (1994). After a small role in the futuristic sci-fi thriller "Strange Days" (1995), Jace was a ticket scalper in Tony Scott's sports-themed thriller, "The Fan" (1996), the manager of a Pep Boys in Paul Thomas Anderson's ode to 1970s porn, "Boogie Nights" (1997), and a military officer in Tim Burton's dismissed remake of "Planet of the Apes" (2001). Of course, like any busy working actor, Jace juggled parts in both mediums, continuing to make guest appearances on TV series like "Nash Bridges" (CBS, 1996-2001), "ER" (NBC, 1994-2009) and the short-lived medical drama "L.A. Doctors" (CBS, 1998-99). Due in equal parts to an uncanny resemblance and his natural athletic ability, Jace landed the role of NBA superstar Michael Jordan in the made-for-cable television movie, "Michael Jordan: An American Hero" (Fox Family Channel, 1999), which lead to a brief, but fleeting brush with stardom.
Back to his rotating status as a guest star, Jace returned to "NYPD Blue" to play another role before landing two episodes of "Judging Amy," (CBS, 1999-2005). Already making his bones as a dependable performer who could play anything from a brutal cop to a savvy lawyer to a street thug, Jace finally hit pay dirt when writer and executive producer, Shawn Ryan, cast him in a prominent supporting role on the high-octane cop drama, "The Shield" (FX, 2002-08), which focused on a corrupt Strike Team headed by Det. Vic Mackey (Michael Chiklis). Jace played uniform police officer Julien Lowe, a rookie who learns the ropes with his training officer (Catherine Dent) while struggling to reconcile his deeply held Christian beliefs with both his job and his latent homosexuality. Threatened by Mackey after being caught in a tryst with a small-time hustler (Brent Roam), Julien tries to "fix" his problem by undergoing so-called conversion therapy and marrying a woman whose son he arrested. Ryan originally planned to kill Julien off by the end of the first season, but the show's creator was so taken with Jace's quiet, but powerful performance that the actor stayed on for the duration of the show, though by the end, his character featured less prominently in the main storyline.
In his "Shield" down time, Jace appeared in the inspirational football drama, "The Gridiron Gang" (2006) along with Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson, which told the story of a correctional facility for boys that forms its own football team. He also continued making guest appearances on TV with an episode of "Cold Case" (CBS, 2003-2010), but on the whole, he focused mainly on "The Shield." Once that show ended its run in 2008, Jace found himself on another gritty LAPD crime series, "Southland" (NBC, 2009; TNT, 2010-13), and returned to features with a small role as a police officer in the Russell Crowe political thriller "State of Play" (2009). But the small screen remained the actor's bread and butter, as Jace continued to rack up guest spots on a host of popular series like "Rizzoli & Isles" (TNT, 2010-16), "CSI: Crime Scene Investigation" (CBS, 2000-15), "Burn Notice" (USA Network, 2007-13), "The Mentalist" (CBS, 2008-15), "Private Practice" (ABC, 2007-13) and "Nikita" (The CW, 2010-14).
On May 19, 2014, Michael Jace was detained and booked by Los Angeles police after the actor called 911 following a domestic dispute with his wife. April Jace had been shot multiple times during the argument. Jace was formally charged with his wife's murder on Thursday, May 22, 2014. The case went to trial in May 2016; Jace was found guilty of second-degree murder on May 31, 2016.
By Shawn Dwyer