A noted character actor and forty year veteran of the American theater, Ken Jenkins had been a television staple since the mid-1980's. Frequently cast as a hardnosed authority figure, Jenkins played bureaucratic types and/or military men in several features during the nineties and into the next millennium, most notably his roles in "Hiroshima" (1995), "Courage Under Fire" (1996) and the HBO miniseries, "And the Band Played On" (1993).
Born in Dayton, OH, on Aug. 28, 1940, Jenkins first began acting in high school, performing like most actors starting out, in hometown theater productions. After graduating, Jenkins enrolled at Antioch College where he pursued a degree in the liberal arts. Seeking acting work wherever he could, Jenkins honed his craft by joining a number of regional companies while still in college, thereby gaining valuable practical experience. During this apprenticeship, Jenkins was exposed to the works of such masters as Shakespeare, George Bernard Shaw, Tennessee Williams, and Arthur Miller, whom he credited for shaping the rest of his life.
After college, Jenkins moved to Louisville, KY, where he joined a growing community of young playwrights and actors. Home to many of America's best new playwrights (including Beth Henley and Marsha Norman), the city was considered a mecca of rising talent. It was there, in 1964, that Jenkins helped found the prestigious Actor's Theatre of Louisville. In addition to serving as their Associate Artistic Director, Jenkins continued to work with the theater as an actor, director and writer until 1983.
In the mid 1980's, Jenkins moved to Los Angeles, where he continued making his living on stage while also undertaking small television roles. One of Jenkins' first on-screen gigs was for a 15-part educational video series for adults called "Adult Math." In it, Jenkins played a math teacher named Frank Hall who instructed viewers how to prepare for their G.E.D. In 1987, Jenkins made his major screen debut in John Sayles' critically acclaimed film, "Matewan" (1987). Though his role was small, the film helped Jenkins make the transition from stage acting to on camera. Starting in the late '80's Jenkins began appearing in a string of guest-starring TV roles. In addition to such shows as "Wiseguy" (CBS, 1987-1990), "Star Trek: The Next Generation" (Synd., 1987-1994), "The X-Files" (Fox, 1993-2002) and "Chicago Hope"(CBS, 1994-2000), Jenkins also portrayed the recurring character of Mike Sloan on the short-lived, but critically acclaimed drama "Homefront" (ABC, 1991-93).
In 2001, Jenkins finally landed a regular series of his own. In his most high-profile role to date, Jenkins amused audiences as the bullying profit-minded chief of medicine, Dr. Robert Kelso, on the popular medical dramedy, "Scrubs" (NBC, 2001-08; ABC, 2009-10). An arrogant, obtuse bureaucrat with a penchant for cruelty, the character fit Jenkins like an old glove. Despite his negative qualities, however, Dr. Kelso occasionally showed glimmers of compassion. Even so, the character remained somewhat of a conundrum. As "Scrubs" fans noted, Dr. Kelso was the only principle character who never had an episode told from his point of view.
Jenkins most recent feature work included "I Am Sam" (2001) starring Oscar winner Sean Penn, and the 2002 Tom Clancy thriller, "The Sum of All Fears" with Morgan Freeman.
Cast (Feature Film)
Misc. Crew (Feature Film)
Cast (TV Mini-Series)
Made Broadway debut at age twenty-two in "The Moon Beseiged"
Appeared as a herald in Joseph Papp's production of "King Lear" in Central Park
Founded the Actors' Theater of Louisville with John Jory
Made film debut in the John Sayles historical drama "Matewan"
Featured in the period coming-of-age film "The Wizard of Loneliness"
Acted in the ABC TV-movie "Disaster at Silo 7"
Had a recurring role on the CBS crime drama "Wiseguy"
Acted in Norman Jewison's "In Country"
Racked up TV-movie credits with appearances in "Unconquered", "The Outside Woman" (both CBS), "Roe vs. Wade" (NBC) and "Breaking Point" (TNT)
Had a supporting role in the James Cameron action thriller "The Abyss"
Featured in the war-themed comedy-drama "Air America"
Appeared in the TV-movies "Family of Spies", "Shattered Dreams", "Dark Avenger" (all CBS), "By Dawn's Early Light" and "Descending Angel" (both HBO)
Acted in the scout troupe action drama "Edge of Honor"
Had featured roles in the NBC true crime TV-movies "In Broad Daylight" and "Love, Lies and Murder"
Featured in "Crossing the Bridge", a 1975-set independent
Acted in the fact-based HBO presentation "A Private Matter" and the CBS TV-movie "A House of Secrets and Lies"
Featured in the acclaimed AIDS-themed drama "And the Band Played On" (HBO)
Acted in the TV-movies "In the Best of Families: Marriage, Pride and Madness", "The First Gentleman" (both CBS), "A Time to Heal" (NBC) and "Stephen King's 'The Stand'"
Featured in the Showtime original TV-movie presentation "Hiroshima"
Guested on episodes of "Cybill" and "Chicago Hope" (both CBS)
Acted in the Prohibition-era gangster feature "Last Man Standing"
Played prison wardens in both "Last Dance", a drama looking at the death penalty and "Fled", an action comedy
Acted in a Broadway production of Tennesee Williams' "Summer and Smoke"
Had supporting roles in the blockbuster action dramas "Executive Decision" and "Courage Under Fire"
Played the district attorney in Gus Van Sant's shot for shot remake of the Hitchcock classic "Psycho"
Featured in the NBC TV-movie "Thirst", examining the threat of water supply contaminaton
Appeared in "Mutiny", a fact-based NBC TV-movie about military desegregation
Acted in the features "Gone in 60 Seconds" and "The Tailor of Panama"
Starred on the NBC medical sitcom "Scrubs", playing Dr. Bob Kelso, the seemingly sweet chief of medicine who has a mercenary dark side