You may know him as William’s partner on NBC’s must-watch This Is Us, the stoic and emotional counter to Ron Cephas Jones’ free-spirited poet, but theatre lovers have known Denis O’Hare for decades.
Having studied theatre at Northwestern University, O’Hare began his theatre career in Chicago. He won the 1986 and two 1987 Joseph Jefferson Awards for excellence in theatre in the Chicago area for his roles in Never the Sinner at Stormfield Theatre, Hauptmann at Stormfield Theatre, and The Voice of the Prairie at Wisdome Bridge Theatre, respectively.
In 1992, O’Hare made his Off-Broadway debut in the transfer of Hauptmann and earned a Drama Desk nomination for his performance. That same year, he also played Off-Broadway in Woyzeck. He continued working Off-Broadway in such plays as Lonely Planet, The Arabian Nights, and Silence, Cunning, Exile until he made his Broadway debut in 1995 in Racing Demon by David Hare.
Soon after, O’Hare made his Broadway musical debut in the acclaimed 1998 revival of Cabaret as Ernst Ludwig. Next appearing on Broadway in Major Barbara, O’Hare made a splash in Richard Greenberg’s drama Take Me Out, for which he earned both the Drama Desk and Tony Awards that year. The next year O’Hare returned to musicals—still of the darker variety—when he played Charles Guiteau in Stephen Sondheim and John Weidman’s Assassins. He was nominated for a Tony Award for Best Featured Actor in a Musical for his riveting performance. And theatrical success didn’t stop there. O’Hare came back to Broadway in the 2005 revival of Sweet Charity as the Oscar hopelessly in love with Christina Applegate’s Charity Hope Valentine. O’Hare won the Drama Desk Award for Outstanding Featured Actor in the Tony-nominated revival. Switching back to straight plays, he took on the classic Inherit the Wind starring Brian Dennehy and Christopher Plummer in 2007.
At the same time, O’Hare played Travis March on the new acclaimed television series Brothers and Sisters from 2007-2009. In 2010, he came back to Broadway to star opposite Brendan Frasier as the title character in the short-lived Elling. Since then, the actor has not yet been back to the Main Stem, but he did star in the HBO movie adaptation of Larry Kramer’s Pulitzer Prize-winning The Normal Heart.
Appearing as a recurring character on The Good Wife and American Horror Story—for which he has earned two previous Emmy nominations—O’Hare has settled in television for now. Come September 17, we’ll see if his yet touching work in the under-the-radar role on This Is Us is enough to make the Tony winner and Emmy winner as well.
Tune in to the 69th Annual Emmy Awards September 17 on CBS.