American actor and producer Benjamin McKenzie, born September 2, 1978 in Austin, Texas, grew up in Texas and moved to New York after graduation to pursue his passion in acting. His mother was Mary Frances, a renowned poet, and his father was Pieter Meade Schenkkan. He is also related to Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright Robert Schenkann, his uncle. He attended Austin High School, where he played football, and majored in Foreign Affairs and Economics at the University of Virginia. During his first few years in the university, he began to develop a passion for the performing arts. While there, he was cast in the plays Measure for Measure and Zoo Story. His relocation to New York enabled him to star on several off-Broadway productions, such as Life is a Dream at the SoHo Rep. He was also active during the Williamstown Theatre Festival, where he acted in plays like Street Scene and The Blue Bird.
Benjamin McKenzie was first seen on television playing minor characters on series like The District and JAG. However, he rose to fame upon being cast in The O.C., which premiered in August 2003. The FOX series saw him playing the character Ryan Atwood, a troubled teen thrust into a new life in Newport Beach. This earned him many nominations during the Teen Choice Awards. Despite early success, the show’s ratings dropped dramatically and ended in 2007. That year, McKenzie landed a role on the film Junebug, starring Amy Adams and Embeth Davidtz. It received high praise at the Sundance Film Festival, and earned McKenzie Sarasota Film Festival nominations. He is also known for gracing the pages and covers of magazines like People, In Touch Weekly and US Weekly. In 2004 and 2003, he was voted one of Teen People’s Hottest 25 Stars Under 25. Another film that McKenzie has appeared in is the crime thriller 88 Minutes, starring Al Pacino. In 2008, he was given a role in the drama Johnny Got His Gun and signed on for a role in The Stanford Prison Experiment, a film version of Dalton Trumbo’s 1938 novel.