Apr. 2nd, 1961
Washington, District of Columbia, USA
6' 0 1/2"
Christopher Meloni's Main TV Roles
Main Movie Roles
Guest TV Roles[none found]
With his piercing, blue-eyed glint, brawny looks, cocky "tough guy" stance and effortless charisma, Christopher Meloni drew on his sexy Italian heritage to grab TV audiences attention, male and female alike, finding breakthrough stardom playing on both sides of the law. Audiences first were taken in by his stunning portrayal of a sexually arresting, sociopathic killer in the gripping prison drama "Oz" (1997) on cable. Although his TV roots were in 90s situation comedy, the network powers-that-be wisely discovered his power and allure as a dramatic star and quickly handed him his own prime-time crime series, "Law & Order: Special Victims Unit" (1999), as a not-by-the-book crime detective. This one-two punch of "Oz" and "Law & Order: SVU" put Meloni (who seems to grow sexier even as his hairline recedes) on the map and well on top, where he remains today.
Christopher Peter Meloni was born on April 2, 1961, in Washington, D.C., the son of Robert, an endocriminologist, and Cecile Meloni. Of Italian and French-Canadian parentage, he attended St. Stephen's School and played quarterback for his high school team. Developing an interest in acting rather early in life, he attended the University of Colorado at Boulder following high school graduation. He initially majored in acting but wound up earning a degree in history in 1983. Acting won out in the long run, however, and Chris relocated to New York where he studied with acting guru Sanford Meisner at the renowned Neighborhood Playhouse.
Supplementing his income during these lean years by taking advantage of his powerful physique (as construction worker, bouncer, personal trainer), Meloni worked his way up the acting ladder via parts in commercials. With a full head of hair in the early days, he broke into series TV in 1989, the first being the already-established cable football comedy "1st & Ten" (1984). In this sitcom, which was HBO's very first back in 1984, Chris played ex-con quarterback Vito Del Greco (aka "Johnny Gunn"). The series' star Delta Burke had already left the cast by the time Chris came aboard in its final season.
A second sitcom arrived almost immediately with the stereotypical Italian family sitcom "The Fanelli Boys" (1990) featuring Chris as dim-eyed, skirt-chasing Frankie Fanelli, one of the four "dees, dem and dos" sons of Brooklynite widow Theresa Fanelli (Ann Morgan Guilbert). Despite a strong, boisterous cast, the show was painfully obvious and met an early demise. True to nature, Chris gave voice and added to the fun as a cocky, mooching high school teen who knows the "how to's" of attracting pretty girl dinos in the animated prehistoric series "Dinosaurs" (1991). He also made a manly mark in mini-movies with co-starring roles in such "women" dramas as In a Child's Name (1991) (TV) starring Valerie Bertinelli, Something to Live for: The Alison Gertz Story (1992) (TV), which top-lined Molly Ringwald, Without a Kiss Goodbye (1993) (TV) as the caring husband of Lisa Hartman (I), and the Connie Sellecca starrer A Dangerous Affair (1995) (TV).
An interchangeable ability to convey both heartfelt sympathy and virile menace did not go by unnoticed. After minor parts on the big screen with Clean Slate (1994), Junior (1994) and Twelve Monkeys (1995), Chris drew strong notices in the featured role of gangster Johnnie Marzzone in the classic neo-noir Bound (1996), which earned cult status for its sexually-charged lesbian sub-storyline. A tough recurring part on "NYPD Blue", a typical mafia role in the mini-series "The Last Don" (1997) and another short-lived comedic series lead ("Leaving L.A." (1997)) finally led to a big payoff in the brutal and brilliant cable series "Oz" (1997).
Christopher's introduction to the Oz prison as sexy, bisexual psychopath Chris Keller was powerhouse casting and he drew immediate notice and critical applause into the show's second season. Unflinching in its blood-soaked presentation of life behind bars, Chris' raw animal magnetism was unparalleled on the show and his steamy, erotic couplings with another male prisoner on screen promoted him swiftly to gay icon status. Undaunted by the possible career-damaging effects that could occur, Chris' frank acceptance and acknowledgment of the gay lifestyle was admirable indeed and his outright support of human rights causes earned him high marks. The father of two (daughter Sophia Eva Pietra (born March 23, 2001), and son Dante Amadeo (born January 2, 2004), he has been married since 1995 to production designer 'Sherman Williams' (The Dark Backward (1991)).
Chris' sudden burst of cable notoriety earned him his own prime time NBC series. With the veteran "Law & Order" program developing a sister spin-off, "Law & Order: Special Victims Unit" (1999), Meloni raised the bar with his trenchant pairing with co-star Mariska Hargitay as partners of a special victims crime unit. Despite the show's reality-driven approach, Meloni and Hargitay's dynamite chemistry carried the show to a new level. Allowing their characters' more serious flaws to surface, Meloni, in particular, managed to convey Detective Stabler's private pain and personal turmoil with a raw poignancy. Both he and Hargitay have been honored with Emmy award nominations for their work here (she has won).
Occasionally appearing on stage, Chris' theater credits include "The Rainmaker" (as Starbuck) (1998) and "Comers" (1998), both at the Williamstown Theatre Festival. He earned standout reviews as Eddie Carbone in Arthur Miller (I)'s "A View from the Bridge," which he performed at Dublin's Gate Theatre in 2005. In 2006 he joined the campy proceedings at an Actors' Fund of America Benefit of the soap opera spoof "Die, Mommie Die!" starring drag illusionist Charles Busch (I).
Going on a decade's worth of service to the series that made him a household name, Meloni's TV detective is just as fresh as when the show debuted. Meloni continues to flaunt his humorous side as well, showing up on such parody shows as "Mad TV" and cracking up on the various night time TV haunts. On film he continues to shatter his dramatic image in such fare as Wet Hot American Summer (2001), Harold & Kumar Go to White Castle (2004) and its sequel Harold & Kumar Escape from Guantanamo Bay (2008). While he has not found outright stardom on the big screen (he has nominally played "other man" roles in such popular films as Runaway Bride (1999) and Nights in Rodanthe (2008)), Chris has more than proved his staying power. More recently he moved forward as a writer/producer/director/star of the comedy film Dirty Movie (2009), which also has in its cast "L&O: SVU" co-star Diane Neal. In addition, Chris supplied the voice of DC Comics classic character Hal Jordan (aka Green Lantern) in the animated movie Green Lantern: First Flight (2009) (V).
- He wears a fake tattoo of the United States Marine Corps emblem (the Eagle, Globe, and Anchor) on his arm for his role in SVU (as seen in Law & Order: Special Victims Unit Season 7 episodes, Season 8, Episode 8: "Underbelly" and Season 6, Episode 5: "Outcry".) He has a real tattoo of a butterfly on his upper thigh, and a cubist representation of the crucifixion of Christ tattooed on his upper left arm.
- Used to work as a bouncer, a bartender, and a personal trainer before launching his acting career.
- Signed a deal to continue _"Law & Order: Special Victims Unit" (1999)_ (qv) for two more seasons in which he will be paid $6.5 million annually (2007).
- Accepted the honors at his old alma mater (St. Stephens and St. Agnes School in Alexandria) as the 1978 undefeated football team for which he quarterbacked was inducted into the Hall of Fame.
- Particularly early on in his career, he was often confused for actor 'Elias Koteas' (qv).
- Daughter Sophia Eva Pietra, born in Los Angeles on March 23, 2001. Son Dante Amadeo, born in New York on January 2, 2004. Both were born by a surrogate mother.
- Godmother of his daughter Sophia is 'Mariska Hargitay' (qv).
- Originally from Washington DC, Chris now lives in New York with his production designer wife, 'Sherman Williams (I)' (qv). Chris worked as a construction worker prior to getting his acting break. He got a degree in history at the University of Colorado.