Folger Shakespeare Library
Stage and Screen Education and Inspiration The American Identity


Sam Waterston, Narrator

Sam Waterston, Narrator

Sam Waterston is an acclaimed American actor noted particularly for his portrayal of Executive Assistant District Attorney John "Jack" McCoy on the long-running NBC television series Law & Order.

His roles with The Public Theater (formerly the New York Shakespeare Festival) have included Hamlet, Laertes, Prospero, Leonato, Prince Hal, Silvius in As You Like It, Cloten in Cymbeline, and Benedick in Much Ado About Nothing, for which he won a Drama Desk Award and an Obie Award. A filmed version of that production was also broadcast on the CBS television network.

His first film was Fitzwilly in 1967. Other films include The Great Gatsby, Rancho Deluxe, Journey Into Fear, Capricorn One, Heaven's Gate, Hopscotch, The Killing Fields (nominated for the Academy Award for Best Actor), Interiors, Hannah and Her Sisters, Crimes and Misdemeanors, Mindwalk, and Serial Mom. Besides his role in Law & Order, he has played other television roles including D.A. Forrest Bedford in I'll Fly Away.

He is on the advisory committee for the Lincoln Bicentennial, celebrating Abraham Lincoln's 200th birthday. Waterston, who takes an active interest in Lincoln, has portrayed Lincoln on stage and screen (The Civil War, Gore Vidal's Lincoln, and Abe Lincoln in Illinois on Broadway).

An active humanitarian, Waterston also donates considerable time to organizations such as Refugees International, Citymeals-on-Wheels, the United Way, and the Episcopal Actors’ Guild of America.

Born in Cambridge, Massachusetts, Waterston grew up at the Brooks School, a boarding school in North Andover, Massachusetts. He attended the Groton School, Yale University, where he majored in drama, and the Sorbonne.