Jonathan Kimble Simmons was originally a singer, with a degree in music from the University of Montana. He turned to theater in the late 1970s and appeared in many regional productions in the Pacific Northwest before moving to New York in 1983. He appeared in Broadway and off-Broadway shows and also did some television -- his early roles included the portrayal of a white supremacist responsible for multiple murders in an episode of Homicide: Life on the Street. In that same vein, Simmons first gained wide exposure as Vern Schillinger, the leader of an Aryan Brotherhood-type organization in prison in the HBO series Oz.
Parlaying his small-screen notoriety into feature film opportunities, Simmons had a small part in the 1997 thriller The Jackal and played a leading role in Frank Todaro's low-budget comedy Above Freezing, a runner-up for the most popular film at the 1998 Seattle Film Festival. Also in 1997, Simmons increased his television prolificacy by taking on the role of Dr. Emil Skoda, the consulting psychiatrist to the Manhattan district attorney's office in the series Law and Order.