Tall, blonde, and possessing a choir of perfect teeth that would make any dentist jealous, James Van Der Beek has emerged as one of the ultimate teen pin-ups of the late 1990s. First attaining prominence with the title role of Dawson Leary in the WB Network's Dawson's Creek, Van Der Beek proceeded to branch out with film and stage work, and in the process managed to be anointed in 1998 as one of People Magazine's "50 Most Beautiful."
Born March 8, 1977 to a cell phone salesman father and a mother who ran a gymnastics studio, Van Der Beek was raised in his hometown of Cheshire, Connecticut. The oldest of three children, he was an honors student and excelled at football until an injury sidelined his budding career. In its own way the injury proved to be serendipitous, as it led Van Der Beek to take up acting. Following a casting trip to New York with his mother, Van Der Beek made his professional debut at the age of 16 in the Off-Broadway production of Finding the Sun, which was written and directed by Edward Albee. More stage work ensued, as did some television work (most notably in the form of a 1995 stint on As the World Turns).