Known almost as much for his off-screen pastimes as his on-screen characterizations, Woody Harrelson is an actor for whom truth is undeniably stranger than fiction. Son of a convicted murderer, veteran of multiple arrests, outspoken environmentalist, and tireless hemp proponent, Harrelson is colorful even by Hollywood standards. However, he is also a strong, versatile actor, something that tends to be obscured by the attention paid to his real-life antics.
Born in Midland, TX, on July 23, 1961, Harrelson grew up in Lebanon, OH. He began his acting career there, appearing in high-school plays. He also went professional around this time, making his small-screen debut in Harper Valley P.T.A. (1978) alongside Barbara Eden. While studying acting in earnest, Harrelson attended Indiana's Hanover College; following his graduation, he had his first speaking part (one line only) in the 1986 Goldie Hawn vehicle Wildcats. On the stage, Harrelson understudied in the Neil Simon Broadway comedy Biloxi Blues (he was briefly married to Simon's daughter Nancy) and at one point wrote a play titled Furthest From the Sun. His big break came in 1985, when he was cast as the sweet-natured, ingenuous bartender Woody Boyd on the TV sitcom Cheers. To many, he is best remembered for this role, for which he won a 1988 Emmy and played until the series' 1993 conclusion. During his time on Cheers, Harrelson also played more serious roles in made-for-TV movies such as Bay Coven (1987), and branched out to the big screen with roles in such films as Casualties of War (1989) and Doc Hollywood (1991).