The Expendables * The Dark Knight * Doctor Who
Heroes * The Pope of Greenwich Village * Star 80
Runaway Train * King of the Gypsies * Nobody's Fool
Less Than Perfect * The Young and the Restless
Eric Roberts started life in Biloxi, Mississippi, but grew up in Atlanta, Georgia. Roberts is of English, Scottish, Irish, Welsh, German, and Swedish descent. He began his acting career at age 5 in a local theater company called the Actors and Writers Workshop, founded by his late father, Walter Roberts. After his schooling at Grady High, he studied drama at age 17 in London for two years at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts, then returned to the States and continued his studies at the American Academy in New York. He made his NY stage debut in Rebel Women in 1976 at age 20 and appeared in regional productions, once playing the newspaper boy in a production of A Streetcar Named Desire starring Shirley Knight and Glenn Close.
After appearing in such daytime soaps as Another World (1964) and How To Survive a Marriage (1974), his career began to shift fast forward when he copped a leading role in a major film. In King of the Gypsies (1978), based on Peter Maas best-seller about a fracturing dynasty of New York City gypsies, he made his debut alongside an intimidating roster of stars including Judd Hirsch, Susan Sarandon, Shelley Winters and Sterling Hayden. Young Eric held his own expertly (winning a Golden Globe nomination) while his burning intensity and brooding charm marked sure signs of star potential. After this, he won the lead opposite Milo O'shea in the 1980 stage production of Mass Appeal. He suffered serious injuries in a car accident during his nascent film career but lost no fans by the time he returned to co-star with Sissy Spacek as a small-town stranger in Raggedy Man (1981). It was, however, his stark and frightening portrayal of two-bit hustler Paul Snider, the cast-off boyfriend who slays Playmate-turned-movie starlet Dorothy Stratten (played by Mariel Hemingway) in Star 80 (1983) that really put him on the movie map and earned him a second Golden Globe nomination.
A wide range of fascinating, whacked-out roles were immediately offered to him on a silver plate. He played another dangerous streetwise hustler type in The Pope of Greenwich Village (1984) opposite fellow rebel Mickey Rourke; a cocky soda pop sales exec in the Australian comedy The Coca-Cola Kid (1985); appeared with more charm and restraint opposite Rosanna Arquette in the offbeat romantic comedy Nobody's Fool (1986) and topped his prolific period off with an Academy Award nomination as a young prison escapee hiding out with Jon Voight aboard an out-of-control train in the ultra-violent, character-driven action adventure Runaway Train (1985). Good things continued to happen when he was a replacement lead in the original run of Burn This and won a Theatre World Award for his 1988 Broadway debut.
Through the 1990s and 2000s he maintained dramatic film and TV-movie roles while appearing in TV series. His TV work includes three seasons with the sitcom Less than Perfect and a recurring role on the NBC drama Heroes. In 1996, he appeared in the Doctor Who Television film in the role of the Master. As of 2011, he is the only American actor to play the role. When SFX listed previous Masters in Doctor Who, the magazine said of Roberts: Out-acted by a CGI snake in the same production. In a darkly comic touch, the onscreen wife of Roberts human character, who is killed by her newly possessed husband (who is taken over by the Master in the form of the above-mentioned CGI snake), is played by his real-life wife, Eliza Roberts.
Roberts voiced the Superman villain Mongul in the animated series Justice League, and reprized his role in Justice League Unlimited in the episode For the Man Who has Everything. He performed the voice of Dark Danny in Nickelodeon's Danny Phantom. He portrayed Seth Blanchard on the second season of the Starz series, Crash, from 2009. In 2009, Roberts appeared as himself in Tree Trippers, a season five episode of Entourage. He is portrayed as a mushroom and drug fanatic as he gives the boys mushrooms and joins them to Joshua Tree National Park to trip as they contemplate Vince's next movie decision. In 2010 he joined the cast of the CBS soap opera The Young and the Restless. In 2010, he appeared in the action film The Expendables. Later that year, he appeared alongside Stone Cold Steve Austin and Gary Daniels, his co-stars from The Expendables, in the 2010 action film Hunt to Kill.
Roberts is a vegan and supporter of animal rights.