John Victor Shea III is an American actor and director who has starred on stage, television and in film. He is best known for his role as Lex Luthor in the 1990s TV series Lois & Clark: The New Adventures of Superman and also starred in the short-lived 1990s TV series WIOU as Hank Zaret. Later on in the 2000s he starred on the series Mutant X as Adam Kane.
Shea was born in North Conway, New Hampshire, near where his father was teaching at Fryeburg Academy, Maine, and was raised in Springfield, Massachusetts in a family of five. His parents were Elizabeth Mary (ne Fuller) and Dr. John Victor Shea, Jr., who served in the U.S. Army in World War II, fought in the Battle of the Bulge, and was a teacher, coach and later assistant Superintendent of Schools. It was his mother who introduced him to literature, poetry, classical music, and art and urged him to study the piano; his father, a scholar-athlete at Bates College, taught him positive thinking and the values of the ancient Greek ideals of body, mind, and spirit.
Shea attended Catholic schools, graduating from Cathedral High School where he captained the varsity debate team and played varsity football and track. Shea received his early theatre training at Bates College under Lavinia Schaffer and Bill Beard. He also performed on the varsity debating and football teams and co-edited the college literary magazine, Puffed Wheat, before graduating with a BA in 1970. He studied acting and directing at the Yale School of Drama under Dean Robert Brustein, gaining an MFA in Directing in 1973. During his time at the School of Drama, he also performed at the Yale Repertory Theatre, in the Yale cabaret with schoolmates Joe Grifasi and Meryl Streep, and studied film with Arthur Penn and Sidney Lumet at the Film School.
After a directing apprenticeship at both the Chelsea Theatre under Robert Kalfin) and the Public Theatre with Joseph Papp, he made his Broadway debut at the age of 26 in Kalfin's production of Isaac B. Singer's Yentl opposite Tovah Feldshuh, for which he received the Theatre World Award.
After guest starring roles in such TV series as Eight Is Enough and Man from Atlantis, Shea made his television film debut playing Joseph in The Nativity (1978) opposite Madeleine Stowe as Mary, a biblical epic shot in Spain. His feature film debut came in Matthew Chapman's English film noir Hussy (1980) alongside Helen Mirren. His American film debut was in Constantin Costa-Gavras's Academy Award-winning Missing (1982) with Jack Lemmon and Sissy Spacek. Based on a true story retold in the book The Execution Of Charles Horman, Shea impersonated Horman, an American journalist who was kidnapped, tortured, and executed by the Pinochet regime during the military coup that over threw the Allende government in Chile. The film, shot on locations in Mexico, also won the Palme dOr at the Cannes Film Festival and helped launch Shea's international acting career. Costa-Gavras cast Shea without an audition after seeing his performance in Steven Poliakoff's play American Days at the Manhattan Theatre Club.
Since Missing, Shea has starred in many films, including Armyan Bernstein's Windy City (opposite Kate Capshaw for which he won a Best Actor award at the Montreal Film Festival in 1984); Stealing Home with Mark Harmon, Jodie Foster and Blair Brown; the French thriller Lune de Miel with Nathalie Baye (also known as Honeymoon, shot in both French and English); Uri Barbash's epic Unsettled Land (Israel, 1987) with Kelly McGillis; Alan Alda's comedy A New Life with Alan Alda and Ann-Margret; Jim Goddard's The Impossible Spy with Eli Wallach, also shot in Israel (Best Actor Golden Panda Award in China); the futuristic Freejack (1992) with Rene Russo; and the comedy Honey, I Blew Up the Kid with Rick Moranis.
Shea made his debut into Indian cinema with the 2009 Tamil drama Achchamundu! Achchamundu!, directed by Indo-American film director Arun Vaidyanathan, becoming the first American actor to work in a Tamil film.
Shea has also starred in a number of independent films, including The Adventures of Sebastian Cole (1998); Scott Dacko's political thriller The Insurgents (2007) with Mary Stuart Masterson; An Invisible Sign (2011) with Jessica Alba, and Jim Hemphill's romantic comedy The Trouble With the Truth with Lea Thompson. In addition, he co-wrote and directed the independent film Southie (1998) starring Amanda Peet, Donnie Wahlberg, Rose McGowan, Anne Meara, Will Arnet, Jimmy Cummings and Lawrence Tierney. Southie won the Seattle International Film Festival award for Best Film, represented the United States at the Montreal International Festival, and was distributed by Lions Gate Films. Southie was the first film shot entirely in South Boston, Massachusetts, once a power base for the Irish mob. He has also served on the Board of Advisors of the Nantucket Film Festival since its inception, a festival dedicated to the art of screenwriting.,
Since his Broadway debut in Yentl Shea has continued to work in Off-Broadway and Broadway theatre productions, starring in Arthur Kopit's End of the World with Linda Hunt, directed by Hal Prince, Paula Vogel's How I Learned to Drive with Molly Ringwold, Anne Meara's Down the Garden Paths with Eli Wallach and Anne Jackson, Eugene O'Neill's Long Day's Journey Into Night (Joseph Jefferson Award nom., Best Actor), the original production of A. R. Gurney's The Dining Room, Peter Parnell's The Sorrows of Stephen, Bulgakov's The Master and Margarita, Poliakoff's American Days, for which he received a Best Actor nomination from the Drama Desk Awards, Romeo and Juliet on Broadway at The Circle in the Square Theatre, Philip Barry's The Animal Kingdom with Sigourney Weaver, Nancy Hasty's The Director, directed by Evan Bergman, and Israel Horowitz's The Secret of Madame Bonnard's Bath in 2007. He is currently the Artistic Director of the Theatre Workshop of Nantucket where he has helped produce over twenty five productions in the past four years and acted in David Harrower's Blackbird, a revival of The Director, Donald Margulies Time Stands Still, and Orson Welles Moby Dick Rehearsed; Shea served an apprenticeship at this same theatre while a college student under the direction of an early mentor, Joseph Mac Dixon.
Shea made his Carnegie Hall debut playing The Soldier in Tom O'Horgan's production of Igor Stravinsky's LHistoire du Soldat, with Pinchas Zukerman and Andre de Shields. In 1986, he made his London West End debut starring in Larry Kramer's The Normal Heart at the Albery Theatre.
Shea is also a regular reader on Selected Shorts for Symphony Space, broadcast nationwide on Public Radio International. His reading of Truman Capote's A Christmas Memory won AudioFile Magazine's Earphones Award in 1999, as part of the anthology Selected Shorts: Classic Tales, Vol. XII. For his work reading Ted Bell's international thriller Assassin, Shea received an Audie Award-nomination as Best Male Narrator. He has also performed Bell's other novels: Hawke, 'spy, Pirate, Czar, Warlord, Phantom, Nick of Time, and The Time Pirate among other audio books, including Jonathan Tropper's One Last Thing Before I Go.
Besides his more high-profile starring roles in Lois & Clark and Mutant X, Shea's diverse television work includes guest-appearances on TV series Sex and the City, Law & Order, and Law & Order: Criminal Intent as well as being a recurring character on Gossip Girl.
Among other television films he was featured in Family Reunion (with Bette Davis), starred in Small Sacrifices (opposite Farrah Fawcett) which won a Peabody Award, in Kennedy (with Martin Sheen, in which he portrayed Robert F. Kennedy); Kennedy won the BAFTA Award. Other film work includes A Will of Their Own with Lea Thompson, Hitler's S.S. (opposite Bill Nighy) shot in England and Germany, Do You Know the Muffin Man with Pam Dawber, the BBC comedy Coast to Coast (with Lenny Henry and Pete Postlethwaite, and the film adaptation of A.R Gurney's play The Dining Room for Great Performances. Shea received a Prime Time Emmy Award for Outstanding Supporting Actor for his role in the mini-series Baby M opposite JoBeth Williams.