Sunday, when AMC's new drama Halt And Catch Fire premieres, viewers will have many questions, like: Will this show be the new Mad Men? And, Where did the amazing Mackenzie Davis come from? And also, Why the heck does that lead guy look so dang familiar? Halt's protagonist, a charismatic sales exec trying to reverse engineer IBM's personal computer, is Joe MacMillian (played by Lee Pace). Pace has yet to become a household name, but his resume is impressive nonetheless, and chances are good you've seen him somewhere before — whether on your TV screen, in Middle Earth, or on a Broadway stage.
Born in 1979 in Chickasha, Oklahoma to an engineer and a schoolteacher, Pace spent a considerable part of his childhood living in Saudi Arabia, where his father worked in the oil business. After moving back Stateside, he attended high school in Texas, alongside fellow future actor Matt Bomer (White Collar). Pace received his Bachelor of Fine Arts from Juilliard in 2001, graduating alongside the likes of Anthony Mackie (Captain America: The Winter Soldier) and Tracie Thoms (Cold Case).
After just one guest starring stint on Law & Order: SVU, Pace landed his first major role in Showtime's 2003 TV movie Soldier's Girl. The film, based on a true story, starred Pace as Calpernia, a transgender showgirl who falls in love with a soldier who's eventually beaten to death by his bunkmates because of his relationship with Calpernia. The role garnered Pace rave reviews and awards attention — the film itself won the Peabody Award, while Pace earned nominations from the Golden Globes, the Independent Spirit Awards, and the Satellite Awards and received the Gotham Award for Breakthrough Actor.
After Soldier's Girl, Pace starred briefly in the tragically short-lived fantasy-comedy-drama Wonderfalls (from Hannibal creator Bryan Fuller). Alas, the show was cancelled after one season. Pace went on to appear in a number of small theatrical films, such as The White Countess, Infamous, The Good Shepherd, and Miss Pettigrew Lives For A Day. His largest and most unusual role during this period was as the lead in Tarsem Singh's sumptuous visual feast The Fall, where Pace played a stuntman conning an innocent young girl into stealing him morphine by telling her a fantastical story featuring himself as the infamous and romantic Red Bandit.
When Bryan Fuller developed another fantasy-comedy-drama for television, he knew exactly who to cast as his leading man. For two seasons on ABC, Pace starred as a hapless pie maker who could bring the dead back to life with one touch on the candy-colored Pushing Daisies. Despite critical acclaim, low-rated Daisies was cancelled after two seasons, though it lived on briefly in comic book form. There have been rumblings of reviving the show as a Broadway musical (the cast already includes such music theater legends as Kristin Chenoweth and Swoosie Kurtz), but as of yet such rumors are unconfirmed.
Pace followed up his stint on television with his Broadway debut, appearing in the revival of Larry Kramer's AIDS drama The Normal Heart alongside Joe Mantello, Ellen Barkin, and Jim Parsons. Pace played the part of Bruce Niles, the character portrayed by Taylor Kitsch in the recent HBO film version. (Coincidentally, the HBO version also starred Pace's former high school classmate Matt Bomer.)
Ever since his time on the Great White Way, Pace has been popping up in major Hollywood movies left and right. First he drew blood as nomadic vampire Garrett in The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn - Part 2. Then he played New York City mayor Fernando Wood in Steven Spielberg's Oscar-nominated Lincoln. Most recently, he appeared as Legolas' father, badass elf king Thranduil, in both Hobbit films (a cameo in the prologue of An Unexpected Journey and a more extensive role in The Desolation Of Smaug).
And Pace hasn't even finished his domination of Hollywood yet. Apart from starring in Halt And Catch Fire and reprising his role as Thranduil in The Hobbit: The Battle Of The Five Armies , he also plays the villainous Ronan The Accuser in Marvel's upcoming space opera Guardians Of The Galaxy . When does the man sleep?
Images: AMC; Showtime; Absolute Entertainment; ABC; The Shubert Organization; New Line Cinema