Today is William H. Macy’s birthday. Macy is an American actor who made a reputation for himself as an independent film luminary, with major crossover successes in big budget Hollywood movies. He has two Emmy Awards to his name, four Screen Actors Guild Awards and a Best Supporting Actor Academy Award nomination. He is currently playing Frank Gallagher on the Showtime series Shameless.
He was born in Miami in 1950, to father William Hall Macy, Sr. and mother Lois Overstreet. William Macy, Sr, a decorated veteran of WWII, moved the family to Georgia and then to Maryland when William, Jr. was a young boy. He graduated from Allegany High School in Cumberland, Maryland in 1968 and studied to become a veterinarian at Bethany College. He described himself as a “wretched student.”
The wretched student turned out to be much less wretched in the performing arts than in veterinary medicine. He transferred to Goddard College in Vermont to pursue a nascent creative career. He studied under the legendary playwright David Mamet, most famous for writing Glenarry Glen Ross.
Mamet and Macy continued working together after Macy graduated in 1972, with Macy acting in Mamet plays such as The Water Engine and American Buffalo. He moved to LA, then to New York, where he acted in major and minor plays before transitioning to television acting. He also appeared in multiple Mamet films, including State and Main and Wag the Dog.
His big mainstream break came with Fargo, which both made him famous and typecast him as a doomed everyman. Fargo launched the most prolific period of Macy’s career, with many successful movies following it. Macy has mostly worked in comedy and drama, though at one time he had aspirations to become an action star. In an interview, he said he wanted to star in a major action film “for the money, for the security of a franchise like that. And I love big action-adventure movies. They’re way cool.”
Macy is one of the rare actors who has both mainstream draw and major indie credibility. He is regarded as one of the most talented actors working in Hollywood, and outside of it, today.