Whatever Happened To Judd Nelson?

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Judd Nelson, one-time member of the young group of actors in the 1980s known as the "Brat Pack," fell into acting by accident. Born and raised in Portland, Maine, Nelson made it to college before he discovered acting, according to Biography. Attending an audition with a friend at Haverford College in Pennsylvania, Nelson was told he couldn't be there as a spectator: he either had to leave or audition for a role. He decided to audition, and found himself in his first play. Suddenly smitten with the stage, he soon dropped out of college to pursue acting, moving to New York City to study at the Stella Adler Conservatory. Eventually, he landed in Hollywood.

Starring in iconic 1980s films such as "The Breakfast Club" and "St. Elmo's Fire" alongside the likes of Emilio Estevez, Molly Ringwald, and Ally Sheedy, Nelson made acting look effortless and so cool. Where has he been since he left the "Brat Pack," since the days of starring in John Hughes movies? The actor has remained busy, and has branched out to include other genres. You may have seen him on stage or the small screen, recognized his voice in "The Transformers: The Movie," or even seen one of his books on Kindle.

Judd Nelson in the movies

In Judd Nelson's two most iconic 1980s roles, he played characters that were polar opposites of each other. In "The Breakfast Club” (above) he played a rebellious high school stoner, and in "St. Elmo's Fire" he played a young college graduate with political ambitions. The range did not impress New York Magazine, who declared Nelson to be "the overrated one" of the Brat Pack, insisting that "he was better off when typecast" as a "hood." Undaunted by the critique, the actor continued to take an array of movie roles well past the 1980s.

In "New Jack City," released in 1991, viewers saw Nelson starring opposite Ice-T as New York City detectives taking down a crack-dealing kingpin played by Wesley Snipes. In the 1994 comedy "Airheads," Nelson appeared alongside actors Brendan Fraser, Steve Buscemi, and Adam Sandler in movie about a rock band looking for their big break. Though Nelson turned his attention to television, he continued occasional movie roles, including a sheriff in "Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back" in 2001, and a starring role in "Nevermore," a 2007 thriller (via IMDb).

Judd Nelson's world is a stage

Judd Nelson started as a stage actor from his first play at Haverford College, through his years studying at the Stella Adler Conservatory in New York. He had even been a member of the Shoestring Shakespeare Company, according to TV Guide. So it is no surprise that the Hollywood star would feel the pull to return to live theater, which he has called his "first love."

According to the Los Angeles Times, in 1988 Nelson starred in Anton Chechov's play "The Seagull" at the Los Angeles Theater. The play reviewed well, especially Nelson's performance as Konstantin Treplev, a struggling writer. Two years later, Nelson co-starred with John Cryer and Justine Bateman in an off-Broadway production of "Carnal Knowledge." Nelson played Jonathan, "a cynical lout whose vision of women never gets much beyond the bedroom," according to an Associated Press reviewer. Nelson would later team up with Cryer again in the television series "Two and a Half Men."

Judd Nelson is made for TV

Judd Nelson is as well known for his work on the small screen of television as on the big screen of movies. He received a Golden Globe nomination in 1988 for his portrayal of scheming investor Joe Hunt in the 1987 television mini-series "Billionaire Boys Club." The 1990s saw Nelson co-starring with Brooke Shields in the series "Suddenly Susan." Shields played the title role, a columnist at a San Francisco magazine, and Nelson played her sports-loving boss. The show ran four seasons, from 1996 through 2000, with Nelson's character leaving at the start of the fourth season to be replaced by British actor Eric Idle of Monty Python fame, whom Nelson had worked with in "The Transformers: The Movie."

Nelson has played recurring roles on popular programs. In 2010, he appeared with Courtney Thorne-Smith as her ex-boyfriend in the show "Two and a Half Men." In the television series "Empire," which aired from 2015 to 2020, Nelson played Billy Baretti, a rival record company executive to main character Lucious Lyon, played by Terrence Howard (via IMDb).

Judd Nelson lends a voice

Judd Nelson began voice acting in the mid-1980s, playing the animated character Hot Rod in "The Transformers: The Movie." Hot Rod becomes Rodimus Prime after taking a leadership role among the Autobots, a faction of Transformers, in the 1986 movie based on an earlier children's TV series. Nelson worked alongside esteemed actors Orson Welles, Eric Idle, and Leonard Nimoy in the animated film, which (per "Today") was the last film Welles made before he died. The following year Nelson joined other stars such as Willem Dafoe and Robert De Niro to lend their voices reading letters from Vietnam Veterans in the non-animated 1987 documentary, "Dear America: Letters Home from Vietnam."

Returning to the "Transformers" franchise, Nelson revived his role as Rodimus Prime decades later, voicing the character in a reboot television series in 2009, and again in 2017, according to IMDb. Nelson has continued voice acting through the years, playing a guest role in the Disney animated series "Phineas and Ferb" in 2009, and multiple recurring roles in the animated series "Ben 10: Omniverse" from 2013 to 2014.

Judd Nelson is an author

With all his work acting on stage and screen, Judd Nelson has made time to write. TV Guide reports that it was in the 1990s that he wrote his first screenplay, collaborating with writers Steve Bing and Andrew Fleming. The result was the 1994 movie "Every Breath," a thriller that he also starred in. Nelson would continue writing, and eventually add "author" to his list of titles.

In 2013, Nelson published the short story: "The Power of Speech," available on Kindle. It is the story of a boy and his dog, the inspiration for which comes from the fact that Nelson himself had two dogs at the time of publication. Nelson also co-wrote the story "Nine of Diamonds" with Los Angeles author Nancy Fulton. The 2013 short story, described as "intense" in Amazon reader reviews, is also available on Kindle. From "Brat Pack" movie star to voice actor, stage performer, and author, Judd Nelson has not disappeared, but has moved on to many other pursuits.