John Pankow

John Pankow (born April 28, 1954) is an American actor. He began his career on-stage in New York, in numerous Off-Broadway and Broadway plays including Peter Shaffer's Amadeus, John Patrick Shanley's Italian American Reconciliation, and Brian Friel's Aristocrats. After a starring role in William Friedkin's To Live and Die in L.A., he began appearing regularly in film and on television, playing Ira Buchman for all eight seasons of Mad About You and later Merc Lapidus on Episodes.

John Pankow
Born (1954-04-28) April 28, 1954 (age 66)
Years active1980–present
RelativesJames Pankow (brother)

Early life and educationEdit

Pankow was born in St. Louis, Missouri, to a Catholic family of German and Irish descent,[1] the sixth of nine siblings. His elder brother is trombonist/composer James Pankow, a founding member of the rock group Chicago. Pankow grew up in Park Ridge, Illinois, and attended Maine South High School and Northeastern Illinois University.

He left the university in his junior year after he attended a performance of David Mamet's The American Buffalo at the St. Nicholas Theater. Inspired by the play, he enrolled in the theater's two-year theatrical training program in order to concentrate solely on acting.


While visiting a friend in New York City, Pankow auditioned for, and won, a role in a for an episode of PBS' Great Performances entitled "Life on the Mississippi". He went on to perform in several Off-Broadway productions including Aristocrats, Italian American Reconciliation, and the New York Shakespeare Festival's The Tempest, Two Gentlemen of Verona and Henry VIII. He subsequently made it to Broadway with Serious Money, The Iceman Cometh, and as Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart in Amadeus, replacing Tim Curry in the role and subsequently replacing him for a touring production.

After minor supporting roles in The Hunger and Rambo: First Blood Part II, he had his first starring role on-screen in To Live and Die in L.A. as rookie Secret Service agent John Vukovich, starring opposite William Petersen and Willem Dafoe. Pankow was cast after director William Friedkin deliberately sought out young, relatively-unknown stage actors for the project. After casting fellow Chicgoan Petersen, the old friend reached out to Pankow, who brought him to Friedkin who cast him on the spot.[2]

He subsequently appeared for seven seasons as Ira Buchman on the NBC sitcom Mad About You, where he was nominated for four Screen Actors Guild Awards for Outstanding Performance by an Ensemble in a Comedy Series. He was a series regular on the Showtime/BBC series Episodes, playing American television executive Merc Lapidus. He has since appeared in numerous films and television series.

Personal lifeEdit

Pankow has been married to actress Kristine Sutherland since 1985, and they have one daughter together.[citation needed] He resides in New York City.

Stage creditsEdit

Year Title Role Theatre Notes
1980 Merton of the Movies
1982-83 Amadeus Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart Broadhurst Theatre Replaced Tim Curry
1981 The Slab Boys Hector Hudson Guild Theatre
Forty-Deuce Perry Street Theatre
Hunting Scenes From Lower Bavaria Abram Stage 73
1982 Cloud Nine
Jazz Poets at the Grotto
1983 Thornhill
1984 Henry V
1985 The Iceman Cometh Rocky Pioggi Lunt-Fontanne Theatre Drama-Logue Award for Outstanding Performance
1987 Two Gentlemen of Verona Speed Delacorte Theater
North Shore Fish
1988 Serious Money Zac Zackerman Bernard B. Jacobs Theatre
Italian American Reconciliation Hugh Maximillian Bonfigliano Manhattan Theatre Club
1989 Aristocrats Eamon Theater Four Clarence Derwent Award for Most Promising Male Newcomer
1990 Ice Cream with Hot Fudge Colin/Man in Devon/Shrink/Colleague/

Fellow Guest/Hitcher/Professor

1992 Scheherazade
1995 The Tempest Stephano Delacorte Theater
1997 Baby Anger Larry Paterson Playwrights Horizons Wilder Theater
2001-02 Barbra's Wedding Jerry Schiff Plays and Players Theatre
2001 Measure for Measure Lucio Delacorte Theater
2003 Barbra's Wedding Jerry Schiff Westside Theatre
2004 Good Canary Susan Stein Shiva Theater Workshop
2004-05 Twelve Angry Men Juror No. 7 American Airlines Theatre
2006 The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie Gordon Lowther Acorn Theatre
2007-08 Cymbeline Pisanio Vivian Beaumont Theater
2009 Why Torture is Wrong, and the People Who Love Them Reverend Mike The Public Theater
Keep Your Pantheon Pelargon Linda Gross Theater
2010 Equivocation William Shagspeare New York City Center
2012 The Taming of the Shrew Grumio New 42nd Street
Medieval Play Pershing Square Signature Center
2013 Natural Affection Vince Brinkman Samuel Beckett Theatre
2014 Much Ado About Nothing Dogberry Delacorte Theater
2015-16 Dada Woof Papa Hot Michael Vivian Beaumont Theater
2017 Assisted Living Eugene O'Neill Theater Center Staged reading
2018 Turning Off The Morning News Jimmy McCarter Theatre
The True Charlie Ryan Pershing Square Signature Center
2019 Kiss Me, Kate Gangster Studio 54



Year Title Role Notes
1981 The Chosen Bully
1983 The Hunger 1st Phone Booth Youth
1985 Rambo: First Blood Part II POW #6 Uncredited
To Live and Die in L.A. John Vukovich
1987 The Secret of My Success Fred Melrose
*batteries not included Kovacs
1988 Johnny Be Good Lou Landers Uncredited
Monkey Shines Geoffrey Fisher
Talk Radio Deitz
1991 Mortal Thoughts Arthur Kellogg
Year of the Gun Italo Bianchi
1992 A Stranger Among Us Levine
1998 The Object of My Affection Vince McBride
2001 Life as a House Bryan Burke
2002 Advice and Dissent Jeffrey Goldman Short film
2009 Bride Wars John
2010 The Extra Man George
Morning Glory Lenny Bergman
2012 Putzel Sid
TBA Married Young Dr. Levovitz post-production
Before/During/After Jim Lonergan


Year Title Role Notes
1980 Great Performances George Richie Episode: "Life on the Mississippi"
1982 The Doctors Danny Martin Recurring role (3 episodes)
1984 Miami Vice Floyd Higgins Episode: "Glades"
1985 First Steps Fred Television film
1986 Search for Tomorrow Father O'Hanlan Episode: "Finale"
1987 Spenser: For Hire Billy Hanratty Episode: "The Song of Orpheus"
Leg Work Chuck Savin Episode: "Pilot"
1990–91 The Days and Nights of Molly Dodd Ron Luchesse Series regular (8 episodes)
1992 Law & Order Charles Meadow Episode: "Wedded Bliss"
Mad About You Ira Buchman Series regular (143 episodes)

Nominated—SAG Award for Outstanding Performance by an Ensemble in a Comedy Series (1995–98)

1995 Duckman: Private Dick/Family Man Additional characters (voices) Episode: "Research and Destroy"
1996 Aaahh!!! Real Monsters Blook the Granfaloon (voice) Episode: "The Master Monster/Slumber Scare"
2002 Ally McBeal Barry Dekumbis 2 episodes
2004 Without a Trace Brian Owen Episode: "Exposure"
2006 Law & Order: Criminal Intent Phil Lambier Episode: "Cruise to Nowhere"
The Book of Daniel Charlie Conlin 2 episodes
2008 Law & Order A.D.A. Josh Lethem Episode: "Illegal"
2009 The Electric Company Stan Flea Episode: "Mighty Bright Fight"
2011 Law & Order: LA Attorney Byron Episode: "East Pasadena"
The Good Wife Judge Cyril Handley Episode: "Getting Off"
2011–17 Episodes Merc Lapidus Series regular (40 episodes)
2012 Elementary Edgar Knowles Episode: "The Long Fuse"
2013 The Arrangement Herman Mackey Television film
Doubt Mr. Syd Newman
2014–19 Madam Secretary NASA Administrator Glenn Recurring role (4 episodes)
2015 Law & Order: Special Victims Unit Lenny Simmons Episode: "Agent Provocateur"
2015–16 Lucifer Jimmy Barnes 2 episodes
2017–18 Chicago P.D. Tommy Wells
2018 Unorganized Crime Fr. Anthony Corso Television film
Blue Bloods John Romano Episode: "The Devil You Know"


  1. ^ "Brother Act". Retrieved 10 March 2017.
  2. ^ Segaloff, Nat (1990). Hurricane Billy: The Stormy Life and Films of William Friedkin. New York: William Morrow & Company, Inc. p. 226. ISBN 0-688-07852-4.

External linksEdit