James Pickens Jr. (1954- )

Pickens poses in a sport coat in front of background with ABC logos
James Pickens Jr. at the Beverly Hills Ballroom of The Beverly Hilton in Beverly Hills, CA, August 5, 2015
Courtesy Walt Disney Television under CC BY-ND 2.0 license

James Pickens Jr. is an American actor. He is best known for his starring role as Dr. Richard Webber in the medical drama television series Grey’s Anatomy (ABC) and for his supporting role as Assistant Director Alvin Kersh in later seasons of the Fox Network science fiction series The X-Files, as well as Chuck Mitchell in Roseanne (1990-1996; 2018) and The Conners (2018-Present).

Pickens was born on October 26, 1954, in Cleveland, Ohio. He began acting while a student at Bowling Green State University. His first acting role was in a campus production of Matters of Choice by Charles Gordone. In 1976, Pickens earned his Bachelor of Fine Arts degree from BGSU.

Pickens began his professional acting career at the Roundabout Theatre in New York City, playing Walter Lee in A Raisin in the Sun. In 1981, Pickens starred in the Negro Ensemble Company’s production of A Soldier’s Play alongside Denzel Washington and Samuel L. Jackson.

In 1986, Pickens moved to the West Coast and began his Hollywood career playing Zack Edwards on the soap opera Another World from 1986 to 1990, after which he had recurring roles on The X-Files as Deputy Director Kersh, Curb Your Enthusiasm, The West Wing, Roseanne, Beverly Hills, 90210, JAG and Six Feet Under. He also had a role in the film on Jackie Robinson, 42. In 1997, Pickens played the role of Stevens, the head of NASA, in the Disney comedy Rocket Man.

In 2002, Pickens made a cameo appearance as a male zoo doctor in the film Red Dragon. Three years later, in 2005, he was signed to play Dr Richard Webber in the long running medical series Grey’s Anatomy.

In the all-star benefit reading of The Gift of Peace on February 28, 2007 at UCLA’s Freud Playhouse, Pickens plays a man whose life experiences lead him to volunteer in the peace movement. He stars alongside actors Ed Asner, Barbara Bain, Amy Brenneman, George Coe, and Wendie Malick. The play is an open appeal and fundraiser for the passage of U.S. House Resolution 808, which seeks to establish a cabinet-level “Department of Peace” in the U.S. government, to be funded by a two percent diversion of the Pentagon’s annual budget. In 2018, Pickens reprised his role as Chuckie Mitchell in two episodes of the tenth season of Roseanne.

James Pickens Jr. waving while riding a horse
James Pickens Jr., October 2, 2011 – Courtesy Jennifer June under CC BY-NC 2.0 license

Pickens married Gina Taylor, a former member of disco group Musique, on May 27, 1984. The couple have two children. In his spare time, Pickens enjoys horseback riding and driving cattle. He is a member of the United States Team Roping Championship and competes in roping events around the country. He owns an American Quarter Horse named Smokey.

Pickens’ two children, Carl Pickens, and Gavyn Pickens, both aspire to show business careers. His son Carl is working on a hip-hop career and has appeared on several television shows, including Hangin’ with Mr. Cooper, where he worked alongside his longtime friend, Omar Gooding.