Veteran theater actor James Sutorius has performed for the most prestigious regional and repertory companies in the country including California’s Old Globe, La Jolla Playhouse, Center Theatre Group, Huntington Hartford, South Coast Repertory, and Pasadena Playhouse, as well as Lincoln Center, Yale Repertory, Seattle Repertory, Long Wharf Theatre, Cleveland Playhouse, Asolo State Theatre, Cleveland Playhouse, Arizona Repertory and Cherry Lane Theatre. While he has displayed his talents in scores of TV and film assignments over a three-decade period, his heart has remained true to the theater. Most recently he was seen on Broadway at the Music Box Theatre in Aaron Sorkin’s new play “The Farnsworth Invention” that was directed by Des McAnuff and produced by Steven Spielberg. In 2007 he won two San Diego Theatre Critics Awards for his memorable performance as George in “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf” and for his multiple supporting roles in John Strand’s play “Lincolnesque”. Prior to that he was selected to co-star in Arthur Laurents “2 Lives” at the George Street Playhouse in New York and in Charles L. Mee Jr.’s play “A Perfect Wedding” at the Kirk Douglas Theatre in Los Angeles.
James was born in Ohio but raised in Wheaton, Illinois, the youngest of three sons born to an advertising executive and a homemaker. Attending the same Wheaton high school as John Belushi and Bob Woodward, James was quite active in sports. It was a leading role in a school production of “The Desperate Hours,” however, that altered his career ambitions. Studying at Illinois’ Wesleyan University, James had played the first of his three Hamlets by the time he received his BFA. He went on to train at the Academy of Dramatic Art in Michigan for two years before relocating to New York City to try his luck.
He didn’t have to wait long or pay the bills by waiting tables or opening hotel doors. His deep, classically-trained voice was perfectly suited for voiceover work and almost immediately he had the good fortune of landing a 17-year job as the voice for Ragu Spaghetti Sauce and spawning the national catchphrase “Now, THAT’S Italian!” Voice-over work continues to this day pitching other products such as Coca Cola and Wrangler Jeans. He also lends his distinctive voice to audio books and short story anthologies on tape.
James made an auspicious Broadway debut in 1973 with “The Changing Room.” In his very first entrance as a member of a rugby team, he had to walk downstage and strip off all his clothes! Instead of finding the experience terrifying, he actually found it liberating. Two years later he was playing Laertes at the Vivian Beaumont opposite Sam Waterston’s Hamlet, and alongside a rising cast of stars that included Jane Alexander, Mandy Patinkin, George Hearn and John Heard. Following that in 1978 he played the son of Cameron Mitchell and Jan Sterling in “The November People” at the Billy Rose Theatre.
In the mid-1970s James broke into TV. With his intense good looks, he was deemed to play a number of no-nonsense professional types as well as heavies in dramatic programs. After guest roles on such shows as “Cannon” and “Kojak,” he found series regular work supporting Bob Crane on his short-lived sitcom The Bob Crane Show (1975). His break, however, came when he nabbed the starring role of investigative reporter Mike Andros in the one-season The Andros Targets (1977), which filmed on the streets of New York. This success convinced him to make a decisive move to Los Angeles. Appearing in a number of notable TV movies including A Death in Canaan (1978), A Question of Love (1978), Skokie (1981), Space (1985) and On Wings of Eagles (1986), he went on to guest star on the most popular series of the day (“St. Elsewhere,” “Family Ties,” “21 Jump Street,” “Murder, She Wrote,” “L.A. Law,” “The X Files”, “Judging Amy”). He also found occasional recurring stints on such shows as “Dynasty”. Sporadic film work came along in the form of I’m Dancing as Fast as I Can (1982) starring Jill Clayburgh and Windy City (1984) with John Shea and Kate Capshaw.
It is his classical and contemporary work in theatre, however, that has sustained him over the years — his multiple Hamlets and Macbeth, as well as his John Proctor in “The Crucible,” Trigorin in “The Seagull,” Astrov in “Uncle Vanya,” Valmont in “Les Liaisons Dangereuses,” McMurphy in “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest,” Sir Thomas More in “A Man for All Seasons,” Dick Dudgeon in “The Devil’s Disciple” and Marchbanks in “Candida.” One special highlight was his highly successful return to Broadway in 1992 when he replaced “Monk” actor Tony Shalhoub as son Charlie in the hard-hitting, Tony Award-winning play “Conversations with My Father” opposite Judd Hirsch.