Wallace-Shawn
Wallace Shawn | Biography

Quick Information

  • Full Name Wallace Michael Shawn
  • Occupation Actor, Voiceover actor, Playwright, Writer, Screenwriter and Comedian
  • Nationality American
  • Birthplace New York City, New York, USA
  • Birth Date November 12, 1943
Cast Of CBS sitcom ‘Young Sheldon’

Wallace Shawn | Biography

Actor of Movies Like 'The Princess Bride' (1987), 'Vanya on 42nd Street' (1994), and 'Clueless'

Wallace Shawn started his career as a playwright in 1975 when he produced 'Our Late Night.' He bagged an ‘Obie Award’ for the category of playwright for the particular play. In 'A Thought in Three Parts,' one of Shawn’s early works as a playwright, he prolonged a simulated orgy in his second act. In 1977, the play got pulled off from the theatre after parliamentary protests, making its debut screening in London. However, after this play, he received a reputation as a risk-taking playwright. 


Wallace Shawn is an American actor, voice-over artist, comedian, and playwright. He is famous for his role in CBS’s popular sitcom ‘Young Sheldon,’ as Dr. John Sturgis.

Who is Wallace Shawn?

Wallace Shawn was a teacher before entering the realm of playwright and acting. Wallace taught English in India for a year on a Fulbright Scholarship after completing his college. He further continued his teaching career in New York after his return from India. He taught English, Latin, and drama. 

Shawn let go of his career as a teacher to pursue his interest in 1979. He wanted to work on the stage as both playwright and actor. However, his involvement in the performing arts dates back to 1967, when he appeared in his first play, Four Meals in May.

Early Life and Education

Born on 12 November 1943, Wallace Michael Shawn grew up in New York City. He was the eldest son of William Shawn and Cecille (Lyon) Shawn. William was renowned as a long-time editor of The New Yorker, while Cecille was a journalist. Wallace grew up in a privileged family, along with his brother Allen Shawn. Allen later became a composer.  

Shawn attended Harvard University and graduated in history in 1965. He then attended Magdalen College, a constituent college of Oxford, to study philosophy and economics. While growing up in the sophisticated and elite Upper East Side of Manhattan, Shawn enjoyed listening to Mozart and reading Sigmund Freud’s book. He got exposed to the literary culture of New York City because of his parents and their profession.   

Career as Playwright

Shawn started his career as a playwright in 1975 when he produced Our Late Night. He bagged an ‘Obie Award’ for the category of playwright for the particular play. In A Thought in Three Parts, one of Shawn’s early works as a playwright, he prolonged a simulated orgy in his second act. In 1977, the play got pulled off from the theatre after parliamentary protests, making its debut screening in London. However, after this play, he received a reputation as a risk-taking playwright. 

The same year, Shawn also made his acting debut through The Mandrake, which he translated from its original language Italian to English. He later produced Marie and Bruce in 1979. His production Aunt Dan and Lemon, produced in 1985, showed the overtly political side of Shawn. The play reflected the psychology of his character and behavior of the government and social classes in a parallel setting. He received his second ‘Obie Award’ in the 1990-91 season for The Fever, produced in 1990, as Best New Play. 

Throughout Shawn’s career as a playwright, he produced plays like The Designated Mourner in 1997, Grasses of a Thousand Colors in 2008, and Evening at The Talk House in 2015.

Career as An Actor

Shawn started his career in acting in 1970 when he first worked with Andre Gregory for a play. Later, he acted in his plays, directed by Gregory. From the theatre, he took a slight turn and started his acting career in movies. He made his on-screen debut with Woody Allen’s Manhattan, released in 1979. He played the role of Jeremiah, who was Diane Keaton’s (played by Mary Wilkie) husband. 

Shawn played the role of Earl in Strange Invaders that got released in 1983. The other character that made him well-known was Mr. Hall in Clueless, released in 1995. He played the role of a disciplinary teacher. 

He also appeared in My Dinner With Andre (1981). The casting director of the film was impressed with his rendition of the term “inconceivable.” As a result, she hired him as Vizzini in The Princess Bride in 1987.

Some of Shawn’s other highly mentioned role includes Baron Von Westphalen in Southland Tales (2006), Ezra in Haunted Mansion (2003), and Uncle Vanya in Vanya on 42nd Street (1994), and Clueless (1995). His most recent film appearances include Frank in Marriage Story (2019) and Mr. Crocus in Timmy Failure: Mistakes Were Made (2020).

Career as a Voice-over Artist

Shawn has lent his voice to many animated characters since the 1990s. His journey as a voice-over artist started with an animated film, A Goofy Movie, in 1995, as principal Mazur. In the same year, he also voiced in the popular animated movie franchises Toy Story. In addition, he voiced the character of Rex. He would later with the same franchise in 1999, 2010, and 2019. 

In 1998, Shawn lent his voice to another animated movie, The Jungle Book: Mowgli’s Story. Throughout his career as a voice-over artist, he has worked in many animated films such as The Incredibles, which got released in 2004, 2006 release, Happily N’Ever After, Cats & Dogs: The Revenge of Kitty Galore (2010), and a 2011 release Kung Fu Panda: Legends of Awesomeness.

Television Shows and ‘Young Sheldon’ 

Shawn portrays the character of Dr. John Sturgis in CBS’s comedy sitcom, Young Sheldon, which initially aired in 2017. In the television series, he portrays the mentor of Sheldon Lee Cooper. Iain Armitage plays the role of Sheldon in the series.  

Shawn has also made multiple guest appearances in other television series. His notable appearances include Taxi (1982-1983), where he played the role of Arnie Ross for two episodes, Homicide: Life on the Street (1999), Sex and the City (2004), Desperate Housewives (2005), The Good Wife (2013-2015), BoJack Horseman (2014), Search Party (2020). Shawn was also part of some long-term television series like Mozart in the Jungle (2014), Stark Trek: Deep Space Nine (1993), and Murphy Brown (1988). 

Personal Life 

Shawn has been in a live-in relationship with American actress and writer Deborah Eisenberg since 1972. They have not been married, although being together for almost five decades. In an interview, Eisenberg said, “It’s absolutely wonderful to live with him. He has a great brain. A certifiably great brain. He’s just the most wonderful and generous person. He’s always my first reader. I show him my work when I believe that I am absolutely finished. But I don’t show him my work in progress - at least I don’t think it’s in progress. We once wrote a screenplay together which, like most screenplays, was never made. … And I performed in his play, “The Designated Mourner,” one of the great thrills of my life.” 

What Is Wallace Shawn’s Net Worth?

Shawn has an estimated net worth of $8 million as of August 2021. Throughout his 42 years of journey in the performing entertainment business, he holds credit for over 135 works as an actor, playwright, and voice-over artist.            

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