Born in Boston in 1960, handsome preppy James Spader was the son of two teachers. He dropped out of private school to make it in acting (he was a janitor in Times Square when he got his first film role). Ironic, considering that in the 1980s, Spader made a name for himself portraying the bad rich kid the sneering Steff in Pretty in Pink
, the Cheshire-mugged drug dealer in Less Than Zero
, a smarmy sexhibitionist in Sex, Lies and Videotape
... and, well, you get the idea. His career hit a bit of the dry run in the 1990s, but he became the comeback kid with two key roles in the early aughts: he portrayed a shamelessly sadistic boss in the critically acclaimed 2002 film Secretary
, and entered David E. Kelley's legal drama The Practice
during its final run, whereupon he reinvigorated a show many had turned away from. His turn as showboat lawyer Alan Shore garnered him what was to become a Practice spin-off and much more: Boston Legal
. Spader drove the quirky courtroom vehicle until it ended in 2008. He is the first actor to have won Best Leading Actor Emmys for portraying the same character on two different shows.
A former embezzler and ethically questionable attorney, Alan Shore is still an ace in the hole for whatever law firm is brave enough to be responsible for his employ. Like the actor who portrays him, the Massachusetts-bred lawyer is prone to taking on unlikely jobs - and comes to each armed with loads of charisma. A widower, outspoken Shore is an ex-employee of Young, Frutt and Berluti, the firm that is best known from Boston Legal predecessor The Practice. He was fired from the company for his morally gray legal methods, but later won a settlement against Young, Frutt and Berluti a move that bankrupted the firm. Now he's a senior associate at Crane, Poole and Schmidt, where he takes on lofty cases no other sane attorney will touch; sometimes he wins, sometimes he doesn't, but he always follows his moral instincts (if not ethics). He is aided and abetted by the firm's founding father, equally gregarious attorney Denny Crane.