If you’re a TV or film fan, there’s a very good chance you’ve seen James Tolkan’s face on your screen several times over the years. Tolkan began his acting career more than 60 years ago, and he built quite an impressive resume during that time. He is probably most well known for his role in the three Back to the Future movies, but he has also been a part of several other successful projects over the years. His ability to play a wide variety of characters has been instrumental in his success. Although Tolkan is now in his early 90s, Tolkan is still as spunky as ever. Keep reading to learn ten things you didn’t know about James Tolkan.
1. He Is From Michigan
James is a proud midwesterner through and through. He was born in Michigan, and he is very proud of his roots. Since he has always been a private person, there isn’t much information on his upbringing and/or family life. However, we know he doesn’t come from a family with a background in the entertainment industry.
2. He Is a Director
James has spent most of his career in front of the camera, but he also enjoys telling stories from the other side. He made his directorial debut in 2002 with the TV series A Nero Wolfe Mystery. He directed two episodes of the show and has not done any directing work since.
3. James Tolkan Was in the Military
The road to becoming a professional actor looks different for everyone. That said, James’ journey has been one with quite a few twists and turns. He joined the Navy during the Korean War and served on the USS Sandoval. Unfortunately, he was discharged after about a year due to health issues.
4. He Is a Formally Trained Actor
Once James decided that acting was the path he wanted to pursue, he knew he wanted to give it his all. Taking acting classes was the best way for him to do that. He studied acting at the Actors Studio in New York City, where he was taught by legends such as Lee Strasberg and Stella Adler.
5. James Tolkan is Married
As mentioned earlier, James has always remained pretty private throughout his career. Because of that, some people may not be aware that he is married. He and his wife, Parmelee Welles, have been married since the summer of 1971. As far as we know, the couple does not have any children.
6. He Didn’t Always Plan on Being An Actor
There are countless actors who have known that acting was what they wanted to do for as long as they can remember. That isn’t the case for James, though. Becoming an actor wasn’t even on his radar for many years. However, once people get bitten by the acting bug, it can be difficult for them to focus on anything else.
7. He Likes to Sing
James Tolkan’s work as an actor is what made him famous, but it certainly isn’t the only creative talent he has in his arsenal. He is also a talented singer. In fact, he spent some time studying singing while he was in college. While it doesn’t appear that he has released any original music, his singing skills have come in handy during his acting career.
8. He’s Been on Broadway
Many actors seek out on-screen work because it tends to be more lucrative than theater. However, there’s something about the stage that lots of actors can’t resist, and this is something that James can relate to. He has been part of several theater productions, and he has even been in multiple Broadway productions.
9. James Tolkan Was in a Gang
Despite all of the success James has had in his career, things haven’t always been easy for him. When he was a teenager, he fell in with the wrong crowd. During an interview with We Are the Mighty, James said, ” I was running with a gang and quit school at 15. I lied about my age and got a job with the Chicago Northwestern Railroad with a pick and shovel, which I hated.”
10. He Was a Football Player
James has dedicated much of his life to the arts, but there was a time when athletics had his full attention. He was a very talented football player, and he earned a scholarship to play at Eastern Arizona College. He also did some boxing and was undefeated in the Golden Gloves because joining the navy. While in the navy, he also participated in boxing.