Jeffrey Thomas Donovan[failed verification] (born May 11, 1968) is an American actor. He played Michael Westen in the television series Burn Notice, and starred in films such as Hitch, Believe in Me, Changeling and Come Early Morning. He played Robert F. Kennedy in Clint Eastwood’s J. Edgar (2011) and his brother John F. Kennedy in Rob Reiner’s LBJ (2016). He had recurring role in the second season of the TV series Fargo (2015).
Donovan was born the middle of three boys to Nancy Matthews (1946-2010); his older brother was Michael Donovan (c 1965-2010) and his younger brother is Sean (born 1970). Donovan’s mother raised her sons alone on welfare after their father abandoned the family. They moved several times before settling in Amesbury, Massachusetts.
At Amesbury High School, Donovan was mentored by a teacher who helped him start a drama club and find a private scholarship, enabling him to participate in a summer program that helped him start his acting career. He attended Bridgewater State College before transferring to the University of Massachusetts Amherst, where he graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in drama.
While attending college, Donovan was a commercial bus driver at UMass Transit Service, where he operated passenger buses as part of the PVTA. He went on to earn his Master of Fine Arts from New York University’s Graduate Acting Program at the Tisch School of the Arts.
Donovan has guest-starred in several television shows, including CSI: Miami, Spin City, Monk, Millennium, Witchblade, The Pretender, Homicide: Life on the Street and Law & Order. In the short-lived TV series Threshold, Donovan played the antihero Dr. Sloan. Donovan also played the recurring role of William Ivers in Crossing Jordan. In 2004, he had his first leading role in the American remake of the British television series Touching Evil with Vera Farmiga on the USA Network.
From 2007 to 2013, Donovan starred in Burn Notice, as Michael Westen, a spy who was burned, seemingly by the CIA or Homeland Security, for reasons unknown to him, and marooned in Miami, Florida. The show follows Westen as he attempts to find out why he was burned and regain his job as a covert intelligence agent, in addition to bringing justice to the good people of Miami. Donovan made his directorial debut with the series’ episode, “Made Man” which first aired on June 17, 2010. Donovan also directed a prequel film starring co-star Bruce Campbell, titled Burn Notice: The Fall of Sam Axe, which first aired on USA Network on April 17, 2011. The series lasted for seven seasons, received positive reviews from both fans and critics, and was nominated for four Primetime Emmy Awards.
In 2015, Donovan had a recurring role on Fargo as North Dakota mobster Dodd Gerhardt. In 2016, he began starring as Tarot-reading con artist Charlie Haverford in Shut Eye on Hulu. On January 30, 2018, Shut Eye was canceled after two seasons.
Donovan has also performed on stage in various productions, including Hamlet as the title character, A View from the Bridge as Marco, An Inspector Calls, and Off-Broadway in Things You Shouldn’t Say Past Midnight as Gene, The Glory of Living as Clint, regionally in Toys in the Attic as Julian Berniers, On the Waterfront as Terry Malloy, Oedipus as Teiresias and Freedomland as Seth. From October 2008 until spring 2009, he starred in the farce Don’t Dress for Dinner in Chicago. Donovan has also performed in the radio dramas On the Waterfront (once again as Terry Malloy), Frozen, and Grapes of Wrath.
Donovan has over 20 years of martial arts experience. In college, he earned his black belt in Shotokan karate and competed throughout the state. Later, he studied aikido for over six years and Brazilian jiu-jitsu.
On July 3, 2009, Donovan, a Boston Red Sox baseball fan since childhood, threw the ceremonial first pitch at the game between the Red Sox and the Seattle Mariners at Fenway Park. On July 3, 2010, he once again threw the ceremonial first pitch at Fenway Park, this time at a game between the Red Sox and the Baltimore Orioles.
Donovan married Michelle Woods on August 25, 2012. They had a daughter in December of that year. In 2014 Donovan and his wife welcomed their second child, a son. They had their third child, a daughter, in 2017.
In 2009, Donovan returned to Amesbury High School where he took part in a career day mentorship program with other successful professionals and presented the school with a $100,000 arts scholarship program. The first $10,000 award was given out to a senior that June.
For many years, Donovan has actively supported Life Rolls On (LRO), a foundation empowering people with spinal cord injuries. On October 4, 2009 he served as one of the chairmen for the 6th Annual LRO annual fundraiser called Night by the Ocean at the Kodak Theater. Donovan was named Grand Marshal of the 22nd annual AIDS Walk Miami held on April 17, 2010.
Donovan also supports his friends’ charity events. In September 2009, while helping Michael Bolton at the 17th Annual Benefit Concert for Women and Children at Risk in Stamford, Connecticut, Donovan auctioned off a “Burn Notice walk-on-part” plus a kiss. Walk on parts usually raise $2,000–$5,000. With the added kiss, he raised $36,000.
|1995||Throwing Down||Pete Gulley|
|1997||Vegas Vacation||Hotel employee|
|Catherine’s Grove||Thomas Mason|
|1998||Witness to the Mob||Agent|
|When Trumpets Fade||Private Bobby Miller|
|Book of Shadows: Blair Witch 2||Jeffrey Patterson|
|2004||Sam & Joe||Eric|
|2006||Come Early Morning||Cal Percell|
|Believe in Me||Clay Driscoll|
|Changeling||Captain J.J. Jones|
|2011||J. Edgar||Robert F. Kennedy|
|2016||LBJ||John F. Kennedy|
|2018||Sicario: Day of the Soldado||Steve Forsing|
|2019||Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil and Vile||John O’Connell|
|Lucy in the Sky||Jim Hunt|
|Wonder Woman: Bloodlines||Steve Trevor||Voice role|
|2020||Honest Thief||Agent Sean Meyers|
|Let Him Go||Bill Weboy|
|2021||Wrath of Man||Jackson|
|National Champions||Mike Titus||Post-production|
|1995||Homicide: Life on the Street||Miles and Newton Dell||Episode: “Thrill of the Kill”|
|1995, 2007||Law & Order||Edward Nicodos / Jacob Reese||2 episodes|
|1997||Millennium||Bobby Webber||Episode: “The Wild and the Innocent”|
|Another World||Dwayne ‘Popper’ Collins||1 episode|
|1997–1998||The Pretender||Kyle||3 episodes|
|1999||Spin City||Tom||2 episodes|
|2000||The Beat||Brad Ulrich||Recurring role|
|2002||Witchblade||Daniel Germaine||Episode: “Lagrimas”|
|2002–2007||American Bikers||Michael Baldwin||Main voice role|
|2004||Touching Evil||Detective Inspector Dave Creegan||Main role|
|2005||CSI: Miami||Todd Kendrick||2 episodes|
|2006||Threshold||Dr. Julian Sloan||Episode: “Vigilante”|
|Monk||Steve Wagner||Episode: “Mr. Monk and the Astronaut”|
|2007||Crossing Jordan||William Ivers||5 episodes|
|2007–2013||Burn Notice||Michael Westen||Main role;
also director (episodes: “Made Man”, “Mixed Message”, and “Forget Me Not”)
|2011||Burn Notice: The Fall of Sam Axe||Michael Westen||Television film; cameo; also director and executive producer|
|2015||Fargo||Dodd Gerhardt||Recurring role, 10 episodes|
|2016–2017||Shut Eye||Charlie Haverford||Main role|
|2021||Invincible||Machine Head||1 episode|
Awards and nominations
|2003||Method Fest Independent Film Festival||Best Supporting Actor||Sam & Joe||Won|
|2010||Teen Choice Awards||Choice TV Actor: Action||Burn Notice||Nominated|
|2011||Teen Choice Awards||Choice TV Actor: Action||Burn Notice||Nominated|