Jeffrey Donovan

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Jeffrey Donovan
Donovan in November 2009
Born (1968-05-11) May 11, 1968 (age 55)
EducationBridgewater State University
University of Massachusetts, Amherst (BA)
New York University (MFA)
Years active1995–present
Michelle Woods
(m. 2012)

Jeffrey Donovan (born May 11, 1968)[1][2] is an American actor. He played Michael Westen in the television series Burn Notice, and appeared 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)[3] and his brother John F. Kennedy in Rob Reiner's LBJ (2016). He had a recurring role in the second season of the TV series Fargo (2015). From 2022 to 2023, he starred as NYPD Detective Frank Cosgrove on the revival of the NBC crime drama Law & Order. He left the show before the 23rd season due to creative differences.

Early life[edit]

Donovan was born the middle of three boys to Nancy Matthews (1946–2010); his older brother is Michael Donovan (c. 1965) and his younger brother was Sean (1970-1987). Donovan’s mother raised her sons alone on welfare after their father abandoned the family. They moved several times before settling in Amesbury, Massachusetts.[4][5][6]

At Amesbury High School, Donovan was mentored by a teacher who helped him start a drama club[7] and find a private scholarship, enabling him to participate in a summer program that helped him start his acting career.[8] 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.[citation needed][9] 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 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.[10]

In 2021, he was cast as a series regular detective for the 21st season of Law & Order.[11]


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 (play) 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.

Personal life[edit]

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.[12]

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.[13] 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.[14]

Donovan married model and actress Michelle Woods in 2012. Their daughter, Claire, was born that same year. Son Lucas was born in 2014 and they had a third child, another daughter, in 2017.[15][16]


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.[17] The first $10,000 award was given out to a senior that June.[18]

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 Theatre.[19] Donovan was named Grand Marshal of the 22nd annual AIDS Walk Miami held on April 17, 2010.[20]

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.[21]



Year Title Role Notes
1995 Throwing Down Pete Gulley
1996 Sleepers Henry Addison
Critical Choices Randy
1997 Vegas Vacation Hotel employee Uncredited
Catherine's Grove Thomas Mason
1998 Witness to the Mob Agent
When Trumpets Fade Private Bobby Miller
2000 Bait Julio
Book of Shadows: Blair Witch 2 Jeffrey Patterson
2002 Purpose Robert Jennings
2003 Final Draft Pascal
2004 Sam & Joe Eric
2005 Hitch Vance Munson
2006 Come Early Morning Cal Percell
Believe in Me Clay Driscoll
2008 Hindsight Paul
Changeling Captain J.J. Jones
2011 J. Edgar Robert F. Kennedy
2015 Sicario Steve Forsing
Extinction Jack
2016 LBJ John F. Kennedy
2017 Shot Caller Bottles
2018 Sicario: Day of the Soldado Steve Forsing
2019 Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil and Vile John O'Connell
Villains George
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 Mark Titus
2022 Breaking Major Riddick
R.I.P.D. 2: Rise of the Damned Sheriff Roy Pulsipher
First Love Greg Albright
2023 Surrounded Wheeler


Year Title Role Notes
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 S1/E21-22 - "Dragon House: Part 1 & 2"

S2/E19 - "Red Rock Jarod"

1999 Spin City Tom 2 episodes
2000 The Beat Brad Ulrich Recurring role
2002 Witchblade Daniel Germaine Episode: "Lagrimas"
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 (voice) Episode: "That Actually Hurt"
2022–2023 Law & Order Det. Frank Cosgrove Main role
2022 Law & Order: Special Victims Unit 1 Episode
Law & Order: Organized Crime 1 Episode

Awards and nominations[edit]

Year Award/Festival Category Nominated work Result
2003 Method Fest Independent Film Festival Best Supporting Actor
Sam & Joe
2010–2011 Teen Choice Awards Choice TV Actor: Action Burn Notice Nominated


  1. ^ a b "Jeffrey Donovan". Turner Classic Movies. Retrieved October 20, 2023.
  2. ^ United Press International (May 11, 2020). "UPI Almanac for Monday, May 11, 2020". United Press International. Archived from the original on October 20, 2023.
  3. ^ Melena Ryzik (March 9, 2011). "Jeffrey Donovan to Play Robert Kennedy in Eastwood's 'J. Edgar'". The New York Times.
  4. ^ Buchanan, Jason (2013). "Jeffrey Donovan Biography". Movies & TV Dept. The New York Times. Archived from the original on September 21, 2013. Retrieved June 25, 2012.
  5. ^ Hood, Micaela (July 2, 2010). "Jeffrey Donovan 'Burns' hot". Archived from the original on October 4, 2013. Retrieved January 16, 2014.
  6. ^ Donovan, Jeffrey. Interview on Jimmy Kimmel Live Archived June 30, 2009, at the Wayback Machine, February 18, 2009.
  7. ^ King, Liz: "Actor's $100,000 pledge aimed at aspiring arts students." May 19, 2009.
  8. ^ Kichuk, Victoria, "Jeffrey Donovan's Burning Desire to Give Back". May 30, 2009 Archived March 13, 2012, at the Wayback Machine
  9. ^ "Jeffrey Donovan". Apple TV. Retrieved June 21, 2023.
  10. ^ Nemetz, Dave (January 30, 2018). "Shut Eye Cancelled at Hulu". TVLine.
  11. ^ Roots, Kimberly (November 1, 2021). "Law & Order Revival Casts Burn Notice's Jeffrey Donovan in Season 21". TVLine. Retrieved November 1, 2021.
  12. ^ Dan Snierson (June 28, 2009). "Jeffrey Donovan Fact: The 'Burn Notice' star can bring a grown man to his knees. For real". Entertainment Weekly.
  13. ^ D'Angelo, Tom "60 Seconds with actor Jeffrey Donovan". Palm Beach June 7, 2009
  14. ^ Shanahan, Mark; Goldstein, Meredith (July 5, 2010). "A gown for a Brown". The Boston Globe.
  15. ^ "Jeffrey Donovan & Michelle Woods Had a Baby Just after Their Wedding - Meet the 'Law & Order' Newcomer's 3 Children". February 22, 2022.
  16. ^ "Jeffrey Donovan and wife welcome baby girl". December 18, 2012. Usweekly December 18, 2012. Retrieved January 17, 2016.
  17. ^ King, Liz (May 19, 2009). "Actor's $100,000 pledge aimed at aspiring arts students". The Newburyport Daily News. Archived from the original on April 2, 2012.
  18. ^ King, Liz (June 24, 2009). "Amesbury High School senior wins first $10K Donovan scholarship". The Newburyport Daily News. Archived from the original on March 18, 2012.
  19. ^ "Night by the Ocean at the Kodak Theatre". Archived from the original on August 15, 2009. Retrieved July 21, 2009.
  20. ^ Grand Marshal of the 22nd annual AIDS Walk Miami held on April 17, 2010
  21. ^ "Chance to Star on Burn Notice with Jeffrey Donovan Goes for $36,000 (and a Kiss)!". People. September 16, 2009. Archived from the original on September 22, 2009.

External links[edit]