Original Grey's Anatomy cast member James Pickens Jr. started acting in his hometown of Cleveland at the Karamu House, distinguished as the oldest African-American theater in the United States. He performed a reading of the play "Home" by Samm-Art Williams, in celebration of the theater's centennial.
After moving to New York, he performed in the historic 1981 production of Charles Fullers' A Soldier's Play at the Negro Ensemble Company with fellow cast members Denzel Washington and Samuel L. Jackson. He was a member of the famed Circle Rep/Steppenwolf Theatre Company co-production of Lanford Wilson's Balm in Gilead, and starred as Walter Lee in the 25th anniversary revival of A Raisin in the Sun at the Roundabout Theater.
Pickens moved to the West Coast and began a run of film and television performances. On the big screen, he has been directed by some of the film industry's finest, including Steven Soderbergh in Traffic, Oliver Stone in Nixon and Warren Beatty in Bulworth, and he appeared in four Barry Levinson films – Sleepers, Sphere, Jimmy Hollywood and Liberty Heights. He portrayed slain civil rights leader Medgar Evers in Ghosts of Mississippi (directed by Rob Reiner), and played Angela Bassett's ex-husband in How Stella Got Her Groove Back. Other films include Menace II Society, Home Room, Gridlock'd and Just Wright, starring Queen Latifah and Common. He also appeared in 42, the film about baseball legend Jackie Robinson, which starred Harrison Ford and was directed by Brian Helgeland.
Pickens performed in the Los Angeles stage reading of 8, the story of the historic Proposition 8 marriage equality case, which was directed by Rob Reiner and included an all-star cast of George Clooney, Martin Sheen, Kevin Bacon, Jamie Lee Curtis, Christine Lahti, John C. Reilly and Brad Pitt.
As Dr. Richard Webber, Pickens is one of the few original cast members of ABC's award-winning, critically acclaimed drama Grey's Anatomy to remain with the show throughout its 16 seasons. Television viewers may also remember him for his recurring roles on such series as NYPD Blue, The X-Files, The Practice, Philly, Curb Your Enthusiasm, Six Feet Under, The West Wing, Roseanne and Beverly Hills 90210, Pickens also starred opposite Rob Lowe in The Lyon's Den (NBC) and with William H. Macy and Felicity Huffman in A Slight Case of Murder (TNT). For his role on Grey's Anatomy, he received a Screen Actors Guild Award for Best Drama Ensemble and, most recently, won an NAACP Image Award, which he describes as "especially gratifying after seven consecutive nominations!"
He and his wife oversee the James Pickens Jr. Foundation, whose mission is to enhance the lives of families and children in underserved communities. He hosts an annual charity roping event in Los Angeles, which draws some of the best team ropers in the sport. He and his wife, Gina, a singer, have a son and a daughter.