Kenny Johnson Biography


Home > Actors > J > Johnson, Kenny > Biography


Birth Name: Kenny Johnson
Born: 07/13/1963
Birth Place: New Haven, Connecticut, USA


Johnson was born July 13, 1963 to a Swedish father and Latvian mother and raised on a 40-acre farm in Vermont. Throughout his childhood and into high school, Johnson excelled at a variety of sports. He put his athletic skills to use at Central Connecticut State University, where he played both football and baseball. After college, he pursued one of his hobbies - arm wrestling - in official competition until 1995, during which time, he was ranked second in the world in his weight class. He was also an avid motorcyclist. Drawing inspiration from his cinematic hero, James Dean - and despite a debilitating case of dyslexia - he began to pursue acting and modeling after college, appearing in commercials for L.A. Gear and in a Pringles spot with a then-unknown actor named Brad Pitt. His first role was in the teen thriller "Mirage" (1990), about a group of teenagers pursued by a killer while on a desert retreat. Putting his past dance class experience to good use, he landed a role in the forgettable lusty musical, "Lambada: The Forbidden Dance" (1990), followed by a 1992 episode of the erotic series, "The Red Shoe Diaries" (syndicated) entitled, "Auto Erotica" (he reprised the role two years later), and a part as a handsome waiter in a 1993 episode of "Family Matters" (CBS, 1989-1998). He went on to make sitcom appearances on episodes of "Grace Under Fire," (ABC, 1993-98) in 1994; "Caroline in the City" (NBC, 1995-99) in 1996; and "Sliders" (Fox, 1995-2000) in 1996.

Johnson made the leap to the big screen in 1998 with a small but unique role in "Major League III: Back to the Minors," portraying Lance the Dance - a minor league player who pirouettes as well as he hits the ball. In an odd twist of fate, Johnson starred alongside future cohort in crime, Walton Goggins, who would portray fellow Strike Team member Shane Vendrell years later on "The Shield." Johnson also made an impression on movie-goers as Heatseaking Dennis, the unfortunate clubgoer who is showered with vampire blood in the opening scene of the smash comic book adaptation, "Blade" (1998). Back on television, he made a memorable 1999 appearance on an episode of "Just Shoot Me" (NBC, 1997-2003) entitled, "The Odd Couple, Part 2," in which he played an angry hockey player in competition with David Finch (David Spade) for the affections of Rebecca Romijn. He then landed the first of his regular cop roles, beginning with Det. Billy Zabo on the short-lived series "Ryan Caulfied: Year One" in 1999. Johnson received his first big break and the affection of female fans the world over for his portrayal of Lt. Butch "Burner" Barnes on "Pensacola: Wings of Gold" (1997-2000), from 1998-2000. With his spiky blonde hair, Johnson's "Burner" drew comparisons to the Val Kilmer role of Iceman in "Top Gun" (1986). Other parts soon followed, including appearances in back-to-back 2001 episodes of the "The Huntress" (USA Network, 2000-01).

In 2002, Johnson landed the role of Det. Curtis "Lemonhead" or "Lem" Lemansky on the then new FX crime drama, "The Shield." As a member of the Farmington District's elite Strike Team, led by corrupt cop Vic Mackey (Michael Chiklis), Lem served as the conscience of that team, or "family," as they often referred to themselves. Originally just the good looking "muscle" of the group, Johnson brought such depth and pathos to the role of the conflicted cop - often with just a series of tormented looks - that he quickly became a favorite with fans - the one "dirty cop" team member they could, in good conscience, get behind. As the seasons progressed and the Strike Team dug themselves deeper and deeper - especially when ripping off the Armenian mob's money train - Johnson was, at long last, given some meaty material to chew on, including suffering from a self-induced bloody ulcer and weathering a nervous breakdown, culminating in Lem burning the marked money in a misguided attempt to keep the team out of prison.

Between shooting seasons of "The Shield," Johnson found time to play super-villain Tommy Lee Johnson in a 2005 episode of "Smallville" (WB, 2001- ) entitled "Mortal," in which he shot lightning bolts from his fingertips, as well as crazy criminal Bobby Cherry on a 2003 episode of the acclaimed L.A. cop drama, "Boomtown" (NBC, 2002-03). In addition to his "Shield" era television work, he also squeezed in a starring role in the cult feature film "Zzyzx" (2005), a thriller set on the desert road of the same name near Las Vegas, where he played one of two men who accidentally run someone over and try to cover it up, only to happen upon the victim's wife shortly thereafter. Audiences and critics were amazed that with his portrayal of the twisted, masochistic Lou, all traces of good guy Lemonhead were wiped clean. His role on the gritty FX cop drama came to an abrupt, heartbreaking end with the explosive season five finale in March 2006, when Lem, about to take the fall for his corrupt cohorts, was killed by best buddy Shane (Goggins) who feared a potential rat out. The highly-rated episode drew raves online, as fans lamented the loss of a quiet but favorite character - some going so far as to call for Vendrell's (and Goggins') head on a platter.

Since the end of his "Shield" stint, Johnson acted in the television western "Desolation Canyon" (The Hallmark Channel, 2006) opposite Stacy Keach and former "Shield" costar David Rees Snell, as well as in the feature film, "The Ungodly" (2006), starring Wes Bentley, where Johnson again plays a police officer. Johnson's biggest post-"Shield" roles was as Joseph, the drug counselor seemingly murdered on the 2006 season finale of "Cold Case (CBS, 2003- ), entitled, "Joseph." In the rare role of love interest - which many found surprising, due to his matinee idol good looks and charm - Johnson left such an impression with viewers, he was brought back to romance series' lead, the guarded Det. Lilly Rush (Katherine Morris), into the following fall season. An even more impressive offer came along when Johnson, still smarting from leaving "The Shield," landed the plum role of Holly Hunter's lover and fellow police detective/partner, Ham Dewey, on the edgy TNT series, "Saving Grace" (2007- ).




Browse More Actors:
# A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z