The son of Bing Crosby's drummer, tall, low-key and expressively deadpan actor Craig T. Nelson began his career in radio as a writer-performer on the L.A. area "Lohman and Barkley Show". Together with his writing partner Barry Levinson, he formed a stand-up comedy act and wrote comedy (along with Rudy DeLuca) for shows like "The Tim Conway Show" (CBS, 1970) and "The John Byner Comedy Hour" (CBS, 1972). In 1973, Nelson left show business, moving with his wife and children to Mount Shasta in Northern California where he worked as a janitor, teacher, surveyor and carpenter before returning to Los Angeles four and a half years later. His experiences as a "drop-out" would lead him to produce a series of 52 documentaries syndicated under the title "America Still", which explored why artists choose a rural lifestyle. He resumed his career, making his feature debut in "...And Justice for All" (1979), scripted by his old friend Levinson, and has not slowed down since.
Nelson first came to prominence as the father in the movie "Poltergeist" (1982), a role he would reprise in the inferior sequel "Poltergeist II: The Other Side" (1986). His high school football coach role in "All the Right Moves" (1983), starring Tom Cruise, served as a trial run for the part with which most people associate him, Hayden Fox, the hard-boiled but good-humored tough guy head coach of the Minnesota State Screaming Eagles, on the popular long-running sitcom "Coach" (ABC, 1989-97). Emmy-nominated three times for Outstanding Lead Actor in a Comedy Series for his work on the sitcom, Nelson won the award for the 1991-92 season and served as its executive producer from 1992. Prior to "Coach", he had played a district attorney on the short-lived "Chicago Story" (NBC, 1984) and won critical praise as US Air Force Colonel Raynor Sarnac in "Call to Glory" (ABC, 1984-85). Nelson added director to his credits with the last episode of "Call to Glory" and also helmed numerous episodes of "Coach". He adapted a Harry Grant story to the screen for his starring turn in the ABC movie "Ride with the Wind" (1994), which he also executive produced.
Though Nelson has worked extensively on TV, his collaboration with director Brian Gibson ("Poltergeist II") yielded three notable gems. He appeared in the critically-acclaimed HBO movie "Murderers Among Us: The Simon Wiesenthal Story" (1989), played a drug enforcement agent in the Emmy-winning miniseries "Drug Wars: The Camarena Story" (NBC, 1990) and portrayed gossip columnist Walter Winchell in "The Josephine Baker Story" (HBO, 1991). He also starred in the CBS sci-fi miniseries "The Fire Next Time" (1993) and acted the part of Kirk Douglas's son in "Take Mme Home Again" (NBC, 1994) among his many small screen performances. Equally prolific in features, Nelson played opposite Shelley Long in "Troop Beverly Hills" (1989), created the role of Chief Hyde in "Turner and Hooch", was a menacing drug dealer in "I'm Not Rappaport" (1996) and a district attorney in "Ghosts of Mississippi" (1996). Following his portrayal of a Donald Trump-like real estate developer in "The Devil's Advocate" (1997), he was reunited with Barry Levinson in the David Mamet-scripted "Wag the Dog" (1997), co-starring with Robert De Niro and Dustin Hoffman. In 2000 he starred in "The Skulls" and now is back on TV in "The District".