Shea Whigham was born January 5, 1969 in Tallahassee, Florida. When he was five years old, his family relocated to Texas. Whigham attended Tyler Junior College, in Tyler, Texas, and later transferred to the Purchase campus of the State University of New York. When he successfully completed four years of training, Whigham graduated with seven other students. After graduation, he and his college roommate, Kirk Acevedo, co-founded The Rorshack Group, a New York-based theatrical group. Whigham was an actor and artistic director with the troupe for three years. The actor's first TV appearance was a brief role on an episode of the TV show Ghost Stories. His first film appearance was in the 2000 war drama Tigerland, directed by Joel Schumacher. In Tigerland, Whigham played Private Wilson, the nemesis of Collin Farrell's character, Private Roland Bozz. However, Whigham is most recognized for his portrayal of Elias "Eli" Thompson on the HBO series, Boardwalk Empire.