Also Credited As:Jason Morgan Ritter, Jace the Ace from Outer Space
|Jason Morgan Ritter on February 17, 1980 in Los Angeles, California, USA|
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Born in Los Angeles, CA on Feb. 17, 1980 during the height of his father's success as the buffoonish Jack Tripper on the iconic sex farce "Three's Company" (ABC, 1976-1984), Ritter benefited from being raised within an artistic family - his mother, Nancy Morgan, was also an actor and his grandfather, Tex Ritter, was a famous country singer and matinee star. While still a child, he decided on becoming an actor, making his first onscreen appearance when he was 10 years old in "The Dreamer of Oz: The L. Frank Baum Story" (NBC, 1990), appearing in a small role opposite his father, who played the legendary author of The Wonderful Wizard of Oz. Like any child struggling to find their direction, Ritter took a musical detour when he was a little older, picking up the guitar and setting a course for becoming a musician. But towards the end of high school, Ritter returned to his first love - the family business of acting - and never looked back.
When he was 16, his parents divorced and Ritter spent his remaining childhood being raised by his mother. He left Los Angeles for New York University, where he enrolled in the theater program at the prestigious Tisch School of the Arts. After graduation, he spent four months studying acting at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts in London - a valuable experience and one of the rare instances where he was not regarded as just John Ritter's son. Returning to the States, Ritter made his feature debut in "Mumford" (1999), a little-seen romantic comedy starring Loren Dean, as a psychiatrist whose unorthodox methods transform the lives of the inhabitants of a small town. An episode of "Law & Order" (NBC, 1990-2010), as a teenager who witnesses his friend murder a delivery man, was followed by a supporting role in the teen thriller "Swimfan" (2002). He next landed a guest starring role as the interrogation subject for Ice-T's character on "Law & Order: Special Victims Unit" (NBC, 1999- ), before beginning his stint as Kevin Girardi on the short-lived "Joan of Arcadia," a family drama following a seemingly typical teenage girl (Amber Tamblyn) who suddenly starts having conversations with God.
Returning to the feature world, Ritter was onscreen fodder for the myriad killings in "Freddy vs. Jason" (2003), the long-awaited battle between the two horror film baddies. Unfortunately, any success he had attained thus far was suddenly inconsequential to the actor, when on Sept. 11, 2003, his father became ill during rehearsals for his hit ABC sitcom, "8 Simple Rules for Dating My Teenage Daughter" (2002-05) and was rushed to a nearby hospital, where he died only hours later. Just days shy of his 55th birthday, John Ritter died from an undiagnosed congenital heart defect, aortic dissection - plunging the country into a genuine grief for someone who had spent his entire life making them laugh. Obviously devastated, the younger Ritter suddenly became the male "rock" of the family, comforting his mother (who had maintained a positive relationship with her ex-husband); his step-mother, actress Amy Yasbeck; and his three younger siblings, Carly, Tyler and the baby, Stella.
Taking some time to deal with his loss, Ritter, whom people began noticing looked eerily like his father, started the slow process of healing by getting back to work with a newfound vigor to proudly carry on the family showbiz tradition. After being named "Rising Male Star of the Year" by the Video Software Dealers Association in 2004 for "[demonstrating] an impressive grasp of the art of acting," he starred opposite Hilary Duff in "Raise Your Voice" (2004), a much-panned teen drama about a small town girl (Duff) with a love of singing who is determined to make a success of herself following the tragic death of her brother (Ritter). Taking a turn on the stage, Ritter appeared in the off-Broadway production of "The Beginning of August" as well as played Tim in playwright Neil LaBute's world premiere of "The Distance from Here" at the Almeida Theatre in London. In "Happy Endings" (2005), an ensemble comedy containing three loosely connected stories about dysfunctional relationships, Ritter starred opposite Lisa Kudrow, Laura Dern and Maggie Gyllenhaal, as a young sexually ambiguous man trying to convince his skeptical dad (Tom Arnold). Ritter next starred in Wendy Wasserstein's "Third" (2005), which debuted at the Lincoln Center in New York and earned the actor the Clarence Derwent Award for "Most Promising Male" and the Martin E. Segal Award in 2006.
Ritter made a triumphant return to regular series work with "The Class" (CBS, 2006-07), playing Ethan, an uptight twenty-something who arranges the 20-year reunion of his third-grade class with the intent of recreating the moment when he met his girlfriend - and without thinking about the unintended consequences. From the creators of "Friends" (NBC, 1994-2004), "The Class" showed ratings promise, despite the dire state of sitcoms in general that season, but was ultimately left off the CBS schedule the following season. Following a supporting role in the Hollywood satire "The Deal" (2008), Ritter played a young Jeb Bush in Oliver Stone's compelling and fairly evenhanded look at "W" (2008), also known as George W. Bush (Josh Brolin). He next had a co-starring role as the bully who terrorizes the titular character (Jesse Eisenberg) in "The Education of Charlie Banks" (2009), a film that was shot three years prior to its limited theatrical release. After voicing U.S. Navy sailor Jack Yusen in the 10-part documentary "WWII in HD" (History Channel, 2009), Ritter landed a recurring role as a high school English teacher who has in his class a student (Mae Whitman) with a crush on him. Turning to drama, he had his first leading series role in "The Event" (NBC, 2010- ), a paranoid thriller in which he played a man investigating the mysterious disappearance of his fiancée, only to discover and unravel the largest government cover-up in U.S. history. But poor ratings failed to keep the series afloat and it was canceled in 2011. Ritter moved on to a recurring role on "Parenthood" (NBC, 2010- ), where he played high school English teacher to Amber (Mae Whitman) and brief lover to her mother, Sarah (Lauren Graham). The actor earned his first-ever Emmy Award nomination for his performance.