A native of Seattle, Wilson began acting at the University of Washington, and later worked in theatre in New York City after graduating in 1986. Wilson made his film debut in Galaxy Quest (1999), followed by supporting parts in Almost Famous (2000), Steven Soderbergh's Full Frontal (2002), and House of 1000 Corpses (2003). He also had a recurring part as Arthur Martin in the HBO series Six Feet Under from 2003 to 2005. From 2019 to 2021, he starred as Trevor on the CBS sitcom Mom.
Wilson was cast as Dwight Schrute in The Office in 2005, a role which he played until the show's conclusion in 2013. Other film credits include lead roles in the comedies The Rocker (2008) and Super (2010), as well as supporting roles in the horror films Cooties (2014) and The Boy (2015). In 2009, he provided his voice for the computer animated science fiction film Monsters vs. Aliens as the villain Gallaxhar and he voiced Gargamel in Smurfs: The Lost Village. More recently, he has played a recurring role on Star Trek: Discovery (2017) as well as a supporting role in The Meg (2018). He is also the voice of Lex Luthor in the DC Animated Movie Universe.
Full list of his works: here
Outside of acting, Wilson published an autobiography, The Bassoon King, in 2015, and co-founded the digital media company SoulPancake in 2008.
Early life and education
Wilson was born on January 20, 1966 at the University of Washington Medical Center in Seattle, Washington, the son of Shay Cooper, a yoga teacher and actress, and Robert G. Wilson (1941–2020), a novelist, artist, and business consultant who wrote the science fiction novel Tentacles of Dawn. Wilson is of part Norwegian ancestry. From the ages of three to five, Wilson lived with his father and stepmother, Kristin, in Nicaragua before they returned to Seattle after their divorce. He attended Kellogg Middle School and Shorecrest High School in Shoreline, Washington, where he played the clarinet and bassoon in the school band. He transferred to and graduated from New Trier High School after his family moved to Wilmette, Illinois, to serve at the Baháʼí National Center.
Wilson attended Tufts University in Medford, Massachusetts before transferring to the University of Washington in Seattle, graduating with a bachelor's degree in drama in 1986. He then enrolled in New York University's Graduate Acting Program at the Tisch School of the Arts where he graduated with an MFA in acting and was a member of The Acting Company. While acting in theatrical productions in New York City, he drove a moving van to make ends meet.
Wilson worked extensively in the theater in his early career, performing with The Public Theater, the Ensemble Studio Theatre, Playwrights Horizons, the Roundabout, and the Guthrie Theater, among others. Wilson played one of the eight chorus members in Richard Foreman's 1996 production of Suzan-Lori Parks' Venus. He was nominated for three Helen Hayes Awards for Best Supporting Actor for his work at the Arena Stage.
Wilson is married to writer Holiday Reinhorn. The couple met in an acting class at the University of Washington; Reinhorn had relocated to Seattle to attend the university from her native Portland, Oregon. The couple married on the Kalama River in Washington in 1995 and have a son born in 2004. They have a home outside of Sisters, Oregon and a house in Los Angeles. They have two pit bulls, Pilot and Diamond; two Vietnamese pot-bellied pigs, Snortington and Amy; a donkey named Chili Beans; and a zonkey named Derek.
Wilson enjoys playing chess, coming in second place during the online chess tournament PogChamps 3.
Wilson and his family are members of the Baháʼí Faith. The website Baháʼí Blog, which is popular in the Bahá’í community, hosts Wilson's podcast, the Baháʼí Blogcast, on which he interviews notable people about the intersection of their faith and their work. He is also the voice of Terry Carnation on Payne Lindsey's podcast Radio Rental.
On Bill Maher's Real Time, Wilson described himself as a diverse independent, voting for Republican, Green, and Democratic candidates.
Wilson's charitable works include fundraising for the Mona Foundation, a Bahá’í-inspired charity operating in developing countries. In 2013, along with Dr. Kathryn Adams, he co-founded Lidè Haiti, an educational initiative that uses the arts and literacy to empower adolescent girls in rural Haiti. They currently work in 13 locations with over 500 girls, providing scholarships to many of them. In 2018, Wilson stated he had adopted a vegan diet.
Wilson founded the website and YouTube channel SoulPancake. As of February 20, 2019, the channel has over 3 million subscribers and over 557 million video views. SoulPancake has been featured on Oprah Winfrey's Satellite Radio Show and Super Soul Sunday. The tagline of the brand is: "We make stuff that matters". They were named one of Fast Company's 10 Most Innovative Companies in Video for 2015. More recently, SoulPancake was ranked No. 114 on the 2015 Inc. 500 Fastest-Growing Private Companies in America List. In October 2016, it was purchased by Participant Media.
He co-wrote the New York Times bestseller SoulPancake: Chew on Life's Big Questions and wrote a humorous memoir about his personal life, career and faith called The Bassoon King that was published in November 2015.
Wilson is a climate change advocate and visited Greenland in 2019 with Arctic Basecamp whose Advisory Board he also serves on. During his Greenland trip Wilson made a documentary “The Idiot’s Guide to Climate Change” which is available to stream online.
In 2021 Wilson created the comedy audio series Dark Air with Terry Carnation, in which he also voices the title character.
In 2021 Wilson competed in the Chess.com PogChamps 3 chess competition, finishing in 2nd place after a tiebreaker game with French streamer Sardoche.
- Wilson put his personal car for sale on eBay (auction number 230301049442) in October 2008.
- He worked with John Krasinski and Ed Helms again on the film Monsters vs. Aliens.
- For legal reasons, only certain content can be shown on the computers: The Dunder Mifflin logo, fake office documents and email, and (for some reason) the game FreeCell. Fed up with the constant reminders about the restrictions, Wilson loudly declared that he would donate $100 to charity each time he was caught with unapproved content on his computer screen when cameras were rolling. He ended up giving a lot of money to charity during the series run.
- His zodiac sign is both Capricorn and Aquarius and his Chinese zodiac sign is a Horse.
- He's 6' 2½" (1,89 m)
- He played clarinet and bassoon in the high school band.
- He is a passionate hobby chess player.
- His mother named him after poet Rainer Maria Rilke.
- The name Rainn is primarily a gender-neutral name of American origin that means Abundant Blessings From Above.
|“||I think Dwight is America. There's something so American about him. We all know one; we all love to hate a Dwight. There was one in my high school, and we teased him mercilessly. He had Battlestar Galactica (1978) glasses and a terrible haircut. He took himself very seriously, loved military re-enactments and medieval swordplay. He eventually went into the Army as a fencer and a coronet player.||”|
—on his character Dwight on The Office (2005).
|“||'Jason (Reitman)' was getting "Juno" ready. It's a project he had been chasing for a long time, because he really loved the script. He just called me and was like, "Look, could you do me a favor and fly to Vancouver for a day and do the part of the convenience-store clerk?" And he was like "Please", and I was all "No", and he was like "Pretty please", and I was like "Okay". So it was one day's work, and I got paid $750. I think that's SAG Canadian one-day minimum, and the movie has grossed $800 million.||”|
—On working on Juno (2007)
|“||I think definitely people know me from playing creeps and weirdos, and I'm definitely looking to expand my range. I started in theatre, and for me, it was all about transformation. You transform into the character that you're playing. You're not like Jerry Seinfeld, who's always playing himself no matter what he's in - he's great at doing it, but I'm a different kind of actor. I found it very easy to transform into creeps and weirdos and losers and goof-balls, and I'm happy to play eccentric kinds of characters, and I have a great affinity for the outsider, but I definitely am about expanding my range as well.||”|
—(2008 - On his career)
|“||Watching the show is a kind of process. At first you're thinking to yourself, 'Oh, wow, this guy's a racist and a sexist'. And then you think, 'Oh, wow, you know what? He kind of hates everybody'. And then you think, 'Oh, wow, he hates himself worse than he hates anyone else. What's going on with that?' It's asking a lot of an audience, but I think it's an interesting journey. Like the ad campaign says, he's a total dick. But watching a brilliant detective at work, while things are just not working for him, is interesting to me. I'd rather hang out with that person than a slick procedural detective who's got all the answers, and speaks in these effortless clips, and everything gets resolved perfectly every week. It's human. It's frail. And it's interesting||”|
—on playing the title character, "Backstrom"
|“||Interesting varied parts with lots of different facets and colors and textures don't come along very often for weird-looking, 48-year-old dudes. I needed to do it.||”|
—on choosing to play Detective Lt. Everett Backstrom
- Kinsey, Angela and Jenna Fischer, Office Ladies: The Dundies podcast