Born and raised in Chicago, John is the sixth of nine children. He dabbled in drama during high school, but didn’t become serious about acting until enrolled at Northeastern Illinois University, where he majored in theater arts.
He left the university in his junior year after he attended a performance of David Mamet’s “The American Buffalo” at the St. Nicholas Theater in Chicago. Inspired by the play, he enrolled in the theater’s two-year theatrical training program in order to concentrate solely on acting. While visiting a friend in New York City, Pankow auditioned for, and won, a role in a PBS film entitled Great Performances: Life on the Mississippi (1980). He went on to perform in several off-Broadway productions including “Scheherazade”, “Aristocrats”, “Italian American Reconciliation”, “Hunting Scenes”, “Ice Cream/Hot Fudge” and the New York Shakespeare Festival’s “Two Gentlemen of Verona” and “Henry VIII”. He subsequently made it to Broadway with “Serious Money”, “The Iceman Cometh”, and as Mozart in “Amadeus”, one of his most notable roles to date. In recent years he has reprised the role of ‘Stefano’ in the runaway hit production of Shakespeare’s “The Tempest” in Central Park.
Pankow has several motion pictures to his credit, including A Stranger Among Us (1992), Mortal Thoughts (1991), Talk Radio (1988), To Live and Die in L.A. (1985), and The Secret of My Success (1987).
On the television side, Pankow has guest starred on such series as Law & Order (1990), Spenser: For Hire (1985), and Miami Vice (1984). After several guest spots in the first season of Mad About You (1992), he was signed as a cast regular.
Pankow is currently involved in developing projects for himself in the theater both as an actor and director. In his spare time, he enjoys cooking for his wife and their daughter.
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