James Van Der Beek: From Dawson's Creek To His Life Today

James Van Der Beek could front a billion-dollar franchise, win countless Academy Awards, and essentially bring world peace. But for a certain generation, he'd still be forever known as Capeside's most sensitive aspiring filmmaker in the defining coming-of-age of the late '90s, "Dawson's Creek."

Although the actor had previously appeared on Broadway and appeared in "Angus" and "I Love You, I Love You Not," he was still a relative unknown when he bagged the leading role of Dawson Leery in Kevin Williamson's overly-verbose drama. But within a year, he'd become a global star, sparking a pin-up war with Joshua Jackson's Pacey Witter that put Team Edward and Team Jacob to shame.

Of course, having since racked up more than 60 TV and film credits, Van Der Beek has proven that there's more to his talents than playing floppy-haired Steven Spielberg obsessives. Here's a look at his journey both in front of and behind the cameras.

James Van Der Beek briefly became a big-screen leading man

James Van Der Beek certainly struck while the iron was hot. Within a year of "Dawson's Creek" becoming a teen phenomenon, the actor managed to take center stage on the big screen, too. And this first post-Dawson Leery film even became a box office number one.

Coming-of-age sports drama "Varsity Blues," which took an impressive $52 million in the United States alone, starred Van Der Beek as Jonathan Moxon, one of those annoying high schoolers who not only gets good grades but is handy with a football, too. The pin-up's winning streak continued when he won gongs at both the Teen Choice Awards and MTV Movie Awards for his performance.

Sadly, that proved to be Van Der Beek's only commercial triumph as a cinematic leading man. His next film, "Texas Rangers," in which he starred as the gun-toting Lincoln Rogers Dunnison, bombed hard with critics and audiences alike. The post-Civil War drama grossed just $764,000 on a budget of $38 million on its 2001 release, while its Rotten Tomatoes rating stands at a measly 2%. Although Van Der Beek has appeared in several hit movies since ("Downsizing," "The Rules of Attraction"), it's only ever been in a supporting capacity.

James Van Der Beek went meta

You could never accuse James Van Der Beek of taking himself too seriously. The actor has poked fun at his own persona on both the small and big screens, most notably in the gone-too-soon sitcom "Don't Trust The B**** in Apartment 23."

Indeed, the Connecticut native portrayed a heightened version of himself in the two-season wonder, sending himself up brilliantly as a washed-up star determined to revive his career at any cost. But it was in "Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back" a decade earlier that Van Der Beek first went meta, playing the difficult role of "James Van Der Beek" alongside "American Pie" favorite Jason Biggs as "Jason Biggs."

The "Dawson's Creek" star returned to Kevin Smith's View Askewniverse in 2019 for Jay and Bob's long-awaited reboot, by which point he'd also parodied himself in music video form, too. Yes, in 2010, the star made a memorable cameo as Kesha's nemesis in the promo for "Blow," with the singer quipping, "Well, well, well. If it isn't James Van Der Douche," before mounting his head on the wall over a plaque inscribed "James Van Der Dead."

James Van Der Beek showed off his funny bones

Dawson Leery might not have been known for his sense of humor, but it's clear that the man who played him has some naturally funny bones. As well as sending himself up on numerous occasions, James Van Der Beek also proved he could draw laughs playing fictional characters, too, with a string of sitcom roles in the mid-'00s.

In 2013, he played divorced gynecologist Will Stokes in the short-lived CBS sitcom "Friends with Better Lives." Three years later, he was cast as tech CEO Trent Zebriski in British comedy "Carters Get Rich," portrayed one of the world's biggest superstar DJs in Viceland original "What Would Diplo Do?" — a show he also co-created — and guested as Cam's high school crush Bo Johnson in a ninth season episode of "Modern Family."

Van Der Beek told Time Out in 2017 that he doesn't have to try too hard to raise a chuckle: "There are certain people who anything they say is funny, and they just have that gift and that thing. I just know how to make something authentically sincere, and if it's bizarre and goofy, then the more authentically you can deliver it, the funnier it will be. So that's always been my approach. I think the worst thing in the world you could do is try to be funny."

James Van Der Beek has proven he can bust a move

James Van Der Beek once again proved he was nothing like his most famous character Dawson Leery in 2019 when he signed up to compete on the 28th season of NBC juggernaut "Dancing with the Stars." And the actor acquitted himself well, finishing in fifth place alongside partner Emma Slater.

Van Der Beek had been approached by the talent contest several times before — and ironically, he'd appeared on a fictionalized version of the show in "Don't Trust the B**** in Apartment 23." So what made him finally agree to put on his dancing shoes? Well, the former pin-up told Us Weekly, "Over the last 10 years, every year, I would purposely seek out a skill that I wasn't very good at and just learn. Just to go through the humility of not being good at something, of working through the challenges and then coming out on the other side with a new skill set."

Just a year earlier, Van Der Beek had graced another show largely set on the dancefloor, Ryan Murphy's "Pose." Unfortunately, we were robbed of seeing the "Dawson's Creek" alum vogueing. His character Matt Bromley wasn't a member of the House of Evangelista but Evan Peters' Donald Trump-esque unscrupulous yuppie boss.

James Van Der Beek got married and divorced

2003 proved to be quite the year for James Van Der Beek. As well as saying goodbye to Dawson Leery after six seasons of "Dawson's Creek," the actor also walked down the aisle for the first, but not the last time.

The Teen Choice Award winner said "I do" to Heather Ann McComb, an actor who'd also been a regular of a '90s teen drama, "Party of Five," at a Fourth of July ceremony. Michelle Williams, Meredith Monroe, and Busy Phillips were just a few of Van Der Beek's castmates in attendance, although interestingly, neither Katie Holmes or Joshua Jackson made an appearance.

Sadly, the marriage only lasted a little longer than The WB hit. In 2009, the couple announced they were amicably splitting, with their divorce officially going through a year later. Van Der Beek, who'd cited "irreconcilable differences" during the proceedings, agreed to pay his ex $7,750 in spousal support per month until the end of 2012 in the settlement. Of course, by that point, Van Der Beek had already been married to someone else for two years.

James Van Der Beek got married again

In the same year that his divorce from first wife Heather Ann McComb officially went through, James Van Der Beek tied the knot for a second time, on this occasion with business consultant Kimberly Brook. The pair exchanged vows during an intimate ceremony at Tel Aviv's Kabbalah Center in 2010.

"The Rules of Attraction" star only revealed the news of their nuptials on the day they took place, cryptically tweeting in a since-deleted post, "Best day of my life so far," before adding, "The woman I love did me the honor of [becoming] my wife today ... I look forward to earning her for the rest of my life" (via MTV).

Van Der Beek and Brook, who sported an Armani suit and vintage Shareen creation, respectively, on the big day, decided to get wed in Israel, having met in the country the year previously. And a decade on, the actor still appeared to be as smitten with his other half, captioning an anniversary post on Instagram, "Kimberly, you astound me. Your bravery, your tenderness, and your unwillingness to settle for anything less than what can and ought to be ... You're the best human I know. I love you, and I look forward to earning your partnership for years to come."

James Van Der Beek is a father of six

While many '90s kids will still see James Van Der Beek as a curtain-haired, slightly dweeby teen, the "Dawson's Creek" alum is actually now a forty-something husband with enough kids to form his own ice hockey team.

The actor and second wife Kimberly Brook first became parents in 2010, the same year that they married in Israel, with the birth of daughter Olivia. Joshua, Annabel, Emilia, and Gwendolyn then followed, with the arrival of Jeremiah in 2021 taking their clan up to six. So what do the younger Van Der Beeks make of their dad being a celebrity?

Well, the man himself told Fatherly in 2020, "It's funny, with kids, you never know what they're going to connect to. As much as you would like it to be the really highly prestigious thing you just got nominated for an Emmy for, they tend to gravitate towards the Hallmark Christmas movie you did ten years ago ... They see people come up to me and they see people ask for pictures and, for the most part, it's how it's always been for them. We try not to make it a big deal. They seem to be cool about it. Right now, they're young enough where everything that I do is cool. So I'm just relishing that while it lasts."

James Van Der Beek and wife have experienced numerous miscarriages

Tragically, James Van Der Beek and his second wife Kimberly have had to deal with no fewer than five miscarriages during their marriage. But rather than avoid the subject, the pair have bravely addressed it on everything from social media to televised talent contests.

In 2018, the "CSI: Cyber" star disclosed on Instagram that the first three occurred before their fifth child Gwendolyn was born. And a year later, he revealed to "Dancing with the Stars" viewers that he and his partner had experienced another pregnancy loss. Then in 2020, the actor once again took to Instagram to share the sad news that after 17 weeks, "the soul we'd been excited to welcome into the world had lessons for our family that did not include joining us in a living physical body."

No doubt that Van Der Beek has been so open in a bid to help others who have suffered similar losses. In the latter post, he wrote, "To all the families who have gone through this ... you are not alone." While alongside an Instagram video, he advised how to tell youngsters such difficult news, writing: "I feel like all you can do when explaining the unimaginable is be present with them. And keep being present with them wherever they're at, for as long as they need."

James Van Der Beek has played against type

James Van Der Beek shot to fame playing perhaps the teen drama genre's ultimate nice — and some would say most insufferable — guy, Dawson Leery. But since "Dawson's Creek" came to a tear-jerking end in 2003, the actor has done his best to show that he can play the bad boy, too.

In 2007, for example, he guested on "Criminal Minds" as Tobias Hankel, a dissociative identity disorder-suffering serial killer. Two years later, he starred as kidnapper Tony Zappa in Lifetime true crime movie "Taken in Broad Daylight." And then, in 2011, he played another procedural murderer, Sean Albert, in "Law and Order: Special Victims Unit."

Speaking to TV Insider in 2020, Van Der Beek admitted that he doesn't have to dig too deep to inhabit such dangerous characters: "In the beginning of my career, I did what a lot of younger actors do, which is, you get a role with some darkness and you think, 'I've gotta find the darkness. I've gotta get there.' By that point, I recognized, 'You know what? There's darkness in the world, and I can channel that pretty easily; it's just a matter of doing it cleanly without it sticking to me.' And that freed me up from having to find anything or live anything or carry anything, and I was able to let the reality of the character just flow through me."

James Van Der Beek spawned one of the all-time great memes

Even those who believe that "Dawson's Creek" was nothing more than an exercise in teenage navel-gazing can probably still acknowledge that The WB drama did at least provide one bit of pop culture gold: the Dawson Leery crying meme.

Yes, the character turning on the waterworks has become a staple of the internet ever since it first found its way onto the world wide web. Luckily, the man in the meme finds it just as amusing as the rest of us, as he told Entertainment Weekly in a 2018 cast reunion: "I love it. It's my favorite thing about the whole show. It's hilarious to me that you can work for six years on a show ... and it gets boiled down to three seconds. It's a perfect way of the internet."

It's a good job that the actor is so relaxed about the whole thing, as even his daughter Olivia can't stop using it: In 2022, he told People, "For some online learning, we got [the kids] iPads, and they immediately discovered memes. So it started, my eldest sent me a meme of myself." After responding with another of him busting a few moves, the actor was hit with the cry face: "I thought, 'That's aggressive.'"

James Van Der Beek has now shunned the LA life

In 2020, James Van Der Beek decided that he'd had enough of the bright lights of Los Angeles and subsequently relocated with his family to the slightly less glitzy state of Texas. Luckily, it's a move that has gone down well with the rest of his clan.

In a chat with Fox News Digital about the new home he shares with wife Kimberly and their six kids, Van Der Beek said, "We love it. We have a lot more space. We all need a more immediate connection to nature. It's been a really, really great move, and the kids are really happy. We've been going to state parks and the national parks. It's just one of the benefits of getting out of the big city was getting to a place where we could just have more space right outside our door. It's a very different life."

As well as enjoying all the nature the area has to offer, the "Mercy" star is also relishing the general change of pace: "I was really enjoying the kind of career that I had been wanting to build for quite some time before 2020, and now my priorities have changed. It would really have to fit around my life." Interestingly, the Connecticut native hasn't taken an acting role since his big move.

James Van Der Beek was groped by three powerful men

At the start of the #MeToo movement in 2017, James Van Der Beek revealed that he, too, had been a victim of sexual harassment from within the showbiz industry. The "Salem Falls" star took to Twitter (via Page Six) to tell followers about the numerous incidents which took place earlier on in his career.

Van Der Beek explained, "I've had my ass grabbed by older, powerful men. I've had them corner me in inappropriate sexual conversations when I was much younger." As the guessing games about which men were responsible began, the actor confirmed they were "people 99.9% of you don't know," before adding that two had been charged and punished in relation to incidents with other people, while the other is no longer alive.

The former pin-up, who began his career on Broadway before landing his breakthrough role in "Dawson's Creek" aged 20, also spoke about the bravery of those who'd spoken out against disgraced movie mogul Harvey Weinstein: "I understand the unwarranted shame, powerlessness, and inability to blow the whistle. There's a power dynamic that feels impossible to overcome."

James Van Der Beek doesn't want a Dawson's Creek reunion

Ever since Dawson's Creek wrapped up in heart-breaking style in 2003, fans have been clamoring for a reunion, revival, or reboot. But James Van Der Beek, who played its sensitive hero Dawson Leery, believes that some things are better left in the past.

Speaking to The Guardian in 2017, the actor said, "Some characters live with you for a while, and you wonder how they're doing and what they'd be doing now. I felt pretty complete putting that one on the shelf and not looking at him again." During an appearance on the podcast "Allegedly With Theo Von & Matthew Cole Weiss" that same year, the star admitted that he'd never even bothered to watch the finale in which his character finally got the chance to meet his hero Steven Spielberg.

Of course, Van Der Beek did join the rest of the main Capeside gang for an Entertainment Weekly photoshoot a year later. And although Michelle Williams claims she'd be up for a full-blown reunion on TV (despite the fact her character Jen died), Joshua Jackson agrees with his former male co-star, telling Mr. Porter, "Nobody needs to know what those characters are doing in middle age. We left them in a nice place. Nobody needs to see that Pacey's back hurts. I don't think we need that update."

James Van Der Beek has a net worth of $8 million

James Van Der Beek may have fronted six seasons of one of the most popular teen dramas ever. But according to the actor, "Dawson's Creek" essentially left him up a creek without a paddle.

In 2012, the MTV Movie Award winner claimed that all the money he earned from The WB show had gone, telling Today: "There was no residual money. I was 20. It was a bad contract. I saw almost nothing from that." However, Van Der Beek later told the same show that his financial situation inspired his strong work ethic: "It is very easy if you have all the money in the world to just sit back and coast. But if you realized that you are going to have to start providing for yourself and for your family, it really forces you to buckle down."

Indeed, Van Der Beek has remained in work constantly since the Capeside gang said their farewell. According to People (via Entertainment Weekly) regarding the divorce settlement with his first wife, Heather Ann McComb, his monthly salary was listed as $35,000. And according to Celebrity Net Worth, he now has a cool $8 million in the bank.