The play then converted to an Off-Broadway spectacle, but the success continued. After seeing him performing in the play, famous Polish-American theatre practitioner and acting courses pioneer Lee Strasberg invited the actor to study method acting, in the now renowned Actors Studio. Shea gladly accepted the offer, and welcomed the opportunity to hone and refine his acting skills.
Soon afterwards, in the end of the seventies, Shea made his television debut. He was offered the role of Joseph, in a made-for-television adaptation of the birth of Jesus — based in the Gospels as well as in the apocrypha —, titled The Nativity, opposite Madeleine Stowe, who played Mary. The movie was released in 1978. In 1980, he made his debut in the movie industry, with a starring role in the British production Hussy, directed by Matthew Chapman, opposite Helen Mirren.
In 1981, he had a role in another made-for-television production, Family Reunion, which was starred by iconic and legendary American actress Bette Davis. In the following year, Shea played a character named Charles Horman, in the controversial and disruptive Missing — a movie about the military dictatorship in Chile —, directed by legendary Greek-French filmmaker Costa-Gavras.
From then on, the actor was on the rise. John Shea managed to consolidate a solid reputation as a serious, versatile and highly skilled actor, and remained in constant demand in movies, television and theater productions to this day, never being short of offers and invitations. In 1987, the actor was cast in an ABC miniseries, where he portrayed a character named William Stern. His performance was so critically celebrated that he eventually won his first Emmy Award in the Supporting Drama Actor category.
In television, Shea would continually land exceedingly remarkable and exceptional roles. He became a face recognizable to audiences of police procedural dramas when he was cast in Law & Order: Criminal Intent, and from five seasons, from 2007 to 2012, the actor was introduced to younger audiences, in the wake of his portrayal of Harold Waldorf, the father of Blair Waldorf — one of the show's main characters, marvelously played by famous actress Leighton Meester —, in The CW hit teen-oriented drama series Gossip Girl. In 2009, he also appeared in The Good Wife, a television show that ran for seven seasons on CBS, starred by Julianna Margulies.
Since then, John Shea has never stopped, though sometimes he takes some personal time to be with his family. Engaged in artistic events within the community, the actor also spends time working to develop independent efforts locally, a task that he has been doing with great responsability and diligence as artistic director of the Theatre Workshop of Nantucket. Nevertheless, John Shea — despite being seventy years old — works hard to reconcile his passions, and to continually expand his legacy in the performing arts.
A familiar face to audiences for decades in movies, television and theatre, John Shea has managed to conquer his place of honor in the business. Certainly someone that we will keep seeing frequently until he decides to retire — if he will ever do that —, John Shea is the perfect example of a discreet, but highly talented individual, that undoubtedly deserves everything he has achieved.