Jonathan Banks

Crazies, Bad Guys, and Frank McPike

Biography: Early Years

(All quotes are from JB. Codes link to bibliography of interviews.)

Jonathan Ray Banks (NJW88) was born in Washington, DC, January 31st, 1947. (WT88) (USA89-1) (WWH92) His family was "a bunch of good hillbillies from North Carolina. I come from a long line of ridge runners and moonshiners. My name is Jonathan Ray. All of us have Ray as a middle name." (NJW88)

Parents
His parents were civil servants (NJW88) who divorced when he was two years old. (WT88) He was raised by his mother who worked as a secretary in the Treasury Department. She took night classes to become a teacher, eventually becoming a college professor (MOW90) in the Department of Business (National Faculty Directory) at Indiana State University, Terre Haute. (NJW88) Jonathan grew up dealing with routine violence in their neighborhood, the tough Chillum Heights section of Prince Georges County, Maryland, (WT88) northeast of Washington. (CT89)

Peter Pan
He was first drawn to acting when he saw Peter Pan as a six-year-old. "It's probably why I became an actor. It was 1953, and I went to the Newton Theater in Washington, DC, which was later burned down in the riots when Martin Luther King was shot. I was very young - I was old enough to know that it was a cartoon, but I wanted to be there. I wanted to be within that. I still want to be one of the Lost Boys." (PS89)

Dark Childhood
His childhood and adolescence he calls angry and stupid and dark. (CT89) "I was in a lot of trouble." (TVG89) "I was a real fighter. My mom worked all the time and then she'd go to school at night. She was trying to do better, you know. But the reality was that she wasn't around as much as she would have liked to have been, or certainly as much as I would have liked. I was in trouble with the police a few times, but I was never sent away." "I was lucky." (CT89) "I was pretty tough in the sense that I was stupid enough that I'd fight anybody. There were people that I like to think I protected at times [because] I know how it feels to be the brunt of a joke or to have a cigarette butt put out on the back of your head." (WT88)

One beating cracked his cheekbone, broke his jaw and nose, and gave him a concussion; he spent three days in the hospital. "It got my attention enough that for the first time I realized that you were mortal, you could die." (WT88)

Jerry Lewis
As a kid, he loved Jerry Lewis. "I remember I would beg my mother to take me to Jerry Lewis and Dean Martin movies. So many times it was a thing a kid could relate to. He was an outcast, he was silly. His heart was in the right place and I remember as a little kid sittin' there and feeling bad for him, not wanting him to be picked on anymore." (CT89)

School
He failed 9th grade. (TVG89) (CT89) "I was totally disinterested in school." (CT89) In 1964, at 17, in his junior year, he changed schools to Northwood High, Montgomery County. (WT88) He says the move saved him, putting him around "people that were college bound." (WT88) At Northwood, he met his oldest friends Fred Cisser and John Meiklejohn, now Montgomery County police officers. (WT88)

Football
He was part of two groups at Northwood, the football team and the theater crowd. (WT88) Of his football style, Meiklejohn said, "He was aggressive. He had power and strength..." (MS90) He also played baseball and was a class council representative. (Northwood High yearbook, 1966) He got into theater because "there was a high school history teacher who always gave me a hard time for not reading for the school play, but I thought that was something only good students did. She finally got me to audition, and I got the lead in George Bernard Shaw's The Devil's Disciple. There are a lot of people in the world who need inspiration, and I needed inspiration." (TVG89)

Girls
According to Officer Cisser, he always got the best-looking girls. (WT88)

GO TO: Early Years University Early Roles Bad Guys Wiseguy Since Wiseguy

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Page last updated:Mon, Feb 25, 2002