William Jacob Busey is known both for his prominent acting career, and for being the son of the Hollywood legend Gary Busey. Born on 15th June 1971 in Los Angeles, California, USA, Jake’s best-known works include playing the serial killer Johnny Bartlett in “The Frighteners”, and Aiden Tanner in “From Dusk till Dawn: The Series”.
Jake was greatly influenced by his father as a child, spending his early years touring with Gary’s bands or on film sets. His mother, Judy Helkenberg, was born in Kansas and made her acting debut at the age of 61 in “American Pie Presents: Band Camp”. Of the three Busey siblings, Jake is the most famous; his brother and sister, Luke and Alectra, have preferred to follow alternate paths in life.
At just seven years old, Jake got his first taste of acting with a minor role in “Straight Time”, working alongside his father, Dustin Hoffman, and other entertainment greats. Four years later, he played a cook boy in “Barbarosa”, a Western film starring his father and Willie Nelson. The gaps in Jake’s filmography can be attributed to his high school years, as viewers wouldn’t see him again until 1989, when he once again appeared in one of his father’s projects with a small role in “Hider in the House”.
Between 1991 and 1993, Jake played Norm in “Black Cat Run”, Richard Halverson in “Shimmer”, and a student in the TV movie “Cruel Doubt”. Although the first two films went nowhere, “Cruel Doubt”, starring Gwyneth Paltrow and her father Blythe Danner, was far more successful.
In 1994, Jake explored more TV roles with his portrayal of Jake in “Motorcycle Gang” and a guest-starring appearance in “Tales from the Crypt”. He also had a grand total of five film roles, from obscure indie shorts (“Foot Shooting Party”) to tongue-in-cheek comedies (“The Stoned Age”) and satirical comedy-dramas (“I’ll Do Anything”). Most importantly, Jake was coming into his own as an actor and no longer needed his father’s help to find his next role, although Gary was undeniably resourceful when it came to helping his son forge the necessary industry connections.
1995 was the year Jake played Curt in the German drama film “Quiet Days in Hollywood” and Dave Promisco in the long-forgotten “Windrunner”. His breakout role as the mass murderer Johnny Charles Bartlett in “The Frighteners” came in 1996; although the supernatural comedy horror film barely broke even at the box office, viewers were understandably impressed by Jake’s acting range.
Shortly after his breakthrough, Jake also had a minor role in the Jan de Bont epic disaster film “Twister”. It would be years before he took on another TV project, but in the meanwhile, he engrossed himself in captivating viewers with roles in “Contact”, “Starship Troopers”, “Enemy of the State”, and “Home Fries”, leaning towards sci-fi and political movies.
1999 saw Jake work alongside Nia Long and Jamie Foxx in the mainly Black movie “Held Up”, followed by a starring role in the Canadian movie “Tail Lights Fade”. His first starring TV role, playing Dennis in the UPN sitcom “Shasta McNasty”, was unfortunately short-lived, as the show was cancelled after just one season.
Following a brief hiatus in 2000, Jake returned to screens portraying Kyle Brenner in the sex comedy movie “Tomcats”, which was Dakota Fanning’s film debut. He also played Vincent Hansen in the chillingly realistic apocalypse series “Jeremiah” and guest-starred in an episode of “The Twilight Zone”. Next up were secondary roles in the movies “The First $20 Million is Always the Hardest”, “Identity”, and “Lost Junction”; despite terrifying viewers by playing a murderous hitchhiker in “The Hitcher II: I’ve Been Waiting”, the Louis Morneau movie went straight to video and received negative reviews.
The next few years would be hit-and-miss for Jake; despite a handful of guest-starring appearances in shows such as “Charmed”, “The Mentalist”, and “The Finder”, he failed to find a small-screen role that stuck. Likewise, many of the movies he appeared in went straight to DVD (“Road House 2”, “Time Bomb”, “Cross”), and his associate producing debut, “The Rain Makers”, was a commercial flop.
Undeterred, Jake continued to do movies that he loved regardless of their box office potential. Although 2012 was a disastrous time as two of his projects sank without trace and another two went straight to DVD, he had better luck with his role as Bill in the 2014 horror movie “Reaper”, and in the same year, he was cast in his first recurring TV role playing Professor Aiden Tanner in “From Dusk till Dawn: The Series”.
From the mid-2010s to the present day, Jake guest-starred in over a dozen shows, from drama thrillers (“Mr. Robot”) and crime shows (“NCIS”, “Ray Donovan”) to a miniseries based on the Texas revolution against Mexico. Surprisingly, he also became relevant amongst a younger demographic after playing a creepy journalist named Bruce in various episodes of “Stranger Things”. His last TV role was playing Rusty Filmore in an episode of “The Rookie: Feds”, whereas his last movie was the 2020 Western “A Soldier’s Revenge”.
All in all, fans agree that Jake’s acting career has been a long and fruitful one, despite its ups and downs. With over 100,000 Instagram followers, we’ll be the first to know about his upcoming projects.
Personal Life & Net Worth
In 2012, Jake welcomed a daughter named Autumn Busey to the world with his long-time girlfriend, April Hutchinson. A glamorous blonde, April has been quietly supporting her partner for well over a decade, as the couple have been seen together at many red-carpet events promoting Jake’s newest movies.
April’s cancer battle began in 2018 and took its toll on Jake and Autumn; in July 2023, the actor shared that her pancreas tumor and spleen had been successfully removed. “We are praying that this is the end of cancer for her,” the Californian wrote hopefully.
Jake is believed to have a net worth of close to $1.5 million, with the bulk of his fortune attributed to his 1990s Hollywood heyday.