William Emerson Arnett (/ɑːrˈnɛt/; born May 4, 1970) is a Canadian-American actor, comedian, and producer. He is best known for his roles as Gob Bluth in the Fox/Netflix series Arrested Development (2003–2006, 2013, 2018–2019), receiving a nomination for Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Comedy Series, and as BoJack Horseman in the Netflix series of the same name. He has appeared in films such as Let’s Go to Prison (2006), Semi-Pro (2008), G-Force (2009), Jonah Hex (2010), and Show Dogs (2018). His performance as Devon Banks in 30 Rock earned him four Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Guest Actor in a Comedy Series nominations.
His baritone voice has landed him voice acting jobs, including Ice Age: The Meltdown (2006), Ratatouille (2007), Horton Hears a Who! (2008), Monsters vs. Aliens (2009), Despicable Me (2010), The Nut Job (2014), Dolittle (2020), and as Batman in the Lego Movie franchise. He also served as an executive producer and voices the titular character of the Netflix series BoJack Horseman (2014–2020), for which he won an Annie Award at the 46th Annie Awards. His involvement with The LEGO Group continues as Fox Network announced him as the host of their show LEGO Masters, which premiered on February 5, 2020. Since July 2020, he has co-hosted the comedy podcast SmartLess.
Arnett was born in Toronto, Ontario, the son of Edith Alexandra “Alix” (Palk) and Emerson James “Jim” Arnett, who was a corporate lawyer and brewer, among other occupations. His parents were originally from Winnipeg, Manitoba, and he has roots on both sides of his family in Manitoba going back many generations. Arnett has two older sisters and a younger brother. His father, a graduate of Harvard University and a corporate lawyer, served as the president and CEO of Molson Breweries from 1997 to 2000.
Arnett briefly attended Lakefield College School in Lakefield, Ontario, but was asked not to return after a semester for being a troublemaker. The Subway Academy II allowed him to take theatre classes at the Tarragon Theatre. He eventually graduated from Leaside High School and attended Concordia University, Montreal for a semester but dropped out. As a teenager, he was encouraged by his mother to pursue an acting career. He auditioned for commercials in Toronto and enjoyed acting. In 1990, he moved to New York City to study acting at the Lee Strasberg Theatre and Film Institute. He appeared in plays in New York, and his first acting role was in Felicity Huffman’s independent film Erie, which was filmed on the Erie Canal.
In February 1996, Arnett made his first television pilot with Kevin Pollak and his wife, Lucy Webb, for CBS, that was not picked up. In 1999, Arnett was in another pilot for The Mike O’Malley Show on NBC as the protagonist’s friend Jimmy. The show was picked up, but it was cancelled after only two episodes. Arnett has referred to 2000, the year after that show was cancelled, as “the darkest year of [his] life”, and he admits that he “didn’t get a lot of work” and “drank those years away”. In summer 2000, a friend helped pull Arnett out of his battle with alcoholism, and he began to get his career back on track. In 2001, Arnett was cast in the CBS television pilot, Loomis as the slacker brother of a local news reporter (Cheri Oteri), that was not picked up. In 2002, Arnett was cast in a fourth television pilot which was for the CBS sitcom Still Standing, which was picked up and ran for several seasons, but his character was cut from the series after the pilot. Arnett became so frustrated, after his fourth failed pilot, that he “swore off pilots” altogether, until his agent persuaded him to audition for the pilot for Arrested Development.
In 2003, Arnett found mainstream success in television when he played George Oscar “Gob” Bluth II in the Fox comedy series, Arrested Development and in 2006 he was nominated for his first Emmy The show was cancelled after three seasons due to low ratings, despite its critical acclaim and cult following. He also played Max the Magician in Sesame Street, in a nod to Gob Bluth’s penchant for using Europe’s “The Final Countdown” during his magic shows. According to a 2006 interview with the Los Angeles Times, Arnett’s two favourite episodes of the show were “Pier Pressure” and “Afternoon Delight”. His exposure on Arrested Development led to a number of larger roles in feature films. Though having worked in drama, his role for Arrested Development is still comedy, and he often portrays smug antagonists. He “never considered himself a comic” and considers himself an “actor first”. In 2002, prior to Arrested Development, Arnett guest-starred in The Sopranos and Law & Order: Special Victims Unit In 2006, Arnett starred in his first leading role in Let’s Go to Prison, directed by Bob Odenkirk, made on a budget of US$4 million. It earned more than US$4 million at the box office and more than US$13 million in rentals. In Blades of Glory, Arnett and his wife, Amy Poehler played brother/sister ice-skating pair with an incestuous relationship. The film was No. 1 at the U.S. box office during its first two weeks, and grossed approximately US$118 million domestically during its theatrical run. and US$36 million on home video. He guest-starred in King of the Hill and 30 Rock, in which he was nominated for four Emmy Awards for Outstanding Guest Actor in a Comedy Series. Arnett also played supporting roles in the films Spring Breakdown, Hot Rod, The Comebacks, and On Broadway, where he once again worked with his close friend and director Dave McLaughlin. In The Brothers Solomon, he again teamed with Odenkirk and starred with Saturday Night Live member, Will Forte. He appeared in a major supporting role in the basketball comedy Semi-Pro, his second film with Ferrell. He plays Lou Redwood, the commentator of the team, who is “a former player, a bit of a womanizer, and a boozer”. On November 17, 2009, it was announced that Arnett would try to win over real-life wife Amy Poehler in a guest spot on Parks and Recreation. Arnett played Chris, an MRI technician and possible love interest for Poehler’s Leslie Knope. Justin Theroux appeared in the same episode as yet another suitor. Arnett signed on for one episode, and the episode entitled “The Set Up” aired January 14, 2010. In 2010, Arnett and former Arrested Development co-star Jason Bateman created DumbDumb Productions, a production company focusing on digital content. Their first video was “Prom Date,” the first in a series of “Dirty shorts” for Orbit (gum).
He also starred in Running Wilde which was cancelled in January 2011, due to poor ratings as well as The Increasingly Poor Decisions of Todd Margaret with David Cross. On March 23, 2011, Arnett appeared in the penultimate episode to The Office season 7. Arnett co-starred in the NBC television comedy series Up All Night, about a couple who struggle to balance their home lives (especially with their newborn child) and their work ones. He is currently the spokesman of a series of Hulu advertisements and his role in television spots deliberately recalls Devon Banks as a power-hungry manipulator. In March 2012, Mansome, Arnett’s first executive-producer credit with Jason Bateman, was announced as a Spotlight selection for the Tribeca Film Festival. The documentary, directed by Morgan Spurlock, is a comedic look at male identity as it is defined through men’s grooming habits featuring celebrity and expert commentary. He had been attached to play the lead role of David Miller in the 2013 comedy We’re the Millers, but had to pass due to “scheduling reasons”; the part went to Jason Sudeikis. He co-starred as Vern Fenwick in the 2014 film Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and its 2016 sequel, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows. Arnett starred in the CBS sitcom The Millers, which lasted for two seasons. In 2016, he co-created, co-wrote and starred in the Netflix original series Flaked, which received praise from viewers and negative reviews from critics.
In 2017, Arnett was cast in the recurring role of Mr. Quagmire on the Netflix comedy drama series A Series of Unfortunate Events.
Arnett’s distinctive gravelly voice has earned him voice-over work for CBS television promos, film trailers and numerous advertisements, including Lamisil medication. Perhaps most recognizable is Arnett’s voice saying, “It’s not more than you need, just more than you’re used to” in ads for GMC trucks. He has also lent his voice to a number of television shows, such as Ghostwriter in the 2005 Nickelodeon’s hit series Danny Phantom, Duncan Schiesst for the Comedy Central animated program Freak Show, which was created by and also stars the voice of his Arrested Development co-star, David Cross. Arnett was the announcer for the faux trailer “Don’t” in the 2007 film Grindhouse, and became announcer for Cartoon Network in October of 2008 during its “Noods” era, replacing Greg Cipes. He has also voiced characters in animated films, including Vlad in Horton Hears a Who!, The Missing Link in Monsters vs. Aliens, Horst the German sous-chef in Ratatouille and Mr. Perkins in Despicable Me. He planned to be the voice of the K.I.T.T. in Universal’s Knight Rider, a sequel to the popular 1980s television series. The production featured a Ford Mustang as K.I.T.T. Since Arnett had a previous long standing relationship with competitor automaker General Motors as the voice for GMC Trucks commercials, GM asked Arnett to pull out of the project. Arnett opted to withdraw from the project and he was replaced by Val Kilmer. Arnett made a commercial cameo for the video game Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2.
In 2009, he voiced the title character in Eat Lead: The Return of Matt Hazard, a video game developed by Vicious Cycle Games and starred as an out of work former video game protagonist hoping to make a comeback, versus a greedy game executive played by Neil Patrick Harris. In the Fox animated comedy series Sit Down, Shut Up, he voiced Ennis Hofftard, a bodybuilder who teaches English and always attempts to chase women. The show premiered on April 19, 2009 but was eventually cancelled after several months due to poor ratings. It aired its last episode on November 21, 2009. Arnett lent his voice to Batman in the film The Lego Movie. Arnett reprised the role in The Lego Batman Movie, a spin-off of The Lego Movie released in 2017 as well as The Lego Movie 2: The Second Part, released in 2019. He also reprises the role in an episode of the franchise’s spinoff animated series Unikitty! titled “BatKitty”, which will air days before the release of the film.
He voiced the eponymous character in the critically acclaimed Netflix animated sitcom BoJack Horseman.
In July 2020, Arnett, along with Jason Bateman and Sean Hayes, created a comedy and talk podcast called SmartLess.
Arnett lists Steve Martin and Chevy Chase as his two biggest comic influences. He is an avid follower of his hometown teams, the Toronto Maple Leafs, Toronto FC, Toronto Blue Jays, and Toronto Raptors.
Arnett married Penelope Ann Miller in 1994. They divorced in 1995.
Arnett married Amy Poehler on August 29, 2003. They appeared together in four episodes of Arrested Development, one episode of Parks and Recreation, and the films Blades of Glory, Horton Hears a Who!, On Broadway, Spring Breakdown, Monsters vs. Aliens and the Disney American English dubbing of The Secret World of Arrietty. They have two sons, the first being born in October 2008 and the second born in August 2010. Arnett and Poehler separated in 2012, and their divorce was finalized in July 2016. In June 2020, it was announced that Arnett’s girlfriend, Alessandra Brawn, had given birth to his third son in May 2020. Brawn also has a son with her ex-husband.
Arnett is a dual citizen of Canada and the United States.
Arnett has struggled with alcoholism in the past, a topic explored in his shows Flaked and BoJack Horseman. He managed to achieve sobriety for 15 years until a relapse during the production of Flaked.
In 2005, New York magazine named Arnett and then-wife Poehler “New Yorkers of the Year” during its annual New York Magazine Culture Awards. In April 2007, during a panel hosted by The Paley Center for Media, talk show host Conan O’Brien and his writing staff named Will Arnett as one of their three all-time favourite guests, sharing the honour with Norm Macdonald and Harland Williams. Also in April 2007, Entertainment Weekly named Will Arnett a “Future King of Comedy.” In May 2007, Best Week Ever ranked Arnett No. 9 on its “Top 15 Sexiest Nerd Boys” poll. In July 2007, Premiere magazine named Arnett one of “The 20 Hottest New Faces in Comedy.” In July 2019, Arnett was inducted into the Canada Walk of Fame.
|Ed’s Next Move||Weather Video Guy|
|1997||The Broken Giant||Ezra Caton|
|The Waiting Game||Lenny|
|2000||The Acting Class||Will Bennett|
|2001||Series 7: The Contenders||Narrator (voice)|
|2006||Ice Age: The Meltdown||Lone Gunslinger (voice)||Cameo|
|The Great New Wonderful||Danny||Segment: Emme’s Story|
|Let’s Go to Prison||Nelson Biederman IV|
|Wristcutters: A Love Story||Messiah|
|2007||Blades of Glory||Stranz Van Waldenberg|
|Grindhouse||Announcer (voice)||Segment: Don’t|
|Ratatouille||Karl Horst (voice)|
|Hot Rod||Jonathan Ault|
|The Brothers Solomon||John Solomon|
|Horton Hears a Who!||Vlad Vladikoff (voice)|
|Brief Interviews with Hideous Men||Subject No. 11|
|Monsters vs. Aliens||The Missing Link (voice)|
|2010||When in Rome||Antonio|
|Jonah Hex||Lieutenant Grass|
|Despicable Me||Mr. Perkins (voice)|
|2012||The Secret World of Arrietty||Pod (voice)||American English dub|
|Men in Black 3||Agent AA||Uncredited|
|2014||The Nut Job||Surly (voice)|
|The Lego Movie||Bruce Wayne / Batman (voice)|
|Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles||Vern Fenwick|
|2016||Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows||Vern Fenwick|
|Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping||Main CMZ Reporter|
|2017||The Lego Batman Movie||Bruce Wayne / Batman (voice)|
|Dark Hoser||Bruce Wayne / Batman (voice)||Short film|
|Batman is Just Not That Into You||Bruce Wayne / Batman (voice)||Short film|
|Cooking with Alfred||Bruce Wayne / Batman (voice)||Short film|
|The Nut Job 2: Nutty by Nature||Surly (voice)|
|2018||Show Dogs||Det. Frank Nicholas|
|Teen Titans Go! To the Movies||Slade (voice)||Also producer|
|2019||The Lego Movie 2: The Second Part||Bruce Wayne / Batman (voice)|
|2020||Dolittle||Jack Rabbit in prison cell (voice)||Uncredited|
|1999||Sex and the City||Jack||Episode: “La Douleur Exquise!”|
|The Mike O’Malley Show||Jimmy||13 episodes|
|2000||Third Watch||Kenny||Episode: “Spring Forward, Fall Back”|
|2001||Boston Public||Hand Salesman||Episode: “Chapter Twenty-Nine”|
|2002||Yes, Dear||Bobby||Episode: “Johnny Ampleseed”|
|The Sopranos||Mike Waldrup||2 episodes|
|Law & Order: Special Victims Unit||Tony Damon||Episode: “Angels”|
|2003||Undefeated||Scott Green’s Assistant||Television film|
|Arrested Development||George Oscar “G.O.B.” Bluth II||82 episodes|
|2004||Will & Grace||Artemis Johnson||Episode: “Back Up, Dancer”|
|2005||Odd Job Jack||Tiberius McKorkindale (voice)||2 episodes|
|Danny Phantom||Ghost Writer (voice)||Episode: “The Fright Before Christmas”|
|2006||Freak Show||Duncan Schiesst (voice)||7 episodes|
|O’Grady||Dougski (voice)||1 episode|
|2007||King of the Hill||Portis (voice)||Episode: “Hank Gets Dusted”|
|2007–2013||30 Rock||Devon Banks||9 episodes|
|2008||Sesame Street||Max the Magician||Episode: “Max the Magician”|
|Human Giant||Himself||Episode: “I’m Gonna Live Forever!”|
|2009||Sit Down, Shut Up||Ennis Hofftard (voice)||13 episodes|
|Delocated||TV Announcer (voice)||Episode: “Good Buds”|
|Monsters vs. Aliens: Mutant Pumpkins from Outer Space||The Missing Link (voice)||Halloween special|
|2009-11||Late Night with Jimmy Fallon||Himself/Brett Favre||6 episodes|
|2010||Parks and Recreation||Chris||Episode: “The Set Up”|
|2010–2011||Running Wilde||Steve Wilde||13 episodes; also co-creator and executive producer|
|The Increasingly Poor Decisions of Todd Margaret||Brent Wilts||17 episodes|
|2011||The Office||Fred Henry||Episode: “Search Committee”|
|2011–2012||Up All Night||Chris||35 episodes|
|2012||The Cleveland Show||General Richter (voice)||Episode: “A General Thanksgiving Episode”|
|Comedy Bang! Bang!||Dale||Episode: “Seth Rogen Wears a Plaid Shirt & Brown Pants”|
|2013, 2015||The Late Late Show||Himself (Guest host)||3 episodes|
|2013–2014||The Millers||Nathan Miller||34 episodes|
|2014||The Simpsons||Deputy Director Gratman (voice)||Episode: “Steal This Episode”|
|2014–2020||BoJack Horseman||BoJack Horseman / Additional voices||76 episodes; also executive producer|
|2014||Wander Over Yonder||Ryder (voice)||Episode: “The Rider”|
|2016–2017||Flaked||Chip||14 episodes; also co-creator, executive producer and director|
|2016||Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt||Kitty (voice)||Uncredited
Episode: “Kimmy Kidnaps Gretchen!”
|2017||A Series of Unfortunate Events||Father/Mr. Quagmire||8 episodes|
|Jimmy Kimmel Live!||Himself (guest host)||1 episodes|
|Minecon Earth 2017||Himself (co-host)||Youtube Live Show|
|Netflix: LIVE||Himself (host)||Netflix special|
|2017–2018||The Gong Show||Himself (guest judge)||5 episodes; also executive producer|
|2017||The Magic School Bus Rides Again||Galapagos Gil (voice)||Episode: “Frizzle Of The Future”|
|2017–present||Hot Date||Sam Keurig||Episode: “For Real, Where Have All My Friends Gone?”; also executive producer|
|2018||The Guest Book||Rob||Episode: “Under Cover”|
|2019||Unikitty!||Batman / Batkitty (voice)||Episode: “Batkitty”|
|Riviera||Jeff Carter||10 episodes|
|2020||LEGO Masters||Himself (host)||Also executive producer|
|The First Team||Mark Crane||4 episodes|
|2009||Eat Lead: The Return of Matt Hazard||Matt Hazard|
|Monsters vs. Aliens||The Missing Link|
|Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2||Additional Voice|
|2015||Lego Dimensions||Bruce Wayne / Batman (LEGO Movie)|
Awards and nominations
|2004||Arrested Development||TV Land Award||Future Classic Award||Won||Shared with cast and producers|
|2005||Screen Actors Guild Award||Outstanding Performance by an Ensemble in a Comedy Series||Nominated||Shared with cast|
|Primetime Emmy Award||Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Comedy Series||Nominated|
|2008||30 Rock||Outstanding Guest Actor in a Comedy Series||Nominated|
|Up All Night||Satellite Award||Best Actor – Television Series Musical or Comedy||Nominated|
|2014||Arrested Development||Screen Actors Guild Award||Outstanding Performance by an Ensemble in a Comedy Series||Nominated||Shared with cast|
|American Comedy Award||Best Comedy Supporting Actor – TV||Nominated|
|2015||The Lego Movie||Kids’ Choice Award||Favorite Movie Actor||Nominated|
|Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles||Nominated|
|2017||Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows||Nominated|
|The Lego Batman Movie||MTV Movie & TV Awards||Best Comedic Performance||Nominated|
|Teen Choice Awards||Choice Comedy Movie Actor||Nominated|
|2019||BoJack Horseman||Annie Awards||Outstanding Achievement for Voice Acting in an Animated Television/Broadcast Production||Won|
|2021||Critics’ Choice Super Awards||Best Voice Actor in an Animated Series||Won|