Born in San Antonio, Texas, Gil Birmingham spent his formative years moving from state to state, due to his father’s career in the military. As the eldest of five children, Gil grew up in many locations, including Alaska, Hawaii and Kentucky, eventually ending up in California where he now calls home. His musical aspirations began at age 10, when he first picked up a guitar and learned to play. Since then, he has traveled across the country, singing and playing guitar with various bands. Stevie Ray Vaughan, Eric Clapton and Jimi Hendrix served as the early inspiration for Gil’s musical style, which ranges from Blues and R&B, to Rock.
After graduating from the University of Southern California with a B.S. degree in Administration, he embarked on a career in petrochemical engineering. Gil began bodybuilding and soon entered a number of bodybuilding contests. His sculpted physique led to his first acting experience when he was cast opposite Diana Ross in her music video, Muscles. After his on camera debut, Gil’s acting became an extension of the creative expression of his music. While studying acting with Larry Moss and Charles Conrad, he played Conan the Barbarian at Universal Studios Hollywood.
Gil made his television debut in an episode of Riptide, and went on to star in television shows, including an episode of Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Gil appeared as a series regular in the medical drama Body & Soul, starring Peter Strauss. In 2002, he received a First American in the Arts (FAITA) award for an "Outstanding Performance in a Recurring Role" for his portrayal of a hospital intern in Body & Soul. TV viewers have seen him in guest appearances on Veronica Mars, where he played shady casino owner Leonard Lobo. More recently, Gil appeared in the comedy improvisation show 10 Items or Less, as John Greene, and in Nip Tuck as a tribal shaman.
On film, Gil starred with Dean Cain in Gentle Ben 1 and 2. His Native American Comanche ancestry has brought him numerous roles, such as the alcoholic, abusive father in Skins. A pivotal role for Gil came as Manny Deadmarsh in The Doe Boy, which won the Sundance International Filmmaker's Award in 2001.
In 2005, Gil won the American Indian LA Film and Television Award for "Outstanding Supporting Role" in Dreamkeeper, a two-part miniseries, for his portrayal of Sam. In the role, Gil captured the feelings of a father who had made regrettable choices, yet who desperately sought to reconnect with his son. After the success of Dreamkeeper, Gil played Sharp Claw in the Hallmark Hall of Fame movie, Love’s Long Journey.
Cast by Stephen Spielberg in the six-part miniseries Into the West, Gil offered a gripping portrayal of the older Dogstar. One of his many fine performances, he adeptly portrayed Dogstar from adulthood through his elderly years. It is through his eyes, that viewers witness the atrocities and devastation that occurred at Wounded Knee in 1890.
After Into the West, Gil switched gears to play Moipa, a vengeful tribesman in End of the Spear. In addition to film roles, Gil’s voiceover work includes the Wild Thornberrys, Night at the Museum, and a yet-to-be-released animated film, Turok, Son of Stone.
Longing to battle vampires again after his taste in Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Gil joined the werewolf pack as Billy Black, chief of the Quileute tribe, in the blockbuster hit, Twilight, a film based on the best-selling series written by Stephenie Meyer. As Jacob Black’s father, Billy, confined to a wheelchair, is a descendant of a long line of magical chieftains. Gil found working with director Catherine Hardwick to be one of the best experiences in his career. Honored to be among a cast of talented young actors, such as Robert Pattinson, Kristen Stewart, and Taylor Lautner, Gil will return as Billy for the sequel, New Moon.
Gil recently filmed The Love Ranch, starring Helen Mirren and Joe Pesci, directed by Taylor Hackford. The movie is a true story about the married couple who founded the first legal brothel in Nevada in 1975. Gil plays the corrupt Sheriff Johnny Cortez, who is Joe Pesci’s right-hand man. In January 2009, Gil finished shooting an animated film called Rango, staring Johnny Depp. The film is due out in theaters in 2011.
Currently, Gil is working on a number of new projects that span both stage and screen. In what little spare time he has, he continues to pursue his music, which is essential to his spirit. Gil enjoys embracing nature and the unbelievable beauty of mother earth, whether it be in the California mountains or in the incredible tropical setting of Hawaii. His work has allowed him to visit many parts of the world, where he enjoys exploring different cultures and sharing our connection as human beings to all things.
Ever thankful and honored for the opportunities that have been presented to him in his acting career, Gil is most appreciative to his growing number of loyal fans who continue to support him as he pursues his passion.