Brother in-law of comedy writers/directors Peter and Bobby Farrelly, Zen Gesner had appeared in the films “Dumb & Dumber” (1994), “Wish Me Luck” (1995), “Soldier Boyz” (1995) and “King Pin” (1996) before snagging his most popular role to date, as Arabian Nights adventurer Sinbad in the popular TV series “The Adventures Of Sinbad” (1996-1998).
A regular cast member on the ABC daytime drama “All My Children” (as bad boy and rapist Braden Lavery (1997-1998), Gesner also appeared in the films "There's Something About Mary" (1998), "Me, Myself & Irene" (2000), "Osmosis Jones" (2001), "Shallow Hal" (2001), "Fever Pitch" (2005), and "The Ringer" (2005). He also has guest starred in an episode of the hit sitcom “Friends.”
The 5' 11½" handsome player has been married to Cynthia Farrelly Gesner since 1995. They have three sons together.
The Farrelly Clan
Childhood and Family:
In Van Nuys, California, Zen Brant Gesner was born on June 23, 1970, to a stage actress mother, Nan Martin, and an architect father, Harry Gesner. His parents named him after the Japanese Buddhist sect that preaches enlightenment through meditation. Gesner has an older half-brother, Casey Martin Dolan, from his mother's first marriage to musician Robert E. Dolan.
After his graduation from Santa Monica High School, Santa Monica, California, young Gesner, who was interested in music as a boy (he plays both the piano and trumpet), began crafting his skill as an actor. He joined South Coast Repertory Theatre in Orange County, California, and studied fencing and stage combat at the London Academy of Music and Dramatic Art (LAMDA), London, England, whose American alumni include such actors as Alexis Denisof, John Lithgow and Donald Sutherland.
Gesner married his present wife, Cynthia Farrelly Gesner, in 1995. They have three sons together, Finn Harry Gesner (born on July 24, 1997 in Capetown, South Africa), Rory Gesner, and Tuck John Gesner (born July 11, 2003, in Santa Monica, California). Gesner's brothers-in-law are producers/screenwriters/directors Peter Farrelly and Bobby Farrelly.
In his free time, Gesner enjoys his hobbies, sword-fighting, surfing, archery, rollerblading, skiing, rock climbing, and skateboarding.
"We’re flying on cloud nine right now. I mean, how do you describe the wonder and awe of childbirth, of becoming a father, of having a son. Between the six /16 hour days a week of shooting and with the caring for our son, I may not sleep for a year or two, but then again, who would want to miss a minute of this?" Zen Gesner.
The Adventures Of Sinbad
"She’d been through the ups and downs. She asked me: ‘Why do you want to?’ I told her I wanted to follow in her footsteps. She knew I was hooked." Zen Gesner (on following his mother's footsteps as an actor).
Interested in music as a boy, Zen Gesner, who was directed by mother in a short film when he was 5 years old, found his passion in acting after landing a small part in his high school's production of “Hamlet.” He went on to play leading roles in the school's rendition of "Nicholas Nickleby" and "The Sound of Music."
"They were looking for a trumpet player and I played the trumpet. That’s when I was bitten by the bug. ‘Hamlet’ had it all -- swordfighting, action and high drama. By my senior year, I was performing in major roles in plays such as ‘Nicholas Nickleby’ and ‘The Sound of Music.’" Zen Gesner.
Gesner subsequently honed his craft at South Coast Repertory Theatre in Orange County, California, and at the London Academy of Music and Dramatic Art (LAMDA), London, England, where he performed in such plays as “Richard III,” “The Cherry Orchard” and “Anything Goes,” as well as studied everything from poetry to archery to fire-blowing. He especially excelled in fencing and during his second year, earning an advanced certificate from The Society of British Fight Directors.
"I have always been fascinated with historical fighting. Swordplay is very much like dance. Distinctive forms of fighting and weapon types have evolved that are unique to different regions of the world. It’s something that has always appealed to me." Zen Gesner.
Graduating from LAMDA, Gesner was offered a position as assistant to the Fight Director of the Royal Opera House, London. He eventually returned to the United States to further his acting career and sored his first acting job in Alex Erkiletian's 26-minute short film called "Victim." He soon landed his feature film debut in the hit comedy starring Jim Carrey and Jeff Daniels, “Dumb & Dumber” (1994), which was directed by future brother-in-laws Peter and Bobby Farrelly.
After marrying Cynthia Farrelly Gesner, sister of the writer-directors Peter and Bobby Farrelly, in 1995, they moved to Hollywood and Gesner continued taking auditions for television and movie roles while working part-time in a construction to make ends meet. He made his Los Angeles debut opposite his mother Nan Martin in a radio play production of "Leocadia" and was spotted as a guest in a 1995 episode of the drama series "Compromising Situations." He also co-starred as a nerd-turns-a man in writer/director Philip J. Jones' fantasy/comedy movie "Wish Me Luck" (1995), starring Avalon Anders, and played a surfer in Chis Isaak music video, "Somebody's Crying" (1995).
"When they called me back to screen test for 'Sinbad,' I was the first one up. I was shaking in my boots. The executive producers, told me to ‘think big.’ I read it robusto -- very big and grand. I love the old style of acting and I was thinking of Douglas Fairbanks. I went in guns-a-blazing. I took my jacket off and just let it rip." Zen Gesner.
In 1996, Gesner snagged his most popular role to date, as the titular sailor in the syndicated TV series "The Adventures of Sinbad," a re-telling of the adventures of the famous character from The Arabian Nights. He would stayed in the show until 1998.
About his role as Sinbad, Gesner said, "From the moment I got the part, I was determined to give everything I had inside of me to make him incredible. When I realized I was playing this legendary, almost mythical, character, I put a lot of pressure on myself to live up to the expectations and vision of what I had always had of this guy. Turned out, I had the time of my life shooting this show. As hard as the work was, it was like being a kid again. Jumping off buildings, flipping through the air, sword fighting...sometimes I couldn’t believe I was getting paid for this."
During that time, Gesner continued working in films. He could be seen in Louis Mourneau's independent action/drama/thriller film that revolves around a group of convicts on a mission in Vietnam to rescue the daughter of a rich man, "Soldier Boyz" (1996), and in the Farrelly brothers' gross-out and slapstick comedy movie "Kingpin" (1996), playing the brother of Randy Quaid's character.
He also played a small role as a customer in Michael Schroeder's independent drama/thriller film "The Glass Cage" (1996), with Richard Tyson, Horacio Anthony, and Charlotte Lewis, and reunited with Avalon Anders for Philip J. Jones' independent comedy film "Gettin' Up" (1997). Additionally, Gesner played bad boy and rapist Braden Lavery (1997-1998) in the popular ABC soap opera "All My Children."
After "The Adventures of Sinbad" and "All My Children," Gesner played a bit part as a pier bartender in the Farrelly brothers' combination of romantic comedy and gross-out film, "There's Something About Mary" (1998), starring Ben Stiller, Cameron Diaz, and Matt Dillon. He also guest starred in an October 1998 episode of NBC's internationally successful sitcom, "Friends."
Entering the new millennium, Gesner was taped again by his brother-in-laws Peter and Bobby Farrelly, this time for their comedy film starring Jim Carrey and Renée Zellweger, "Me, Myself & Irene" (2000), in which he played EPA agent Peterson. In the following year, he appeared in Rene Villar Rios' drama "Social Misfits," Michael Oblowitz's vampire movie "The Breed" (with Adrian Paul, Bokeem Woodbine, and Bai Ling), and the Farrelly brothers' part animated, part live action film "Osmosis Jones" (starring Bill Murray and Chris Rock). He also played a role in his brother-in-laws' romantic comedy film starring Gwyneth Paltrow, Jack Black and Jason Alexander, "Shallow Hal."
2002 saw Gesner in Alex Erkiletian's western/horror movie "Legend of the Phantom Rider" and Mort Nathan's box office flop comedy starring Cuba Gooding Jr., "Boat Trip." he then starred as a hard-drinking police chief named John Haleran who sets out to unravel a mysterious murder case, in Ralph Clemente's period drama film "Florida City" (2003), and appeared in Kyle Newman's straight-to-video horror "The Hollow" (2004).
In 2005, Gesner was directed by his brother-in-laws again, this time in their baseball comedy movie based on Nick Hornby's novel, "Fever Pitch," starring Drew Barrymore and Jimmy Fallon, and was taped by Barry W. Blaustein in his sports comedy movie "The Ringer," starring Johnny Knoxville and Katherine Heigl.
After being cast in Joseph Rassulo's drama film "Bull Run" (2006), Gesner appeared in Daniel Bernhardt's 18-minute short action/comedy film "Fetch" (2007). Most recently, in 2008, he could be seen as Ned in writer/director Christopher L. Miller's drama film called "Rex." He is now appearing in the Man Laws commercials for Miller Lite.