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Donovan, the youngest of 7 children, was born in Tenafly, New Jersey, the son of Eileen (née McAllister) and J. Timothy Donovan, who was a surgeon. He attended Dwight-Englewood School in Englewood, New Jersey (graduates of which include Brooke Shields, Anthony Bourdain, and Mira Sorvino), before transferring to a public high school in Tenafly, New Jersey and has been appearing on TV since his teens. He attended the University of Southern California in Los Angeles, where he met his now long-time friends Grant Heslov and George Clooney. He is of Irish heritage.
Donovan played the role of Joshua, the boyfriend of Jennifer Aniston's character, Rachel Green, in a few episodes of season 4 of the sitcom Friends. He played the priest son of a large Irish Catholic family in the short-lived NBC drama Trinity (1998). More recently he has appeared as a guest star in several series such as The Guardian (2001), Mister Sterling (2003), Exposed (2003), and in the The O.C. (2003), where he appeared as Jimmy Cooper. He starred on stage with Glenn Fitzgerald in Kenneth Lonergan's Lobby Hero and with Amy Ryan in the L.A. production of Rabbit Hole. On Broadway, Donovan appeared in the revivial of "Picnic" in 1994; he also appeared opposite actress Dame Judy Dench in "Amy's View" (1999), and in 1994, as Alan Seymour in "Picnic." Off Broadway, Donovan appeared in the 2001 production of Lobby Hero by award-winning playwright and screenwriter Kenneth Lonergan, playing the role of the crooked cop Bill.
He had a regular gig with an Irish traditional band called The Descendants, with whom he released an album titled Wake Amusements. He is currently starring in the FX drama Damages as Tom Shayes, a partner at the firm of Glenn Close's character, Patty Hewes.
His earliest films included as teenage science whiz Kevin Donaldson in SpaceCamp (1986), co-starring Lea Thompson and Kate Capshaw; at the other end of the spectrum was the 1988 film Clean and Sober in which he played a recovering drug addict, costarring with Michael Keaton and Kathy Baker.
Donovan was formerly engaged to Sandra Bullock (1994) and to Jennifer Aniston. He also dated British socialite Plum Sykes (in 2000), actress Whitney Allen (2001), Rebecca Miller, and Lauren Graham of the television series Gilmore Girls. He married Corinne Kingsbury in a Catholic ceremony on a Malibu, California beach in 2005. Kingsbury and Donovan divorced in 2008.
In 2008, Donovan announced his support for then-presidential hopeful and currently President-elect Barack Obama in the 2008 presidential U.S. elections. Donovan campaigned for the president.
Donovan has also volunteered as an actor with the Young Storytellers Program.
- Kingdom Hearts II (2006) (video game)
- The Pacifier (2005)
- House of Mouse (2001) TV Series
- Hercules: Zero to Hero (1999)
- Hercules: The Animated Series (1998) TV Series
- Hercules (1997)
- Holy Matrimony (1994)