Born on April 10, 1980 in Newcastle upon Tyne, England, Hunnam was raised the second son of a single mother and who first developed a desire to act at a very young age. Apparently discovered while goofing off inside a shoe store, he had his first taste at 10 years old when he landed a recurring role as a child model on the British drama ironically about teenage bikers, “Byker Grove” (BBC1, 1989-2006). But it would be several more years before Hunnam found himself back in front of a camera. When he was 18, he landed an agent and was cast on another British-made teen series, “Microsoap” (BBC1, 1998-2001), which led to his breakthrough role on the UK version of “Queer as Folk” (Channel 4, 1999-2000). Hunnam brought Nathan from a shy, curious innocent to an increasingly self-aware, even cocky gay man-about-town in the controversial series about homosexual teenage life. He reprised the role in the two-hour sequel, “Queer as Folk 2” (2000). As Nathan, Hunnam played an integral role in the groundbreaking series and became something of a role model for gay youth. The influence of the series was far-reaching enough that he was asked to participate in a parliamentary debate about the discriminatory age of consent laws in Britain.
While “Queer as Folk” went on to be successfully remade for American tastes and broadcast on Showtime, Hunnam made his own U.S. television debut with a recurring role on the short-lived teen drama, “Young Americans” (The WB, 2000). From there, he landed a regular role on the Fox sitcom “Undeclared” (2001-02), a college-set series created by Judd Apatow as a follow-up to his cult classic, “Freaks and Geeks” (NBC, 1999-2000). Hunnam played Lloyd, the popular roommate of a nerdy college kid (Jay Baruchel) who tries to show him the ropes on how to score with women. Though not the star of the series, Hunnam’s fresh-faced charm and confident swagger lent Lloyd a believable edge, while helping to elevate both the series and his own profile. Meanwhile, he made his first leap to film with a role as a rock singer in the British comedy, “Whatever Happened to Harold Smith?” (2001). Hunnam followed with his American film debut in the psychological thriller, “Abandon” (2002), playing the missing boyfriend of a college student (Katie Holmes) whose case is reopened two years later by a police detective (Benjamin Bratt) looking into a series of other missing students.
Hunnam began to break through with American audiences thanks to a starring turn as the titular “Nicholas Nickleby” (2002), a faithful adaptation of the Charles Dickens’ novel in which he played the resourceful 19th century lad whose comfortable life is upended after the tragic death of his father leaves him penniless and at the mercy of his wicked Uncle Ralph (Christopher Plummer). He made the most of his limited screen time opposite stars Nicole Kidman, Jude Law and Renée Zellweger in “Cold Mountain” (2003), playing a member of the Home Guard, a group of Civil War marauders who find and kill deserters for cash. In the ultra-violent sports drama, “Green Street Hooligans” (2005), he played a charming, but dangerous English thug who takes an American (Elijah Woods) expelled from Harvard under his wing and teaches him the finer points of football hooliganism. He next made a distinct impression as Patric, the dreadlocked, hot-tempered member of a resistance movement in the dystopian sci-fi thriller, “Children of Men” (2006), starring Clive Owen as a down-and-out former activist who shepherds a pregnant woman (Claire-Hope Ashitey) to safety in a world that has gone infertile.
Hunnam landed the television role of a lifetime on the FX biker drama, “Sons of Anarchy” (2008- ), created by Kurt Sutter. Hunnam played Jax Teller, the vice president of a Hells Angels-like biker gang that sells automatic weapons while keeping the streets of fictional Charming, CA free from drug dealers and real-estate developers. Troubled by the seemingly destructive path of his motorcycle club, Jax constantly butts heads with SAMCRO president, Clay Morrow (Ron Perlman), who refuses to deviate from his settled ways. Following a relatively quiet first season, “Sons of Anarchy” jumped in the ratings for season two, and became a huge hit for the upstart cable network, while bringing Hunnam the stardom that he had steered clear of. After his major roles in the largely overlooked thrillers “The Ledge” (2011) and “Deadfall” (2012), director Guillermo del Toro enlisted him to suit up as one of the monster-battling heroes of the sci-fi/action epic “Pacific Rim” (2013).