Beach was born in Roxbury, MA, where he was raised with his three siblings by his divorced mother, Barbara Gomez Beach, an MIT-educated city planner. A star running back, Beach's athletic skills led him to play football for Noble and Greenough School on scholarship. He had dreams of turning professional, but an injury permanently sidelined his hopes. A friend suggested acting as a new passion and the devastated Beach reluctantly auditioned for a school play. But the discipline of performing - coupled with him playing an elderly Dutch Jewish in "The Diary of Anne Frank" - permanently hooked the former athlete. Beach graduated in 1982 and soon entered into the NAACP's Act-So competition. On the strength of his performance as Walter Lee in "Raisin in the Sun," he was granted a scholarship to the prestigious Juilliard School in New York. Beach spent the next four years in Manhattan, honing his craft alongside future stars Andre Braugher, Ving Rhames and Eriq LaSalle.In 1984, Beach earned an Outstanding Achievement Award from the Drama League. Meanwhile, towards the end of his term at Juilliard, a visiting talent agent tapped Beach as a client and within a month, he was working opposite Wesley Snipes in the feature "Streets of Gold" (1986). Beach returned to the stage, nabbing a New York Shakespeare Festival Award, which in turn led to a steady stream of film and television work. He had a small role in Peter Yates' "Suspect" (1987), then became a reserve military volunteer in the TV movie "Weekend War" (ABC, 1988). Mixing it up, Beach went from an independent period feature, "In a Shallow Grave" (1988), playing a southern mansion worker at the turn of the 20th century, to a blockbuster with James Cameron's "The Abyss" (1989). After appearing in "Lean on Me" (1989), which he suited up for as an athletics faculty member at odds with principal Joe Clark (Morgan Freeman), Beach began to land more and more features. He was a tough stockade inmate in the Martin Sheen-directed "Cadence" (1990), then played a dutiful Los Angeles officer in "Internal Affairs" (1990). Some roles offered him a chance to flex his dramatic chops in darker ways, like his turn as remorseless killer Wade "Pluto" Franklin in the acclaimed thriller, "One False Move" (1992). Though he was focused on advancing his career, even high profile projects like Robert Altman's "Short Cuts" (1993) and Tony Scott's "True Romance" (1993) followed his personal philosophy of choosing roles for the characters, not necessarily the size of the project.The year 1995 proved to be a watershed one for the actor, kicking off with "Bad Company," which saw Beach play a gay espionage agent. Later that fall, he appeared in a recurring role on the second season of "ER" - ironically enough, Beach initially auditioned to play Dr. Peter Benton, a role won by old friend and Juilliard classmate, Eriq La Salle. But instead he played Al Boulet, the estranged husband of doctor's assistant Jeanie Boulet, who unknowingly infects his wife with HIV after contracting the virus from an affair. Despite Boulet's acts of selfishness, Beach and co-star Gloria Reuben brought the arc to a somewhat sympathetic, sensitive place of redemption, rather than one of vilification. By the end of the year, Beach acted the villain to much effect, playing the callous John Harris, who commits adultery before callously leaving his wife, Bernie (Angela Bassett), in the feature drama "Waiting to Exhale" (1995). His roles on "Exhale" and "ER" put Beach on the map, though he received a fair share of criticism from female fans. Undeterred with being typecast as a cheating louse, Beach went back to work, logging major screen time as James Earl Jones' son, Virgil, in "A Family Thing" (1996), before somewhat redeeming his husband status with a turn as a decent, but frustrated attorney in the feature drama, "Soul Food" (1997). In 1997, Beach appeared in the Disney telefilm "Ruby Bridges" (ABC, 1998), playing the father of the real-life six-year-old who helped integrate America's school system by attending school in New Orleans in 1960. While continuing to work in small films, Beach was recruited by his former "ER" boss John Wells to play a fresh-on-the-beat New York paramedic named "Doc" Parker - a role specifically written for the actor - on NBC's "Third Watch" (1999-2005). Beach's time on "Third Watch" netted him an Image Award in 2003 and marked his longest stint on a project up until that time. During his breaks from the show, he squeezed in other work, notably putting his chops to the test in "Crazy as Hell" (2002) opposite director and co-star LaSalle. Meanwhile, in the fifth season of "Third Watch," Doc tried to save his station house by shooting the company captain, only to wind up institutionalized, thus marking the end of the beloved character. An in-demand Beach, however, continued to appear in other projects, moving into a multi-episode arc of ABC's "Brothers & Sisters" (2006-11) and tackling the horror thriller "Hell Ride" (2008). No longer merely an onscreen villain, Beach's "Third Watch" co-star Jason Wiles knew who to call when directing his own feature, tapping his former colleague to help save a town in peril in "Play Dead" (2008).