A native of North Carolina, Schneider was born and raised in the city of Asheville. In his later adolescence, Schneider attended North Carolina School for the Arts and explored an interest in filmmaking. He and writer-director David Gordon Green befriended one another while taking a film class in NCSA's emerging film program. Over the course of 1997, Schneider acted in several of Green's domestic drama shorts, including "Physical Pinball" and "Pleasant Grove." In their junior year, Schneider and Green co-wrote a screenplay, "All the Real Girls," a story about a boy and girl who experience their first serious love. As the script was refined, the film became a way for the pair to examine some feelings about their own failed romances, including the pain both collaborators felt when both of their college girlfriends initiated breakups. The intent was to impart the purity of young love and make a movie that could remind people of its simpler beginnings. After graduating in 1998, Schneider and Green journeyed to Los Angeles to pursue the elusive Hollywood dream, but barely half a year later, were back in North Carolina, examining a different path with their script. In 2000, Gordon enlisted Schneider - who was then spending his days in the park earning a living as conductor of a train ride - to act in his debut feature, "George Washington" (2000). Though fictional, the realistic, almost documentary-style look at wistful youths during a North Carolina summer, saw Schneider offering a wizened voice as railroad worker Rico Rice.The subsequent critical success of "George Washington" allowed Schneider and Green the possibility of filming "All the Real Girls." Schneider had always been earmarked to play Paul, the bed-hopping charmer who falls in love with a boarding school graduate before moving on from his former ways. Green went through the process of securing funding, and remained the champion of his intended leading man despite one prospective financier's suggestion that actor Freddie Prinze, Jr. flesh out the role. Ultimately, Green's desire won out and Schneider took his place before the camera. Under Green's direction, he and co-star Zooey Deschanel let their onscreen romance unfold organically, as Green re-used the partially-improvised approach that worked for "George Washington." As 2003 drew to a close, Schneider had opted to move his life to New York City, where he was able to land a three-episode arc on NBC's "Third Watch" (1999-2005), switching gears for the remorseless role of a serial rapist. The following year, Schneider had risen to the status of film lead with "50 Ways to leave Your Lover" (2004), a comedy about a writer's ambivalence with leaving Los Angeles for New York that premiered in mid 2004 at the Tribeca Film Festival.Schneider's strong performances in "All the Real Girls" had done their part to win the films some big raves in Hollywood, but they also made him writer-director Cameron Crowe's choice for a role in "Elizabethtown" (2005). Once again, the actor, a musician himself, had a character that similarly mirrored elements of his personal self. As Jessie Baylor, a Kentucky-based father and former touring rock drummer, Schneider helped Orlando Bloom's Drew Baylor come to terms with the nature of father and son relationships. "Elizabethtown" fared somewhat poorly with critics and Crowe enthusiasts, but Schneider displayed his ability to impress. He moved forward with another studio assignment starring as the EMT love interest who charms Rachel McAdams in the holiday comedy hit, "The Family Stone" (2005). Though he was gaining a foothold in bigger fare, Schneider still maintained his roots in independent films. He hearkened back to his rogue side as a member of the outlaw Jesse James Gang, Dick Liddil, in the Brad Pitt action drama "The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford" (2007). On the other end of the spectrum, however, another sort of "real girl" beckoned, as he was tapped for a role in the independent drama "Lars and the Real Girl" (2007), in which actor Ryan Gosling fell in love with a blow-up doll. With "Lars," Schneider had returned to a theme that often engaged him - the grappling of reality and artifice within love.Schneider attracted further attention to himself with his critically lauded performance in director Jane Campion's biographical period romance, "Bright Star" (2009). For his devilish role as Mr. Brown, the best friend of John Keats (Ben Whishaw) and opponent of the blossoming relationship between the doomed poet and a young socialite (Abbie Cornish), Schneider won a Best Supporting Actor award from the National Society of Film Critics. On a roll, he continued to work with some of film's finest directors, in such projects as the dramedy "Away We Go" (2009), directed by Sam Mendes. In the low-key story about a young couple (John Krasinski and Maya Rudolph) trying to decide where to raise their unborn child, Schneider delivered a brief, but heart-rending performance as Krasinski's brother, whose marriage has just collapsed.Following highly-regarded work in several smaller, independent films, Schneider made a return to mainstream TV with a regular cast role on the municipal government series "Parks and Recreation" (NBC, 2009-15). Originally conceived as a spin-off of "The Office" (NBC, 2005-), the comedy series starred "Saturday Night Live" (NBC, 1975-) alum Amy Poehler as Leslie Knope, the ultra-dedicated Deputy Parks Director of Pawnee, IN. Over the course of two seasons, Schnieder's character, city planner Mark Brendanawicz, transitioned from jaded womanizer to Leslie's sympathetic ally and the potential love-interest of Leslie's best friend, Ann Perkins (Rashida Jones). That all changed after the attention Schneider received from such efforts as "Bright Star" made the lure of further film work too enticing to pass up. Always intended to be a character who would come in and out of the life of Leslie and her co-workers, the show's creative team wrote Brendanawicz out of the series at the end of the second season. Although producers insisted the door would remain open for his return, Schneider essentially said goodbye to Pawnee and the crew at the Parks and Rec Department in 2010. One year later, the result of Schneider's decision and the fruits of his labor surfaced in the form of three films that, while boasting impressive creative credentials, did little to further his exposure. He was seen in a supporting role in the period romance "Water for Elephants" (2011), featuring Reese Witherspoon and Robert Pattinson as star-crossed lovers in a traveling circus. Abroad, Schneider could also be seen with small parts in the French musical-romance "The Beloved" (2011) alongside Catherine Deneuve, and in the Chinese historical epic "The Flowers of War" (2011), directed by Zhang Yimou and starring Christian Bale.