Elmo's Fire" (both 1985). After an upper-class upbringing (prepping at St. Paul's and college at Haverford), Nelson moved to New York to study with Stella Adler. Relocating to Los Angeles at the age of 25, he immediately hit the big-time with a starring part in the teen comedy "Making the Grade" (1984). After a similar farce, Kevin Reynolds' "Fandango" (1985), co-starring a neophyte Kevin Costner, full-blast stardom arrived with John Hughes' popular coming-of-age film "The Breakfast Club". Nelson played the smirking cynic in that and his next, Joel Schumacher's equally successful "St. Elmo's Fire". He and co-stars Emilio Estevez, Molly Ringwald, Ally Sheedy, Rob Lowe and Demi Moore became the media darlings of the day, and Nelson obliged with off-screen antics, partying and romancing.
Nelson's screen career, however, quickly floundered. He did another six films in the 1980s, but none equaled his former success. He played a yuppie lawyer in "From the Hip" (1987), and cops in "Never on Tuesday" and "Relentless" (both 1989). The 90s were a bit happier, as Nelson began to shake off his "brat pack" label. He was yet another cop in the Mario Van Peebles' hit action film "New Jack City" (1991). Since then, however, Nelson's big screen activities have been confined to second-rate thrillers like "Primary Motive" (1992), "Entangled" (1993), "Every Breath" (1994, for which he also supplied the screenplay) and "Blackwater Trail" (1996) and comedies such as "Airheads" (1994).
Nelson's TV career began slower but has proven to be more rewarding. He debuted on the Constitution tribute "Funny, You Don't Look 200" (ABC, 1987), followed shortly thereafter by a strong performance as a wealthy thrill killer in "Billionaire Boy's Club" (NBC, 1987). Another challenging role, as a POW, came with "Hiroshima: Out of the Ashes" (NBC, 1990), followed by turns in the thrillers "Conflict of Interest" (HBO, 1993), "Blindfold: Acts of Obsession" (USA, 1994) and "Circumstances Unknown" (USA, 1995).
Just when it looked like Nelson was doomed to spend the rest of his career in cable slashers, he was cast as Brooke Shields' sports-crazy editor in the NBC sitcom "Suddenly Susan" in the fall of 1996. Heading a strong if inexperienced supporting cast, Nelson added good, manic timing to his role, returning to the comedy with which he began his career. After three seasons, though, the actor opted to leave the series, feeling that his relationship with Shields' character had been developed as much as it could.