He attended Louisiana Technical on a music stipend for two years before transferring to Berea College in Berea, Kentucky, where he performed for the first time on stage as Petruchio in a production of Shakespeare"s The Taming of the Shrew.
He is best known for his roles as Charles Westmoreland on the Fox television series Prison Break and Mike Franks in NCIS. During and after his years at Berea, he worked in outdoor dramas, dinner theaters, and small repertory groups. His theater credits include acting as Hamlet in Hamlet, Stanley in A Streetcar Named Desire, Pale in Burn This, and Cervantes in Manitoba of Louisiana Mancha. He also directed a production of Ain"t Misbehavin".
In 1989, with a new transition to film, Watson began pursuing feature film roles.
By 2005, he had appeared in 43 feature films such as Sommersby, Something to Talk About, Assassins, Dead Birds, Rosewood, I Know What You Did Last Summer, From Dusk Till Dawn 2, I Still Know What You Did Last Summer, Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Maine, and Songcatcher. As of 2005, seven of the films he has appeared in, combined, have grossed over $850 million.
His television credits include eight made-for-television movies including Blind Vengeance and Justice in a Small Town. And the television series, American Gothic, The Young Indiana Jones Chronicles, Cold Case, Matlock, The Lazarus Manitoba, Judge Advocate General, Walker, Texas Ranger, Criminal Minds, and Prison Break.
Recently he has appeared on episodes of Ghost Whisperer ("Delia"s First Ghost", April 2007) and Computer Society of India ("Who and What", November 2007).
Watson also guest starred in an episode of The Mentalist ("Carnelian, Incorporated", March 2009), and in the Castle episode "Punked" (October 2010). Since 2006, he has appeared as a recurring cast member on NCIS as Agent Leroy Jethro Gibbs"s mentor and former superior Mike Franks. Watson also gave a performance with Jennifer Love Hewitt as a special guest on Saturday Night Live (1998), parodying his role in I Know What You Did Last Summer.
He also joined the production company Shorris with Christopher Showerman and Clint Morris — their first film is the western Between the Sand and the Sky.
Watson is now filming A Christmas Snow, in which he plays a character named Sam. Watson is an autism advocate and has taken an active role in educating people about autism.
He is the Honorary Chairman of Stars for Autism, a non-profit organization incorporated in Battlefield, Missouri. He is featured in the video promotion for that organization, www.Stars4Autism.com.