Pace was born in Chickasha, Oklahoma. As a child, Pace spent several years in Saudi Arabia, where his father was in the oil business; the family later moved to Houston, Texas. Pace temporarily quit high school to act at Houston's Alley Theatre before returning to graduate. At the Alley, he appeared in productions of The Spider's Web and The Greeks.
Pace attended Klein High School in the suburb of Spring in Houston, Texas, with fellow actor Matthew Bomer.
In 1997, Pace was accepted by the Juilliard School's drama division (Group 30). While there, he acted in several plays, including Romeo and Juliet as Romeo, Richard III in the title role, and Julius Caesar as Cassius. He graduated with a BFA and was a classmate of actors Anthony Mackie and Tracie Thoms.
After graduation, Pace starred in several off-Broadway plays, including The Credeaux Canvas and The Fourth Sister. He also starred in a production of Craig Lucas's Small Tragedy. For this role, he was nominated for a Lucille Lortel Award as Outstanding Actor. In 2006, Pace starred in the two-character play Guardians by Peter Morris. This role earned Pace his second nomination for a Lucille Lortel Award as Outstanding Actor.
Pace first gained recognition for his role in the 2003 film Soldier's Girl, based on fact, in which he played the central role of Calpernia Addams, a transgender woman dating Army soldier Barry Winchell, played by Troy Garity. Winchell was murdered because of his sexuality and his relationship with Addams.
Of the role, Pace said:
- "Not even my excellent training at Juilliard prepared me for my first movie role, where I played a transsexual who falls in love with a military guy in Soldier's Girl. Here I was, this 6'3" 190-pound lanky kid from Chickasha, Oklahoma, not knowing how to begin being a woman. So I saw documentaries about transsexuals, I lost twenty-five pounds, and I put on prosthetic boobs and hips to become that character. There were times I'd look in the mirror and wonder 'what am I doing to my life here? My dad is going to kill me!' But the reason I went into acting was to be able to play parts as complicated and important as this one. In playing a transsexual, I got the chance to help change people's perspective about other people and that is a powerful thing. I'm playing a swashbuckling bandit in my next film, but I'll always be proud of Soldier's Girl."
Pace won a Gotham Award for Breakthrough Actor and was nominated for several other awards, including a Golden Globe, for his work in this film.
He starred in the film Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day and in Tarsem Singh's The Fall, both released in 2008. His next film was Possession with Sarah Michelle Gellar.
Pace also played supporting roles in The White Countess, Infamous, When in Rome and The Good Shepherd.
Pace played Aaron Tyler in the acclaimed but short-lived 2004 television series Wonderfalls, which was co-created by Bryan Fuller. Later, Fuller cast Pace in the lead role of Ned in the series Pushing Daisies, which debuted on ABC in October 2007 and returned for its second, and final, season on October 1, 2008.
Pace has also appeared on Law & Order: Special Victims Unit in season 3, episode 18 'Guilt'.
Pace was recently cast in the new HBO pilot The Miraculous Year.
|2003||Soldier's Girl||Calpernia Adams/Scottie|| Gotham Award for Breakthrough Actor|
Nominated — Golden Globe Award for Best Supporting Actor in a Television Film
Nominated — Independent Spirit Award for Best Male Lead
Nominated — Satellite Award for Best Actor in a Miniseries or Television Film
|2005||The White Countess||Crane|
|The Fall||Roy Walker / The Black Bandit|
|The Good Shepherd||Richard Hayes|
|2008||Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day||Michael Pardew|
|A Single Man||Grant|
|2010||When in Rome||Brady Sacks|
|30 Beats||Matt Roberts||post-production|
|2011||30 Beats||Matt Roberts||post-production|
|2012||Breaking Dawn - Part 2||Garrett|
|The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey||Thranduil|
|2013||The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug||Thranduil|
|2014||The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies||Thranduil|
|2002||Law & Order: Special Victims Unit||Benjamin Tucker||Episode: "Guilt"|
|2004||Wonderfalls||Aaron Tyler||13 episodes|
|2007||Pushing Daisies||Ned|| (2007–2009) 22 episodes|
Nominated — Emmy Award for Outstanding Lead Actor in a Comedy Series (2008)
Nominated — Golden Globe Award for Best Actor in a Television Series Musical or Comedy (2008)
Nominated — Satellite Award for Best Actor in a Television Series Musical or Comedy (2007, 2008)