Growing up in Manhattan, Henriksen had a difficult childhood. He was raised in a poor, single parent family by his mother. He often got into trouble and skipped school until he turned 12 when he quit school and left home. At age 16, Henriksen applied for a place in the Actors' Studio, but was rejected and was told to go back 'when he was a man'
and so he spent the next few years biding his time. He then did anything he could to make a living from serving in the Navy to living as a street urchin. It was also during this time that he met James Cameron, director of films like Terminator 2: Judgment Day and Titanic. Also during this time, he realized he had developed a a skill for painting and decorating which led him to take a job as a set designer. It was at this time that he accepted his first role in an off-Broadway play after he had helped build one of the sets. Now in his late 20's, Henriksen reapplied to the Actor's Studio and got accepted. While here, he taught himself to read by learning from the scripts he was offered.
Graduating in the early 70's, Henriksen got his early roles in such films as Dog Day Afternoon, Network and Steven Speilberg
's Close Encounters of the Third Kind but it wasn't until the 80'swhen he finally got his big break thanks to his old friend, James Cameron
. First appearing in the low budget horror film Piranha II which was directed by Cameron, he was then cast for Cameron's next film, The Terminator. Although he was originally cast as The Terminator role himself, he eventually was cast as Detective Hal Yukovich alongside Arnold Schwarzenegger
and Michael Biehn
before being used again in another relatively small but pivotal role in 1986's Aliens as Bishop, an 'artificial person'
who accompanies the Marines on their mission to LV-426. One year later, Lance took a lead role in the cult vampire movie, Near Dark, which also starred Jenette Goldstein and Bill Paxton who had both appeared as Marines in his previous hit, Aliens.
In the 1990's, Henriksen's only commendable films were the poorly received Alien3 and Sam Raimi's western, The Quick and The Dead. However, in 1996, he made his breakthrough into TV with the smash hit series, Millennium. Penned by X-Files creator Chris Carter, Millennium chronicled the efforts of ex-FBI Agent Frank Black, a man who can see into the minds of killers, in his efforts to deal with and eventually against the shadowy Millennium Group. This series brought Henriksen more critical acclaim and gave him 3 Golden Globe nominations. Following the end of the series in 1999, Henriksen has taken to voice acting as well as occasionally acting in low budget movies with his only real return to form being the role of Charles Bishop Weyland, the man who the Bishop synthetics were modeled on, in the 2004 film Alien vs. Predator.
Making his video game debut in 2002, Henriksen starred in two different sci-fi themed video games: Run Like Hell
and Red Faction II
. In Run Like Hell, Henriksen played Nick Conner who was a miner working at a facility out in space which was attacked by an alien life-form, killing most of the crew. In Red Faction II, he played as Molov, the leader of the resistance against Sopot, a brutal dictator. However, once he has been wiped out, Molov himself takes control and sets out on a mission to destroy the Red Faction army that he had previously led to victory. In 2004, Henriksen was signed on to play the role of Abaddon in 3DO
's Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse along with Traci Lords and Tim Curry
, but due to the bankruptcy of 3DO, the project was never finished. The following year, Henriksen took another villainous role as the character of Thomas Magruder
. Henriksen appeared in BioWare's space opera Mass Effect
as Admiral Hackett who leads the final assault on the Sovereign
at the end of the game. He also has a role in the Chronicles of Riddick
game entitled Chronicles of Riddick: Assault on Dark Athena
which was released March 4, 2009 on Xbox 360
In 2009, Henriksen voiced General Shepherd
in Infinity Ward
's Modern Warfare 2
, marking the second time he's appeared in a video game alongside Keith David
, the first being Mass Effect. On the 8th December, it was announced that he would star in Rebellion
's Aliens vs. Predator
game by offering both his voice and physical likeness as the character of Karl Bishop Weyland, an ancestor of Charles Bishop Weyland, the character he played in the 2004 Alien vs. Predator movie as well as being a likeness that the Bishop character from Aliens and Alien 3 are based on.