Adam Nelson began his career with an actor's grant for gifted and talented children after an appearance on the Jerry Lewis annual Telethon. He relocated to Houston, Texas to attend the High School of Performing Arts on scholarship where he studied Theater.
After attending the University of the Arts in Philadelphia where he received his BFA (1991), he attended certificate programs through both Yale University (1989) and Oxford University at the British American Drama Academy (1990).
He returned to Manhattan to become a founding member of Workhouse Theater Company whose original membership included Adrienne Shelly, Gil Bellows, Calista Flockhart, Mira Sorvino, Dean Winters, James Mcaffrey and Tom Seizmore.
He gained recognition through appearances in feature films A Tiger's Tale (1988) with Ann Margaret, Lesser Prophets with John Turturro (1997), Dead Broke with Justin Theroux (1999), Home Sweet Hoboken with Ben Gazzara (2001) and Shooting Vegetarians with Elodie Bouchez (2005). Best known for his work in theater, Nelson was been associated with some of New York's most notable groups including Naked Angels, Cucaracha Theater Company, Manhattan Class Company, Circle Rep, Arden Party and the Adobe Theater Company.
Called a "film star" by Toronto's Now Magazine for his role as the suicidal gambler in Sundance Channel's cult classic Dogs: The Rise & Fall of An All-Girl Bookie Joint (1996), he was granted exclusive rights in 1997 by the Lenny Bruce Estate, Bruce's mother Sally Marr, and producer Marvin Worth to produce and perform his one-person show How to Talk Dirty and Influence People: The Story of Lenny Bruce which ran at Workhouse before moving Off-Broadway to Mother located in New York's Meatpacking District (1999). The sold-out performances benefited the charity God's Love We Deliver and received critical acclaim from the Village Voice which praised his rendition as "restless, brilliant and hilarious" and TimeOut New York's chief theater critic, Sam Whitehead, branded him "an impresario, a notorious theatrical madman".
After the tragedy of September 11th, he co-produced The 24 Hour Plays to aid The NY State WTC Relief Fund with a cast that included Philip Seymour Hoffman, Rosie Perez, Benjamin Bratt, Billy Crudup, Mary-Louise Parker, Julianne Moore, Marisa Tomei, Kyra Sedgwick, Lili Taylor, Natasha Lyonne, Scarlett Johansson, Liev Schreiber, Robert Sean Leonard, Drena DeNiro, Catherine Kellner, Brendan Sexton, Jared Harris, Sam Rockwell, and Fisher Stevens who each appeared in six short plays, written less than a day before the curtain raised. Under the direction of Gregory Mosher, Anna Strasberg, Pippin Parker, the plays were written by Frank Pugliese, Warren Leight, Richard LaGravenese, Tamara Jenkins, Nicole Burdette, and Christopher Shinn which debuted and closed in New York on Monday, September 24th, 2001 at the Minetta Lane Theater.
He resides in New York City and has two children a daughter, Lulu Scout, and a son, Sailor. Nelson has been a proud union member of both SAG-AFTRA and Actor's Equity Association since 1987.