Born Lee Grinner Pace on March 25, 1979 in Chickasha, Oklahoma, he was the eldest of three children by oil company engineer James Roy Pace and his schoolteacher wife, Charlotte. His father's profession required Pace to relocate numerous times throughout his childhood, and he spent several years in the Middle East before the family settled in Houston, Texas. There, Pace began performing with the city's esteemed Alley Theater while still a student at Klein High School, and briefly dropped out to appear more frequently in productions. After completing his school requirements in 1997, Pace was accepted to the Jullliard School's Drama Division, from which he graduated with a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree. From there, he landed roles in Off-Broadway plays before making his television debut in a 2002 episode of "Law & Order: Special Victims Unit" (NBC, 1999- ).