Following community theater experiences, Joseph Bottoms began accumulating TV-movie credits. His first theatrical-feature role was Robin Lee Graham, the seafaring protagonist of The Dove (1974). He went on to play Jewish resistance fighter Rudi Weiss in the 1978 TV miniseries Holocaust and Kirk Cranston on the NBC daytime drama Santa Barbara. The "middle" brother in the Bottoms family, actor Joseph Bottoms was born three years after Timothy Bottoms and one year before Sam Bottoms. In the company of his brother Timothy, Joseph Bottoms made his Broadway debut in 1981's The 5th of July; and with both Timothy and Sam Bottoms, Joseph co-starred in the abortive TV pilot Island Sons (1987).