He started out as a member of filmmaker Roger Corman's stock company, appearing in such drive-in fodder as Hot Rod Girl (1956), Invasion of the Saucer Men (1957) and Cry Baby Killer. In these and other films of the late 1950s, Nelson not only starred, but doubled on the technical crew. He was one of several production assistants portraying the title crustacean in The Attack of the Crab Monsters (1956), and he designed and operated the parasite props in 1958's The Brain Eaters, (which he also produced).
Ed Nelson rose to TV stardom as Dr. Michael Rossi on the prime time soap opera Peyton Place, which ran from 1964 through 1969. He later starred as Ward Fuller on The Silent Force (1970) and as Dr. Michael Wise in Doctors' Private Lives (1979). In 1969, Nelson hosted a daily syndicated talk show The Ed Nelson Show, which he was ultimately forced to give up when he decided to enter politics (due to "conflict of interests" and "equal time" considerations).
Ed Nelson continued accepting supporting film and TV roles until his death in 2014. Like actor John Allen Nelson, this actor was noted for having the same last name as Mike. There is no known familial connection between those three men, or Lori Nelson.
- Superdome (Experiment #K15) - as George Beldridge
- Teenage Cave Man (Experiment #315) - as Blond Tribe Member
- Attack of the Giant Leeches (Experiment #406) - Costume Designer
- Swamp Diamonds (Experiment #503) - as Police Sergeant
- Night of the Blood Beast (Experiment #701) - as Dave Randall
- Riding with Death (Experiment #814) - as Robert Denby