Stephen Wilson Bethel was born in Hillsborough, New Hampshire, the son of Stephen Bethel and author Joyce Maynard. Before becoming a regular on The Young and the Restless, Bethel had been seen on television in various one-time roles on shows such as JAG, Cold Case, and NCIS. Those small parts were followed up by a role in the 2008 Vietnam War film, 1968 Tunnel Rats where he played the Army Special Ops soldier, Corporal Green. This was followed by his role as Corporal Evan "Q-Tip" Stafford in the 2008 HBO mini-series Generation Kill; Bethel appeared in all 7 episodes as well as the HBO documentary short Making Generation Kill.
In Hart of Dixie, Bethel played Wade Kinsella, "bad-boy" neighbor to the series' central character, Zoe Hart. Production for the show began in early 2011 and it premiered on September 26, 2011. BuddyTV ranked him #14 on its list of "TV's Sexiest Men of 2011;" in 2012 he was ranked #2 on the same list.