•• Elizabeth Ann Perkins was born on November 18, 1960, in Queens, New York to Pamela Perkins, a carnival performer, and James Perkins. Her paternal grandparents were Greek immigrants who anglicized their surname from Pisperikos to Perkins when they immigrated to the US.
After the divorce of her parents in 1963, Elizabeth, along with her two older sisters, was raised in her maternal grandmother’s 600-acre farm in Guilford, Vermont near Brattleboro. After high school, she moved to Chicago and spent three years at Chicago’s Goodman School of Drama at DePaul University, where she graduated in 1981 with BFA in acting.
Career: A Hollywood Star is born
A graduate of the prominent Goodman Theater School, Elizabeth Perkins headed to New York in the early 1980s and launched her professional career with a costarring gig in the touring company of Neil Simon’s “Brighton Beach Memoirs” (1983), a role she reprised the following year in Broadway. Subsequently, she worked in numerous of ensemble companies, like the Steppenwolf Theater and The New York Shakespeare Festival.
In 1986, Elizabeth made her screen debut in Edward Zwick’s comedy About Last Night . . ., playing the wisecracking pal of Demi Moore. This movie adaptation of David Mamet’s 1972 play about the singles scene “Sexual Perversity in Chicago” also starred Rob Lowe and James Belushi.
The amber-eyed actress next portrayed gal friend to Judd Nelson in Bob Clark’s From the Hip (1987) and Jeff Daniels in the drama Sweet Hearts Dance (1988) before having a career breakthrough with her role as Tom Hanks’ toy company co-worker, Susan, in Big (1988), a popular comedy feature directed by Penny Marshall. At the end of the decade, she acted in the sci-fi short Teach 109, which aired on PBS’s “American Playhouse” in 1990.
1990 saw Elizabeth play Tom Berenger’s foe in Alan Rudolph’s unsatisfactory Love at Large and gain critical acclaim for her performance as the troublesome wife of Aidan Quinn in the ensemble of Barry Levinson’s Avalon.
She went on to give fine acting in 1991′s The Doctor, in which played a terminal cancer patient who makes William Hurt sentient of his heartlessness. The same year, she also costarred with Kevin Bacon in the drama film He Said, She Said. The dark-haired actress then could be seen in the warm, nostalgic Indian Summer (1993), the blockbuster hit The Flintstones (1993, as the long-agony Wilma), the lukewarm remake of Miracle on 34th Street (1994) and the ensemble Moonlight and Valentino (1995, opposite Whoopi Goldberg, Kathleen Turner, Gwyneth Paltrow and Shadia Simmons). 1995 also found Elizabeth on the stage in a Los Angeles production of John Patrick Shanley’s “Four Dogs and a Bone,” directed by movie director Larry Kasdan.
After this, Elizabeth, who made her TV movie bow in 1993′s based-on-fact drama For Their Own Good, concentrated more on television. She starred as a Catholic woman who adopted her ex-employer’s son to protect him from the Holocaust in the “Mamusha” segment of Showtime’s “Rescuers: Stories of Courage: Two Women” and a mother who finds out her late son has been replicated in the NBC film Cloned (both 1997).
The next year, she portrayed astronaut wife Marilyn Lovell in the HBO highly celebrated miniseries “From the Earth to the Moon.” Elizabeth returned to filmmaking with a forceful turn as a committed AIDS activist in the grim I’m Losing You (1999) and a feature role in the Antonio Banderas-helmed Crazy in Alabama (1999).
A supporting role as the besieged sister of Sandra Bullock in Betty Thomas’ 28 Days is Elizabeth’ opening work in the new millennium before she was cast as the arrogant wife of a man whose lesbian aunt had recently died in the “1961″ segment of HBO’s If These Walls Could Talk 2 (2000). She continued to make her TV series debut as a regular in the NBC sitcom “Battery Park” (2000), playing Madeleine Dunleavy.
Next up for Elizabeth was starring roles in the live-action/animated Cats & Dogs (2001), opposite Jeff Goldblum, the Showtime drama What Girls Learn (2001), as a mother with breast cancer, and the CBS drama My Sister’s Keeper (2002), with Kathy Bates. Following a supporting part in the teen romantic comedy Try Seventeen (2002), she provided the voice of Coral in the animated hit Finding Nemo (2003), acted in David Mamet’s Gilded Stones (2004), appeared with Martin Short in the comedy Jiminy Glick in Lalawood (2004), played Joyce Sordino in the made-for-TV film Speak (2004) and had a voice over work in the series “King of the Hill” (2004).
2005 found supporting roles in such movies as thriller The Ring Two, the romantic comedy Must Love Dogs (as Diane Lane’s sister), the coming of age story Fierce People (with Donald Sutherland), the independent Kids in America and the comedy The Thing About My Folks.
Since 2005, Perkins has played Celia Hodes, a psychotic, ambitious and highly entertaining PTA mother, alongside Mary-Louise Parker and Justin Kirk on the Showtime series Weeds. Thanks to her work on Weeds, Perkins has received two Golden Globe nominations for Best Supporting Actress in a TV Series, Miniseries or Made for TV Motion Picture (in 2006 and 2007). She has also been nominated for an Emmy Award for Best Supporting Actress in a Comedy Series. At a screening of the season 2 finale of Weeds, at the Museum of TV and Radio on October 25, 2006, Perkins said that she considers Celia Hodes her favorite role in her career because she is so different from the characters she is usually cast as. The show is currently finished with its 5th season, with a sixth season currently airing. On May 6, 2010, she announced that the fifth season of Weeds was her last despite the cliffhanger her character had in the season finale.
She is currently working on her diabetes campaign called Diabetes Co-Stars and starring in the upcoming ABC comedy series How to Live with Your Parents (for the Rest of Your Life) as Elaine.
•• Last Updated: December 21st, 2012.
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