Family & Companions
Although comedic character actress Mindy Sterling had been working in film and television for nearly two decades, it was not until she portrayed Dr. Evil's shrieking Germanic henchwoman, Frau Farbissina, in Mike Myers' spy spoof "Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery" (1997) and its sequels that she achieved a degree of popular recognition. Sterling moved to Los Angeles from Miami in the early 1970s, where she joined the improvisational comedy troupe the Groundlings. While there, she not only improved her skills, but created long-lasting professional relationships with such notables as Phil Hartman and Lisa Kudrow. Work on high-profile series, including turns on "The Larry Sanders Show" (HBO, 1992-98) and "Friends" (NBC, 1994-2004) preceded her breakout performance as Farbissina in Myers' hit comedy and its sequel "Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me" (1999). With her Hollywood stock on the rise, Sterling landed co-starring roles in features like "Drop Dead Gorgeous" (1999) and recurring turns on popular series like "Desperate Housewives" (ABC, 2004-12). Utilizing her highly animated features and razor-sharp comic sensibilities honed during her years at the Groundlings, Sterling ensured herself a lengthy career on screens big and small.
Born Mindy Lee Sterling on July 11, 1953 in Paterson, NJ she was the daughter of entertainers. Her mother had a background as a dancer and her father was singer-comedian Dick Sterling, former partner of Borscht Belt funny man Shecky Greene. While growing up in Miami, FL Sterling informed her father that she wanted to become a performer, so he enrolled his 13-year-old daughter in acting classes that emphasized the works of Shakespeare. After breaking into show business via various local community and dinner theater productions, Sterling moved to Los Angeles in the early 1970s, preferring the warmer climate to that of the other entertainment mecca, New York. In 1973, the newly arrived actress landed a recurring role on Stu Rosen's puppet-populated children's program "Dusty's Treehouse" (syndicated, 1968-1980). Other early career work included a small part in an episode of the trucker comedy adventure series "BJ and the Bear" (NBC, 1978-1981) in 1979, and a brief appearance alongside Elliot Gould in the feel-good comedy feature "The Devil and Max Devlin" (1981). Shortly thereafter, Sterling discovered the renowned improvisational comedy troupe, the Groundlings, with whom she began a long and fruitful relationship in the mid-1980s, alongside the likes of Jon Lovitz, Kathy Griffin, and Phil Hartman.
Meanwhile, Sterling continued to pick up bit parts in such projects as the horror features "House" (1986) and "Warlock" (1991). In 1992, she landed a recurring role as a writer on the first season of the acclaimed Garry Shandling comedy "The Larry Sanders Show" (HBO, 1992-98). There were plenty of guest spots on several other series for Sterling, including a 1995 appearance on the long-running sitcom "Friends" (NBC, 1994-2004) as a wedding planner. Eventually, she became a teacher at the Groundlings, where she led improvisational workshops, guiding rising stars like Lisa Kudrow and "Saturday Night Live" (NBC, 1975- ) regulars like Cheri Oteri and Chris Kattan. It was at the Groundlings that Sterling first met up with Mike Myers, when the then-"SNL" cast member did some guest work with the L.A. improv troupe. Impressed with her abilities, the comedic actor-writer invited Sterling to audition for his upcoming project, the 1960s spy spoof "Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery" (1997). In the film, she played villainous henchwoman Frau Farbissina, the diminutive, German-accented cohort - as well as lover - of Dr. Evil (Myers). Both Farbissina and Dr. Evil were spot-on caricatures of various baddies from the James Bond franchise, making them instantly recognizable, and providing endless amounts of comedic material for the actors to work from. Sterling's scenes in the film - largely improvised - proved to be some of the film's most memorable, officially putting the hard working actress on the Hollywood map.
Sterling reteamed with her "Austin Powers" co-star Seth Green - who had played Farbissina and Dr. Evil's discontented son, Scott - for the horror comedy "Idle Hands" (1999). That same year, she reprised her role as the shrill Frau in the requisite sequel "Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me" (1999). It was a busy time for Sterling, who also managed a substantial role in "Drop Dead Gorgeous" (1999), Michael Patrick Jann's satirical look at small town beauty contests. In the film, which also starred Ellen Barkin and Allison Janney, she played the pageant-running sidekick of Kirstie Alley, a former teen queen-turned-unscrupulous stage mom. Barely recognizable underneath extensive prosthetics, Sterling next appeared in the Ron Howard adaptation of the Dr. Seuss holiday classic "How the Grinch Stole Christmas" (2000), starring Jim Carrey as the title curmudgeon. To the surprise of no one, she rejoined Myers, Green and new addition Beyonce Knowles for the second sequel, "Austin Powers in Goldmember" (2002). In her first try at joining the regular cast of a series, Sterling returned to television for "On the Spot" (The WB, 2003), an exceptionally short-lived sitcom that relied heavily on improvisations based on suggestions from the studio audience. More dependable was her recurring role as Ms. Biggs, beginning with the first season of the hugely popular preteen comedy "iCarly" (Nickelodeon, 2007-12).
Voice work on animated film and television projects also became a staple for Sterling, including her audio characterization of Ms. Endive for dozens of episodes on the bizarre food-themed cartoon "Chowder" (Cartoon Network, 2007-09). She also played Arlene Scott, Christian Slater's secretary, on the short-lived action adventure series "My Own Worst Enemy" (NBC, 2008), and landed another recurring role as nasty neighbor Mitzi Kinsky on the hit primetime soap "Desperate Housewives" (ABC, 2004-12). Sterling also contributed voice work to the animated sci-fi comedy "Mars Needs Moms" (2011), a rare box-office blunder for Walt Disney Pictures.
Cast (Feature Film)
Misc. Crew (Feature Film)
Moved from Paterson, New Jersey to Miami, Florida at age two (date approximate)
Enrolled by father in private acting classes, training in Shakespeare at age 13 (date approximate)
Moved to Los Angeles to pursue an acting career (date approximate)
Landed a recurring role on the syndicated children's series "Dusty's Treehouse" (date approximate)
Had a bit part in "The Devil and Max Devlin"
Joined the Los Angeles based Groundlings comedy troupe (date approximate), worked alongside actors Jon Lovitz and Kathy Griffin
Had featured role as Frau Farbissina, Dr Evil's calculating associate, in "Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery"; also first collaboration with actor Seth Green who played Dr Evil's son Scott
Featured as Kirstie Alley's sidekick and the coordinator of a local teen beauty pageant in Michael Patrick Jann's satire "Drop Dead Gorgeous"
Reprised role of Frau Farbissina, with a more central and provocative role, in the summer hit sequel "Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me"; initial collaboration with actor Verne Troyer who played Mini-Me
Reteamed with Green for the teen horror comedy "Idle Hands"
Appeared in Ron Howard's live action adaptation of "How the Grinch Stole Christmas", starring Jim Carrey; Verne Troyer also in the cast
Co-starred with Mike Myers in "Austin Powers in Goldmember"
Voiced the female Ox in "Ice Age: The Meltdown"