Family & Companions
Having spent a great part of her career as a frequent guest star and recurring player, actress Brenda Strong came into her own as Mary Alice Young on the hit series, "Desperate Housewives" (ABC, 2004-2012). Though mostly appearing in voiceover narration - her character committed suicide before the events of the series began - Strong spent eight seasons as one of the main focal points of the show while serving as a catalyst for many plotlines by revealing secrets about other characters. Prior to "Housewives," Strong racked up dozens of guest starring episodes on shows like "St. Elsewhere" (NBC, 1982-88), "Murphy Brown" (CBS, 1988-1998) and "Twin Peaks" (ABC, 1990-91), but none so infamous as her recurring role as the braless wonder, Sue-Ellen Mishkie, on seasons five and six of "Seinfeld" (NBC, 1989-1998). From there, she had supporting turns in features like "The Craft" (1996) and "Starship Troopers" (1997), but mainly focused on the small screen and had another notable recurring role on Aaron Sorkin's acclaimed "Sports Night" (ABC, 1998-2000). But it was "Desperate Housewives" that allowed Strong to gain wider attention, allowing her to land more high-profile series, including the role of Ann Ewing on the revamped "Dallas" (TNT, 2012-14), and finally achieve leading lady status.
Born on March 25, 1960 in Brightwood, OR, Strong was raised near Portland and attended Parkrose High School before graduating from Sandy Union High. From there, the six-foot-tall beauty attended Arizona State University and was crowned Miss Arizona in 1980, before landing her first break as an actress with a spot in Billy Crystal's comedic music video "You Look Marvelous" (1984). Strong went on to make her first television appearances in 1985 with guest episodes of "St. Elsewhere" (NBC, 1982-88), "MacGyver" (ABC, 1985-1992) and "Cheers" (NBC, 1982-1993). Having established herself as a guest star, Strong made further appearances on popular shows like "Matlock" (NBC/ABC, 1986-1995), "Murphy Brown" (CBS, 1988-1998) and "Star Trek: The Next Generation" (syndicated, 1987-1994), before landing a small role as Jones, assistant to Thomas Eckhardt (David Warner), on the cult favorite "Twin Peaks" (ABC, 1990-91). On the feature side, Strong broke through as a nurse in Mel Brooks' classic "Spaceballs" (1987), and later had supporting turns in "Malice" (1993) and "My Life" (1993), the latter of which starred Michael Keaton as a successful PR executive dying of cancer.
Moving comfortably between film and television, Strong was a regular guest player on numerous series including "Dark Justice" (CBS, 1991-93), "Herman's Head" (Fox, 1991-94) and "Silk Stalkings" (CBS/USA Network, 1991-99), while making appearances in movies like "The Craft" (1996) and "Starship Troopers" (1997). She made her strongest impression early on as Sue-Ellen Mishkie, the so-called "braless wonder" and eternal rival to Elaine Benes (Julia Louis-Dreyfus) on "Seinfeld" (NBC, 1989-1998). From there, she had prominent guest roles on "3rd Rock From the Sun" (NBC, 1996-2001) and "Party of Five" (Fox, 1994-2000), before playing a recurring part as television executive Sally Sasser, who disrupts the romance between Peter Krause's Casey McCall and Felicity Huffman's Dana Whitaker on Aaron Sorkin's acclaimed, but ultimately short-lived "Sports Night" (ABC, 1998-2000). Though she had roles both large and small in the occasional film, Strong found her true calling on TV with guest spots on "Ally McBeal" (Fox, 1997-2002) and "CSI: Crime Scene Investigation" (CBS, 2000-15), while steadying herself with multiple episodes of "7th Heaven" (The WB, 1996-2007) and "Everwood" (The WB, 2002-06).
Having been a guest star and recurring player for two decades, Strong finally became a regular on Marc Cherry's top-rated and multi-Emmy Award-winning series, "Desperate Housewives" (ABC, 2004-2012). The one catch was that she was mainly the voice narrating the story, but sometimes also the face of Mary Alice Young, the matriarch of Wisteria Lane whose sudden and shocking suicide serves as the catalyst of the series. Her voiceover narration delved into the secrets and lives of the other housewives, which often fueled many of the plotlines throughout the show's long run. Meanwhile, she had a supporting role in "The Kid & I" (2005), starring Tom Arnold as a down-and-out actor mysteriously hired to write a sequel to the action movie that made him famous more than a decade ago. On the small screen, she had episodes of "Just Legal" (The WB, 2005-06), "Curb Your Enthusiasm" (HBO, 2000- ), "Law & Order: Criminal Intent" (NBC/USA Network, 2001-2011), "Boston Legal" (ABC, 2004-08), and the short-lived "Scoundrels" (ABC, 2010). Finally, Strong landed her first regular onscreen role as Ann Ewing, third wife of Bobby Ewing (Patrick Duffy) and new matriarch of Southfork Ranch on the updated version of "Dallas" (TNT, 2012-14). Exuding both dignity and grace, Ann Ewing held her own against corrupt brother-in-law J.R. Ewing (Larry Hagman) and her own ruthless ex-husband (Mitch Pileggi).
By Shawn Dwyer
Cast (Feature Film)
Cast (TV Mini-Series)
Was crowned Miss Arizona and competed in the Miss America pageant
Made early appearance in Mel Brooks' "Spaceballs" as Gretchen the nurse
Landed high-profile recurring role on "Seinfeld" (NBC) as Sue Ellen Mishkie (aka 'The Braless Heiress')
Played a love interest for Charlie Salinger (Matthew Fox) in a recurring role on the Fox drama "Party of Five"
First worked with Felicity Huffman playing Sally Sasser, the nemesis of Huffman's Dana Whitaker on "Sports Night" (ABC)
Played a psychologist in the film "Get a Job"
Appeared in "The Deep End of the Ocean" opposite Michelle Pfeiffer and Treat Williams
Cast in recurring role on The WB family drama "Everwood"
Cast as the deceased Mary Alice Young, who narrated the events of the show from her elevated viewpoint on "Desperate Housewives" (ABC)
Featured in "The Kid and I" opposite Tom Arnold
Cast as Bobby Ewing's (Patrick Duffy) wife on TNT reboot of "Dallas"