Family & Companions
Though she made her professional debut on the big screen, actress Courtney Thorne-Smith made her career on television starring in a number of popular long-running series that turned her into a household name. After breaking in to the business with roles in forgettable movies like "Revenge of the Nerds II" (1987) and "Summer School" (1987) as well as the touching coming-of-age film "Lucas" (1986), Thorne-Smith was catapulted to superstardom as one of the standouts on the wildly popular primetime soap, "Melrose Place" (Fox, 1992-99), where she did battle with Heather Locklear while romancing Andrew Shue. But instead of being typecast as a blonde vixen, Thorne-Smith displayed her charm and wit on the quirky dramedy, "Ally McBeal" (Fox, 1997-2002), though she allegedly left due to behind-the-scenes turmoil in 2000. She jumped right into a straight sitcom with her next hit series, "According to Jim" (ABC, 2001-09), where she played the smart and sophisticated wife to Jim Belushi's buffoonish oaf. After eight seasons on the series, Thorne-Smith moved on to more guest starring appearances and a recurring role on "Two and a Half Men" (CBS, 2003-15), a testament to both her talent and ability to delight fans for over 20 years.
Born on Nov. 8, 1967 in San Francisco, CA, Thorne-Smith was raised by her father, Walter, a computer market researcher, and her mother, Lora, a therapist. She realized her love of acting while performing in a kindergarten production of "Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs." Meanwhile, her parents divorced when she was seven years old, leaving her to live with either one at different stages of her childhood and teenage years. After attending Menlo-Atherton High School, Thorne-Smith transferred to Tamalpais High School in Mill Valley, CA, graduating in 1985. During her senior year, she began her acting career as a member of the Ensemble Theatre Company and was discovered by 20th Century Fox, leading to her being cast as Charlie Sheen's girlfriend in her feature debut in the heartwarming dramedy "Lucas" (1986). Thanks to landing the role, Thorne-Smith was decided to pursue acting as a career and canceled her plans to attend Allegheny College in Pennsylvania in favor of moving to Los Angeles.
Her combination of talent and striking but relatable beauty enabled Thorne-Smith to compile a long acting résumé with guest appearances on "Fast Times" (CBS, 1986) while also acting in forgettable films like "Revenge of the Nerds II" (1987) and "Summer School" (1987). She had her first regular series role on the short-lived sitcom, "Day by Day" (NBC, 1988-89), playing the nanny for a married couple (Douglas Sheehan and Linda Kelsey) who quit their jobs and open a daycare. Following the cancellation of that series, Thorne-Smith made a memorable impact as a Los Angeles Laker cheerleader who dates lawyer Michael Kuzak (Harry Hamlin) in a series of 1990 guest appearances on "L.A. Law" (NBC, 1986-1994). After guest starring on series like "Anything But Love" (ABC, 1989-1992), "Jack's Place" (ABC, 1992-93) and "Grapevine" (CBS, 1992), Thorne-Smith was cast as perennial victim Alison Parker on the hit primetime soap "Melrose Place" (Fox, 1992-99). Viewers tuned in each week to follow the romantic travails of Alison and her taxi driver roommate Billy Campbell (Andrew Shue), as the show grew sudsier and more popular with each passing year.
As one of the cast standouts on "Melrose," Thorne-Smith's Alison was able to explore everything from being a raging alcoholic to a kidnapping victim to going head-to-head with her backstabbing boss, Amanda Woodward (Heather Locklear). Throughout the decade of the 1990s, Thorne-Smith and her fellow cast members enjoyed overwhelming fame on a level few actors ever experience. Enough of a household name by 1999, Thorne-Smith was chosen to become a spokeswoman for Almay cosmetics as the fresh-face for their new line of makeup, "Skin Stays Clean." Meanwhile, after "Melrose" finally ended after increasingly out-there plots that tested even the most devoted viewers, Thorne-Smith appeared in such varied works as the feature film "The Lovemaster" (1997) and on hit TV programs like "Spin City" (ABC, 1996-2002). In 1997, she achieved further acclaim as attorney Georgia Smith on then Emmy-winning dramedy, "Ally McBeal" (Fox, 1997-2002). Despite the enormous popularity of the show with critics and viewers, "Ally McBeal" suffered from years of behind-the-scenes drama that occasionally played out in supermarket tabloids, which reportedly prompted Thorne-Smith jump ship in 2000.
After guest starring in an episode of "Norm" (ABC, 1999-2001), Thorne-Smith returned to yet another hit series to play the ball-busting, but long suffering wife of Jim Belushi on the long-running sitcom, "According to Jim" (2001-09). Belushi played a lazy, but loveable husband and father always looking for the easy way out of any situation, which often put him at odds with his wife, Cheryl (Thorne-Smith), and her successful sister, Dana (Kimberly Williams-Paisley). Thorne-Smith ably played the straight man to Belushi's buffoonish Jim, as the show enjoyed a long, comfortable run on Friday nights. Once "According to Jim" ended, Thorne-Smith moved on to another successful sitcom, "Two and a Half Men" (CBS, 2003-15), where she played the on-again, off-again girlfriend to Alan (Jon Cryer).
By Shawn Dwyer
Cast (Feature Film)
Made her TV debut in the short lived series "Fast Time"
Made her film debut in "Lucas"
Cast in the comedy "Summer School"
Featured as regular on NBC sitcom "Day By Day"
Co-starred with C. Thomas Howell and Peter Horton in "Side Out"
Had recurring role as a love interest to Harry Hamlin's Michael Kuzak on the NBC legal drama "L.A. Law"; first collaboration with David E Kelley
Played Alison Parker on the Fox nighttime drama "Melrose Place"
Appeared as laywer Georgia Thomas on the Fox series "Ally McBeal"; created by (also writer) David E Kelley
Signed modeling contract with Almay cosmetics to be spokesperson for "Skin Stays Clean"
Cast in lead role opposite Jim Belushi in the ABC sitcom "According to Jim"
Wrote debut novel, <i>Outside In</i>