Canadian-born actress Kate Vernon carved out a niche as a supporting player in dozens of film and television projects over a career spanning more than three decades. Although cautioned against it by her father, noted character actor John Vernon, she entered the family business shortly after high school, quickly landing work in films like "Alphabet City" (1984) and on such popular TV series as "Falcon Crest" (CBS, 1981-1990). Interspersed with the television work that made up the majority of her appearances were supporting turns in such memorable feature films as the John Hughes dramedy "Pretty in Pink" (1986) and director Spike Lee's lauded biopic "Malcolm X" (1992). More than a decade later, she took on her most memorable role as the complex Ellen Tigh on the cult favorite space opera "Battlestar Galactica" (Syfy, 2004-09), an epic reimagining of the short-lived TV show of the late-1970s. Although not a household name, Vernon had managed to work consistently in a number of well-regarded projects throughout the entirety of her career.
Born on April 21, 1961 in Canada, she was the daughter of actor John Vernon, best known for his portrayal of Dean Wormer in "Animal House" (1978), and Nancy West, a former actress-model. Her sister, Nan Vernon, a future singer-songwriter-musician would go on to collaborate with the likes of Dave Stewart and Rob Zombie. With her father's acting career on the rise in the U.S., the family eventually relocated to California. Although she had initially entertained thoughts of becoming an architect, and despite her dad's advice against it, Kate chose to pursue acting shortly after graduating from high school.
In the early 1980s, Vernon began to land smart parts in both films and on television, including her big screen debut in her father's women-in-prison exploitation film, "Chained Heat" (1983). She followed with a role in the Vincent Spano crime-drama, "Alphabet City" (1984) and "Roadhouse 66" (1984) starring Judge Reinhold. On television that same year, she picked up guest spots on popular series like "Dallas (CBS, 1978-1991). Following a small part in the based-on-fact disaster TV movie, "Flight 90: Disaster on the Potomac" (NBC, 1984), she appeared in an episode of "Remington Steel" (NBC, 1982-87) before winning her first regular role as Lorraine Prescott on the primetime soap "Falcon Crest" (CBS, 1981-1990) for the 1984-85 season.
Vernon's busy entry into the business continued apace with a variety of roles in both film and television projects. Clearly enjoying herself, she played Benny Hanson, Molly Ringwald's snooty blonde nemesis in the John Hughes teen comedy-drama "Pretty in Pink" (1986), then picked up a role in the made-for-TV miniseries "I'll Tale Manhattan" (CBS, 1987), based on the novel by Judith Krantz. After a supporting role in the little-seen thriller "Hostile Takeover" (1988) and a turn alongside her father in the crime-comedy "Mob Story" (1989), she landed a recurring character on the family sitcom "Who's the Boss?" (ABC, 1984-1992) during the 1990 season.
A spate of continued work on TV preceded Vernon's supporting role in director Spike Lee's acclaimed biopic "Malcolm X" (1992), starring Denzel Washington as the controversial civil rights activist. After appearing in the direct-to-video thrillers, "Dangerous Touch" (1994) and "Soft Deceit" (1994), she won the recurring role of Assistant District Attorney Belinda Fox on the popular legal drama, "L.A. Law" (NBC, 1986-1994), which lasted throughout the show's final season. Another recurring role came on the Don Johnson vehicle, "Nash Bridges" (CBS, 1996-2001), where she played the role of Whitney Thomas throughout the show's first season.
Television work continued to fill out Vernon's résumé over the next several years, with roles in such made-for-cable productions as the John Woo action-adventure "Blackjack" (USA, 1998), starring Dolph Lundgren. That same year, the actress caught the attention of sci-fi fans again with a notable guest spot on "Star Trek Voyager" (UPN, 1995-2001), playing the part of Commander Valerie Archer in the 1998 episode, "In the Flesh." Following parts on a pair of short-lived series - the action-drama "Black Slash" (The WB, 2003) and the aborted revival of the cop show "Hunter" (NBC, 2003) - Vernon won the biggest role of her 20-year-career as Ellen Tigh on the acclaimed science-fiction series "Battlestar Galactica" (Syfy, 2004-09). Throughout the entire series run, Vernon portrayed the promiscuous, power-hungry wife of second-in-command Col. Tigh (Michael Hogan), deftly imbuing her with the ambiguity required to hide a monumental secret. With the end of "Galactica" Vernon continued to appear with regularity in supporting roles in films like "The Last Song" (2010) and on such series as "The Firm" (NBC, 2012).
By Matthew Reynolds