Mae Whitman defied the conventional wisdom that child stars come and go once they grow out of their cuteness. She was one of those rare Hollywood actresses who grew up in front of the camera yet avoided the all-too-common pitfalls of achieving fast fame and fortune. Whitman first stepped onto the limelight acting in television commercials, but her natural talent quickly landed her feature film roles - usually as a good-natured yet quirky daughter - opposite A-list actors like Meg Ryan in the drama "When a Man Loves a Woman" (1994), Bill Pullman in the blockbuster action flick "Independence Day" (1996), and Sandra Bullock in "Hope Floats" (1998) before she even hit her teen years. The versatile actress appeared on numerous sitcoms such as the cult classic "Arrested Development" (Fox, 2003-06; Netflix, 2013- ) and NBC's hit drama "Parenthood" (2010-15). Whitman worked nonstop throughout her long career, straddling both comedic roles, voice-over parts for animated characters, and serious subjects with the ease and passion of an actress who found her calling early on, and by managing to avoid the tragic child actor stereotype, carved out a successful career for herself into her young adulthood.
Born on June 9, 1988 in Los Angeles, Mae Margaret Whitman was the daughter of actress Pat Musick and Jeffrey Whitman. She was a precocious child, a trait that impressed casting directors when Whitman accompanied her mother during auditions. She landed her first acting job at age three, appearing in television commercials such as doing voice-over work for Tyson's Chicken. Whitman's film debut was in the tearjerker film "When a Man Loves a Woman," starring Andy Garcia and Ryan as a couple struggling to cope with Ryan's drinking problem. Whitman played one of the daughters who were often neglected by their alcoholic mother. In 1996, Whitman landed a featured role in the action-packed thriller "Independence Day," one of that year's top grossing films about a hostile alien invasion and the residents of Earth - including Will Smith, Randy Quaid and others - who retaliate against them. Whitman was cast as the brave daughter of Bill Pullman, the movie's fictional U.S. president. She reunited with Pullman as his TV daughter Zuzu Bailey in the PBS holiday special, "Merry Christmas, George Bailey" (1997), a live stage reading of the radio production of "It's a Wonderful Life."
Whitman was becoming a familiar face on both TV and in film, working alongside many of Hollywood's most celebrated actors during her long career. Her wise-beyond-her years vibe mixed with a girl-next-door charm made her an easy choice for roles that called for a sweet but spunky daughter or friend-type. She played George Clooney's daughter in the comedy "One Fine Day" (1996) and also called Sandra Bullock mom in the heartwarming film, "Hope Floats" (1998). Television provided a steady stream of supporting roles for the hardworking actress, as well as gave her a creative outlet to show off both her comedic and dramatic chops. She had recurring roles on the CBS dramas "Chicago Hope" (CBS, 1994-2000) and "JAG" (1995-2005), as well as numerous guest spots on award-winning sitcoms like NBC's "Friends" (1994-2004), where Whitman appeared as a girl scout who breaks her leg while selling cookies in the hilarious 1996 episode "The One Where Rachel Quits."
In 2001, Whitman landed her first title role in the period sitcom "State of Grace," about a pair of adolescent girls overcoming cultural and religious differences in 1960s America. She played a 12-year-old Catholic girl who befriends a Jewish girl (Alia Shawkat). The series premiered to great critical acclaim, but numerous time-slot changes and lack of publicity led to its cancellation shortly after its second season. Whitman went on to lend her voice to a number of children's animated programs, including "Johnny Bravo" (The Cartoon Network, 1997-2004) as Little Suzy, a cunning and chatty five-year-old who often annoys the dim-witted Johnny Bravo (voiced by Jeff Bennett), and the epic fantasy "Avatar: The Last Airbender" (Nickolodeon, 2005) as Katara, a mature and motherly Avatar who has water-bending skills. Whitman also gave voice to Tinker Bell in the 2005 straight-to-video version of the same name, as well as several successors. It was the first time that an actress had provided the voice of the famous fairy who had famously never spoken in any of the Disney-related films. In 2007, she was originally cast in NBC's remake of "The Bionic Woman" as the title character's deaf younger sister. But that project never panned out for Whitman, who was replaced by Lucy Hale.
As Whitman grew up in front of the cameras, her roles developed along with her. She was hilarious in the critically acclaimed but short-lived sitcom, "Arrested Development," playing George-Michael Bluth's (Michael Cera) crazy and very plain girlfriend, nicknamed "Bland Ann." Whitman shed her good-girl image in the independent film "Bondage" (2006) and two years later, starred in "Nights in a Rodanthe," a sappy film about love and second chances starring Diane Lane and Richard Gere. Whitman played Lane's rebellious teenaged daughter who resents her mother's decision to leave her cheating husband to retreat to a small seaside village for solace. Whitman took on a more lighthearted role as one of the "normal" co-eds in the zany comedy "Spring Breakdown" (2009) starring Amy Poehler, Rachel Dratch, and Parker Posey. They played three grown up women who vacation at a wildly popular college destination for spring breakers and end up giving in to the temptations of keg stands and hook-ups.
Showing her edgy side, Whitman also appeared on the acclaimed HBO series "In Treatment" (2008), which centered on a psychotherapist and his weekly sessions with patients. She was convincing as a hardened teenager caught extorting her principal and running her own hall-pass scam at her high school. In 2010, Whitman channeled a teenager's angst once again as Lauren Graham's defiant daughter on the NBC drama "Parenthood," which followed a large and dysfunctional family as they tackled the challenges of raising kids. In the series inspired by Ron Howard's hit 1989 comedy film, Whitman displayed a rebellious streak as a teenage girl hung up on her rock star boyfriend. That same year, Whitman starred in the film adaptation of the graphic novel, "Scott Pilgrim versus the World," starring her old "Arrested Development" co-star Cera in the title role. In the film, she played Roxy Richter, a half-ninja artist and one of the seven lovers of Ramona Flowers (Mary Elizabeth Winstead). In 2011, she starred as John Cusack's daughter who ends up missing in the thriller "The Factory."
Cast (Feature Film)
Music (Feature Film)
Art Department (Feature Film)
Cast (TV Mini-Series)
Started acting in TV commercials
Feature film debut, playing Meg Ryan's youngest daughter in "When a Man Loves a Woman"
Made TV-movie debut in "Naomi & Wynonna: Love Can Build a Bridge" (NBC)
Landed small roles in "Independence Day" and "One Fine Day"
Played recurring role on "Chicago Hope" (CBS) as the daughter of Christine Lahti and Ron Silver
Appeared in Robert Altman's "The Gingerbread Man"
Performed regular voice on Cartoon Network series "Johnny Bravo"
Played Sandra Bullock's daughter Bernice in "Hope Floats"
Co-starred on Fox Family Channel series "State of Grace"
Voiced a schoolgirl in "The Wild Thornberrys Movie"
Played recurring role on Fox's "Arrested Development" as Michael Cera's love interest
Co-starred in Henry Jaglom's "Going Shopping"
Voiced Rose/Huntsgirl on Disney Channel animated series "American Dragon: Jake Long"
Guest starred on ABC's "Grey's Anatomy"
Landed recurring role on HBO series "In Treatment" as the main character's teenage daughter Rosie
Joined a comedy ensemble in "Spring Breakdown"
Cast as Lauren Graham's teenage daughter on NBC's updated TV version of the 1989 film "Parenthood"
Re-teamed with Michael Cera in the comic book adaptation "Scott Pilgrim vs. The World"
Played supporting role in feature adaptation of "The Perks of Being a Wallflower," written and directed by the novel's author Stephen Chbosky