Family & Companions
An accomplished actress who landed prominent roles in not one, but two, highly successful television series, Sherry Stringfield gained almost as much notoriety for leaving each of them at the height of their popularity. After honing her craft in productions at the reputable State University of New York in various off-Broadway shows, the actress began her television career with a sumptuously nasty character on the soap opera "Guiding Light" (1951-2009) immediately after graduation in 1989. Following a brief break from acting, she next landed a prime role opposite series star David Caruso on the breakout hit "NYPD Blue" (ABC, 1993-2005). Soon dissatisfied with the lack of direction in her character, Stringfield jumped ship at the end of the first season, only to come aboard the Michael Crichton-created, Steven Spielberg-produced medical drama "ER" (NBC, 1994-2009) the following year. Once again, she bewildered audiences and colleagues when she chose to abandon another immensely popular series, barely three years into her contract. With the passage of time, Stringfield gradually returned to acting, and to the surprise of many, even to the ranks of "ER" for several more years. Stringfield continued to take on challenging roles for herself in a variety of projects.
Born Sherry Lea Stringfield on June 24, 1967 in Colorado Springs, CO, she was the oldest of three children. After briefly relocating to Albuquerque, NM, she was raised in the town of Spring, TX, a small community just outside Houston. Although active in athletics, it became clear early on that Stringfield's talents and interest lay with theater, as she was an active member of the robust theater department at Klein High School. After graduation, it was on to the State University of New York at Purchase, where Stringfield roomed with fellow aspiring actress Parker Posey. During her time at SUNY, she landed roles in several off-Broadway productions prior to graduating in 1989. A mere week after graduating from SUNY, the talented young thespian landed what would be her television debut with a regular cast role on the long-running daytime soap "Guiding Light" (CBS, 1951-2009) as the conniving Christina "Blake" Spaulding. After three seasons of portraying the duplicitous Blake, Stringfield - in what would become a recurring theme throughout her career - chose to exit "Guiding Light" for personal reasons in 1992. In this instance, her departure was prompted by a desire to travel throughout Europe.
Having satiated her wanderlust, Stringfield made her auspicious return to acting on the groundbreaking police drama "NYPD Blue" (ABC, 1993-2005). As a member of the critically hailed show's inaugural cast, she played Laura Michaels, a New York City Assistant D.A. and the bitter ex-wife of detective John Kelly (David Caruso). Despite the fact that the series had become an instant hit, Stringfield soon felt that her underutilized character had run its course and asked to be released from her contract by the end of the first season. Within weeks she was cast as a regular on yet another new high-profile series, one that would eventually manage to eclipse "NYPD Blue" in popularity and longevity. On the ensemble medical drama "ER" (NBC, 1994-2009), Stringfield impressed audiences with her portrayal of Dr. Susan Lewis, a dedicated emergency room physician known for her humanity and an ability to maintain calm under the most intense life-or-death situations at a Chicago inner-city hospital. Her performance on the hit show attracted critical attention as well, garnering her three consecutive Emmy nominations for her work in the role. Then, just as her character was becoming entangled in a passionate romance with one of her equally compassionated coworkers, Dr. Mark Greene (Anthony Edwards), those familiar pangs of dissatisfaction began stirring within the actress once more.
Unhappy with the grueling demands of starring in a weekly television series, concerned about her health, and yearning for something more closely resembling a normal life, Stringfield shocked producers and cast mates when she asked to be released from her "ER" contract, just as the third season was getting underway. After what she later described as an exceptionally uncomfortable period, during which she was pressured to remain on the series, and later forced to sign a "no work" clause that would keep her off television throughout the remaining time on her original five-year contract, the actress was at last released from the show. Stringfield's farewell episode of "ER" went on to garner NBC its highest ratings for the year. After leaving the show, she returned to New York and her alma mater, SUNY, where she taught script analysis and directed several theatrical productions. With feature films exempt under the no work agreement, Stringfield took on a barely noticeable small role as the accountant of nightclub impresario Steve Rubell (Mike Myers) in the disco docudrama "54" (1998). One year later, she made a much ballyhooed return to TV as an attorney who uncovers a black market baby operation on "Border Line" (NBC, 1999), a dramatic thriller executive produced by her former "ER" co-star Edwards.
Stringfield also had the honor of starring opposite stage and screen veteran Jason Robards in one of his final roles in the drama "Going Home" (CBS, 2000), as a woman forced to choose between a successful career and caring for her aging father (Robards). She accepted more feature work with a supporting turn in the Richard Gere-Winona Ryder romantic melodrama "Autumn in New York" (2000), only to surprise television audiences once again when she resurrected her role of Dr. Lewis on "ER" beginning with the 2001 season. This time she stayed around for just over four seasons, and after the eventual departures of George Clooney, Julianna Margulies, Noah Wyle, Eriq La Salle and Edwards, ironically became both the first, and the last, original star to leave the show in 2005. In addition to a guest spot as an attorney on the James Woods legal drama "Shark" (CBS, 2006-08), Stringfield picked up a recurring role on the short-lived relationship therapy drama "Tell Me You Love Me" (HBO, 2007). Combined with the occasional telefilm project, other late-decade guest appearances included turns on "Law & Order" (NBC, 1990-2010) and Larry David's caustic comedy "Curb Your Enthusiasm" (HBO, 2000- ). In another of her rare big screen performances, Stringfield landed a supporting role in the remake of "The Stepfather" (2009), a thriller about a psychotic patriarch (Dylan Walsh), loosely based on the case of John List, a man who created a second life for himself after murdering his entire family. She figured more prominently in the role of a dying woman whose final wish is to be reunited with the girl she gave up for adoption to an Amish family decades earlier in the made-for-television movie "The Shunning" (Hallmark Channel, 2011).
By Bryce Coleman
Cast (Feature Film)
Made TV debut in the CBS daytime soap, "The Guiding Light" as Blake Marler Christina Thorpe
Had a recurring role as the lawyer ex-wife of David Caruso on the ABC police drama, "NYPD Blue"
Cast as Dr. Susan Lewis on the NBC medical drama, "ER"; asked to be released from her contract after just over two seasons
Had a small role as Steve Rubell's accountant in the film "54"
Co-starred in the NBC telefilm, "Border Line"; produced by her "ER" co-star Anthony Edwards
Had a supporting role in the film, "Autumn in New York"
Rejoined the cast of "ER" (NBC) reprising her role as Dr. Susan Lewis
Played a recurring role in the HBO drama, "Tell Me You Love Me"
Reprised her role as Dr. Lewis in the final episode of "ER" (NBC)
Appeared in the remake of "The Stepfather"