Family & Companions
A child star of likable 1980s fluff such as "Troop Beverly Hills" (1989), Kellie Martin proved she had top-tier acting chops with her ferociously intelligent and searching portrayal of awkward daughter Becca Thatcher on "Life Goes On" (ABC, 1989-1993), a family drama that explored formerly taboo topics like Down syndrome and HIV/AIDS. Emmy-nominated for her wise-beyond-her-years work, Martin went on to star in a string of made-for-TV movies including "A Friend to Die For" (NBC, 1994) opposite Tori Spelling and "The Face on the Milk Carton" (CBS, 1995), and continued in this vein throughout her entire career, working steadily on the TV film format. She returned to episodic TV as an early 1900s schoolteacher in the uplifting Appalachian drama "Christy" (CBS, 1994-95) and as ultimately doomed med student Lucy Knight on "ER" (NBC, 1994-2009). After graduating Yale, she resumed accruing high-profile television credits, most notably starring in the long-running "Mystery Woman" (Hallmark Channel, 2003) franchise, several installments of which she also directed. While her career never blossomed into full-fledged superstardom, Kellie Martin achieved an enviable work/life balance while becoming one of the most accomplished and prolific television actresses of her generation.
Born Oct. 16, 1975 in Riverside, CA, Kellie Noelle Martin broke into acting at age seven, when her aunt, Michael Landon's nanny, arranged for the actor to give Martin a guest spot on "Father Murphy" (NBC, 1981-83). The precocious star went on to book film appearances in the feature comedies "Jumpin' Jack Flash" (1986) and "Troop Beverly Hills" (1989), as well as an impressively lengthy list of TV credits. Martin made the leap from likable child character actress to respected talent when she was cast as the red-bespectacled, geeky Rebecca "Becca" Thatcher on "Life Goes On" (ABC, 1989-1993). A surprisingly heavy and often downbeat drama built around a family whose son, Corky (Chris Burke), has Down syndrome, the series also featured Tony winner Patti LuPone as their indomitable mother, Libby. Succumbing to the pressures of growing up in the spotlight, Martin developed an eating disorder after being cast on the show, but fellow actress and survivor Tracey Gold convinced her to get help.
At first, Martin's Becca took a backseat to storylines about her brother, but as the series went on, she grew into its true lead, projecting an intellectual curiosity and dramatic fearlessness that took many critics and viewers by surprise. Nowhere was this more evident than a lengthy storyline in which Becca falls in love with and dates an HIV-positive fellow student (Chad Lowe). As "Life Goes On" was threatened with cancellation, Martin and Lowe remained so dedicated to their characters and their story, that they threw everything they had into their performances, earning Lowe an Emmy and Martin an Emmy nomination. For her role as the true heart and soul of the series, Martin earned two Young Artist Awards and a Q Award from the Viewers for Quality Television, and her character laid much groundwork for future smart and sensitive young female TV protagonists.
Also an established voiceover actress, Martin had spent several years as the voice of Daphne on the animated "A Pup Named Scooby-Doo" (ABC, 1988-1991). She added the Tazmanian Devil's sister Molly to her repertoire with a long-running role on "Taz-Mania" (Fox, 1991-95) as well as Roxanne, the girl of Max's dreams, in Disney's big-screen "A Goofy Movie" (1995). After "Life Goes On" ended, Martin starred in a string of TV movies that became the series "Christy" (CBS, 1994-95), about a turn-of-the-century Appalachian schoolteacher (Martin). The uplifting, gentle series won supporting actress Tyne Daly an Emmy as well as many devoted fans, but its wholesome, female-centric appeal did not translate into large enough ratings to survive the long haul.
Martin went on to topline a flurry of uneven, suspense-driven made-for-TV movies, including "A Friend to Die For" (NBC, 1994) opposite Tori Spelling, "The Face on the Milk Carton" (CBS, 1995), and "Her Last Chance" (NBC, 1996), opposite Jonathan Brandis. She enrolled at Yale, but took a hiatus from school to deal with the death of her younger sister Heather from lupus, becoming the national spokesperson for the disease. Accordingly, Martin jumped at the chance to join the cast of "ER" (NBC, 1994-2009) as third-year med student Lucy Knight. Her relationship to her resident, Dr. John Carter (Noah Wyle) was complex, veering from antagonism to romance to professional, but overall, the writers and producers gave Martin and her character little to do and it was mutually decided to deep-six Knight. She exited the show in a shocking manner, murdered by a schizophrenic patient who also stabbed Carter.
Following her "ER" run, she graduated from Yale with a degree in art history and filmed a supporting role in the Jamie Kennedy comedy "Malibu's Most Wanted" (2003). Martin then starred in a series of TV movies built around the "Mystery Woman" (Hallmark Channel, 2003) Samantha Kinsey, a bookstore owner who reads, sells and solves mysteries. The franchise, made up of a string of two-hour telefilms, proved a long-running favorite, and Martin even directed two installments. The actress continued to notch many additional credits, including appearances on "Law & Order: Special Victims Unit" (NBC, 1999- ), "Ghost Whisperer" (CBS, 2005-10), "Private Practice" (ABC, 2007-13), "Grey's Anatomy" (ABC, 2005- ) and "Drop Dead Diva" (Lifetime, 2009-14). Her reign as a queen of made-for-TV movies also continued unabated, with Martin lensing lead roles in the sci-fi action flick "The Jensen Project" (NBC, 2010) and frog prince romantic comedy "Smooch" (Hallmark Channel, 2011).
By Jonathan Riggs
Director (Feature Film)
Cast (Feature Film)
Producer (Feature Film)
Cast (TV Mini-Series)
First appearance in features (as baby), in "Pleasantville"
TV debut at age 7 on Michael Landon's series "Father Murphy" (NBC), landed role partly because her aunt was the nanny to Landon's children
Feature film debut as an adult in "Jumpin' Jack Flash"
TV-movie debut in "Help Wanted: Kids" (ABC)
Cast as regular on the ABC family drama "Life Goes On"
Played the lead on short-lived CBS series "Christy"
Returned to series TV on the NBC drama "Crisis Center"
Played medical resident Lucy Knight on NBC's medical drama "ER"
Had the title role in TV movie "Fiona"
Starred as Samantha Kinsey in a series of made for TV mystery movies released under the series banner "Mystery Woman"
Voiced Oracle on an episode of "The Batman"
Landed a series of guest roles on popular network dramas "Ghost Whisperer," "Grey's Anatomy," and "Private Practive"
Had a guest spot on "Mad Men"
Returned to the world of serialized made-for-TV mysteries with the "Hailey Dean Mystery" series