A string of assured dramatic turns in independent features helped to elevate actress Elizabeth Reaser's profile from acclaimed stage actress to buzzworthy lead in projects ranging from "Grey's Anatomy" (ABC, 2005- ) to the 'tween film sensation, "Twilight" (2008). A graduate of Julliard, she balanced television work with stage work in New York and Los Angeles before gaining attention for small but significant turns in movies like "The Believer" (2001) and "Thirteen Conversations about One Thing" (2001). A moving performance as a Norwegian immigrant in "Sweet Land" (2005) led to more high-profile projects, including the feature comedy "The Family Stone" (2005) and TV work on "Saved" (TNT, 2006). She gained even greater press for her recurring role as an amnesiac on "Grey's Anatomy," and eventually gained her own short-lived series, "The Ex-List" (CBS, 2008). Her appearance as the matriarch of a small town vampire clan in the rabidly anticipated "Twilight" (2008) solidified her status as a screen talent with limitless potential.
Born Elizabeth Ann Reaser in Bloomfield, MI on June 15, 1975, she was the middle daughter of three born to her parents, a former attorney-turned-restaurant owner and substitute teacher. She harbored a goal to become an actress from a young age, but realized that she needed to leave the Midwest in order to attain it, so after only a year at Oakland University in Rochester, MI, she enrolled in Julliard's drama program. Reaser graduated from the acclaimed school with an MFA in 1999 and set out to land an agent in order to find work in films and television. In order to build her resume for potential representation, she worked tirelessly on stage and in television; Reaser balanced a recurring role on "Guiding Light" (CBS, 1952-2009) with critically lauded appearances in productions of "Sweet Bird of Youth" and "The Winter's Tale" in Los Angeles and New York. Her breakthrough stage performance came in Adam Rapp's intense two-person play "Blackbird," which premiered in London before migrating to off-Broadway.
The exposure afforded to Reaser by her stage work led to appearances on TV series, including "The Sopranos" (HBO, 1999-2007) and "Law and Order: Criminal Intent" (NBC, 2001-07; USA, 2007-11). Eventually, film work came her way in the form of small but significant roles in "The Believer" (2001) and "Thirteen Conversations About One Thing" (2001). Her talents allowed her to graduate to more substantial roles in the Showtime TV feature "Mind the Gap" (2004) as a young North Carolina native who aspires to escape her lower-class background, and Marc Forster's "Stay" (2005) as a love interest to Ryan Gosling's mysterious mental patient. Further gilding this period was a 2004 profile in Interview magazine which named Reaser among its "14 To Be" of creative women.
The year 2005 proved to be a watershed time for Reaser's film career. She was top-billed in the independent period drama "Sweet Land" (2005) as a young Norwegian woman who must face off against small town prejudice while attempting to make an arranged marriage come to fruition. Reaser, who landed the role after another actress was forced to vacate the project, was required to master lines of dialogue in Norwegian in addition to carrying the film; in the process, she earned an Independent Spirit Award nomination for her performance. That same year, she also appeared as one of Craig T. Nelson and Diane Keaton's daughters in the comedy "The Family Stone" (2005), which also featured Luke Wilson, Sarah Jessica Parker and Rachel McAdams.
The following year, Reaser was cast in the TNT medical drama "Saved," about the chaotic life of a former gambler (Tom Everett Scott)-turned-paramedic. The series was not well-received and ended its network run after only 13 episodes. Reaser then shifted her attentions to another medical series - "Grey's Anatomy" - for a recurring role as a pregnant amnesiac who requires major facial reconstruction. The surgery, however, preceded her complete recovery, but Reaser's character continued to insist that her memory was gone in order to avoid returning to her failed marriage. She further complicated life for Dr. Alex Karev (Justin Chambers), with whom she had fallen in love, by pretending to carry his baby. Reaser received a 2007 Emmy nomination for Outstanding Guest Actress for her performance, as well as a Screen Actors Guild Award nomination in 2008.
That same year, Reaser earned her first starring role in a TV series with "The Ex-List." A charming sitcom based on an Israeli series called "Mythological X," the show gave Reaser's comic talents a terrific showcase as a young single woman who seeks out her former boyfriends after a psychic tells her that one of them was the man she would eventually marry. The show underwent considerable production struggles - not the least of which was the departure of creator Diane Ruggiero after only six episodes. Despite a strong debut and critical praise for Reaser and her castmates, "The Ex-List" was cancelled before it could yield a full season of episodes.
Reaser bounced back from the disappointment over "The Ex-List" with a plum role in the media sensation, "Twilight" (2008), Catherine Hardwicke's film adaptation of the popular Gothic novels by Stephenie Meyer. Reaser played Esme Cullen, the de factor mother figure for the clan of teenaged vampires. A vampire herself since the age of 26, Esme eventually comes to take Belle (Kristen Stewart), a human girl who pines for one of Esme's charges (Robert Pattinson), under her wing as well. The film became a pop culture phenomenon, grossing over $350 million at the box office, which paved the way for Reaser to reprise her character in the sequels "The Twilight Saga: New Moon" (2009) and "Eclipse" (2010). Reaser next appeared on the big screen in the Diablo Cody comedy "Young Adult" (2011), followed by an arc on the legal drama "The Good Wife" (CBS 2009-16). In the final season of "Mad Men" (AMC 2007-15), Reaser played Diana, a mysterious diner waitress who becomes an obsession for Don Draper (Jon Hamm).
Cast (Feature Film)
Portrayed Alice in the Portland Center Stage production of Patrick Marber's "Closer"
Made London debut as the kept girlfriend of a Lower East Side addict in Adam Rapp's critically acclaimed production of "Blackbird"
Cast as Heavenly in La Jolla Playhouse's revival of Tennessee Williams' "Sweet Bird of Youth"
Landed a featured role in the Showtime movie "Mind the Gap"
Portrayed Craig T. Nelson and Diane Keaton's eldest daughter in "The Family Stone"
Appeared in Marc Forster's psychological thriller "Stay"
Joined an ensemble cast for the film "Puccini for Beginners"
Appeared on the short-lived medical drama "Saved" (TNT)
Starred in the independent release "Sweet Land"; earned an Independent Spirit Award nomination for Best Female Lead
Cast in a recurring role on the ABC medical drama "Grey's Anatomy" as an unidentified pregnant woman suffering from amnesia; earned an Emmy nomination for Outstanding Guest Actress
Starred on the short-lived CBS series "The Ex List"
Cast as Esme Cullen in the feature adaptation of Stephenie Meyer's bestselling novel "Twilight"
Reprised the role of Esme Cullen in the sequel "The Twilight Saga: New Moon"
Reprised the role of Esme Cullen in "The Twilight Saga: Eclipse"
Made a recurring appearance on "The Good Wife" (CBS)
Acted opposite Charlize Theron in "Young Adult," written by Diablo Cody and directed by Jason Reitman
Reprised role of Esme in the Bill Condon directed "The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn - Part 1"
Cast opposite writer and director Josh Radnor in romantic comedy "Liberal Arts"
Reprised role in franchise's final film "The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn - Part 2," also directed by Bill Condon
Played Diana, a mysterious diner waitress, in the final season of AMC's "Mad Men."