Family & Companions
One of the brightest lights in American musical theater for over a decade, actress and singer Christine Ebersole was a Tony Award-winning performer who wowed critics and audiences in productions like "Dinner At Eight," "42nd Street," and "Grey Gardens," for which she played two challenging roles. Ebersole also enjoyed a career in film and television, most notably as a Not-Ready-for-Prime-Time Player on "Saturday Night Live" (NBC, 1975- ) during the troubled 1981-82 season.
Born Feb. 21, 1953 in Winnetka, IL, Ebersole found her passion for acting and singing while still in high school. She later attended MacMurray College in Jacksonville, IL before moving to New York to pursue acting studies at the American Academy of Dramatic Art. She made her Broadway debut in a 1976 production of "Angel Street," shortly before launching her television career with appearances on "Ryan's Hope" (ABC, 1975-1989). For most of the late '70s and early '80s, Ebersole would balance between Broadway and New York-based television. She starred with Kevin Kline in Hal Prince's "On the Twentieth Century" in 1978-79 and impressed critics in a 1979-80 revival of "Oklahoma!" as well as a 1980 stint in "Camelot" opposite Richard Burton, no less. The multifaceted performer joined the cast of "Saturday Night Live" in 1981, earning laughs with impressions of Princess Diana, Rona Barrett, and Cheryl Tiegs, and co-anchoring "Weekend Update" opposite Brian Doyle-Murray. She also logged screen time in Sydney Pollack's comedy "Tootsie."
In 1985, she appeared in the musical "Harrigan n' Hart," which was trounced by critics and closed after three performances. The show's abrupt ending sent Ebersole to Los Angeles to seek work in film and television. She scored with her initial return to daytime soaps, earning an Emmy nomination for her role on "One Life to Live" (ABC, 1968- ), and soon landed parts in TV-movies like the acclaimed "Dollmaker" (1984) with Jane Fonda, and Milos Forman's adaptation of "Amadeus" (1984), for which she played the imperious diva Katerina Cavalieri.
However, steady, quality work on screen proved elusive to Ebersole for several years. She appeared in several (mostly short-lived) television series, including the Emmy-nominated sitcom "The Cavanaughs" (1986), "Valerie" (NBC, 1986-1991), "Rachel Gunn, R.N." (Fox, 1992), and Dolly Parton's short-lived variety show "Dolly" (ABC, 1987). Films like "Thief of Hearts" (1984), "Ghost Dad" (1990), "Folks!" (1992), "Black Sheep" (1996), "Til There Was You" (1997), "My Favorite Martian" (1999), and the horrific "MAC and Me" - an "E.T." (1982) rip-off that featured blatant ads for McDonald's - wasted her considerable talents. She fared best when she was able to show off her theatrical abilities, such as in the 1993 TV version of "Gypsy" with Bette Midler, or in the PBS TV special "Ira Gershwin at 100" (1997) for its "Great Performances" (1972- ) series.
In 1996, Ebersole returned to the New York stage in an Off-Broadway production of Stephen Sondheim's play, "Getting Away with Murder." The following year, she relaunched her career as a cabaret performer to considerable acclaim, releasing a CD, Live at the Cinegrill in 1998. After 14 years in Los Angeles, she relocated to New Jersey in 1999 and began a remarkable series of performances on Broadway, starting with the title role "Mame" at the Paper Mill Playhouse that year. In 2000, she starred with Charles Durning and Chris Noth in Gore Vidal's "The Best Man," and received rave reviews for a turn in "A Connecticut Yankee" in 2001.
That same year, she returned to Broadway in a revival of "42nd Street," which netted her the Tony and Outer Critics Circle Awards. Now a full-fledged member of the Broadway elite, Ebersole continued her successful streak with "Dinner at Eight" in 2002-03, which earned her a Tony nomination. She also returned sporadically to television in guest appearances for "Will and Grace" (NBC, 1998-2006) and a recurring role on the brief run of "Related" (The WB, 2005-06), as well as releasing her second CD, In Your Dreams, with Billy Stritch.
In 2005, she began what was possibly the most acclaimed production of her career - a musical adaptation of the Maysles Brothers' disturbing documentary, "Grey Gardens" (1975), about two dissolute cousins of Jacqueline Kennedy who live together in a crumbling mansion. Ebersole played both women - the grand "Big" Edith Bouvier Beale and her daughter, "Little Edie," in the musical - which began Off-Broadway and moved to the Great White Way in 2006. Her performance was instantly labeled as among the best ever seen on the New York stages. Her astonishing turn won her a Tony nomination and the Obie and Drama Desk Awards, as well as a special citation from the New York Drama Critics League. She ended up snagging the Tony, to no one's surprise.
Ebersole continued to supplement her stage career with occasional TV work, most notably with recurring roles on Hampstons-set medical comedy-drama "Royal Pains" (USA 2009-16), the high-concept throwback sitcom "Retired at 35" (TVLand 2011-12) and the barroom ensemble comedy "Sullivan & Son" (TBS 2012-14). Her film roles during this period included small parts in the family farce "The Big Wedding" (2013) and Martin Scorsese's "The Wolf of Wall Street" (2013), in which the played the mother of Leonardo DiCaprio's lead character, corrupt stock trader Jordan Belfort.
Cast (Feature Film)
Music (Feature Film)
Cast (TV Mini-Series)
TV debut as Lily on ABC soap opera "Ryan's Hope"
Broadway debut in small role in "On the Twentieth Century"
First Broadway lead as Guinevere in "Camelot" starring opposite Richard Burton, then Richard Harris
Joined cast of "Saturday Night Live" (NBC)
Film debut in small role in "Tootsie"
First substantial role in features, "Amadeus"
Returned to daytime dramas as Maxie on ABC's "One Life to Live"; earned Daytime Emmy nomination
TV-movie debut, "The Dollmaker" with Jane Fonda
Co-starred in the CBS sitcom "The Cavanaughs"
Played title role in the short-lived Fox sitcom "Rachel Gunn, R.N."
Had supporting role on the CBS sitcom "Ink"
Had featured role as the adoptive mother of a troubled teen in the Off-Broadway play "Current Events"
Co-starred in the Broadway revival of Gore Vidal's "The Best Man"
Played the actress Dorothy Brock in the revival of the musical "42nd Street"; earned Tony Award
Played Millicent Jordan in "Dinner at Eight," which she was nominated for a Tony Award
Cast as M'Lynn in the Broadway production of "Steel Magnolias"
Played the dual role of Edith Ewing Bouvier Beale ("Big Edie") and Edith Bouvier Beale ("Little Edie") in "Grey Gardens"