Barbara Niven is an American actor and producer, best known for starring in the feature film ‘A Perfect Ending’ and the TV film ‘The Rat Pack.’ Born and raised in Portland, Oregon, Barbara was an exceptional student as a kid. She excelled in academics, but in her teenage years, she started aspiring for a career as an actor. After training in acting from the acting school ‘Beverly Hills Playhouse,’ she started her career in screen acting, making her debut with the 1986 TV film ‘Promise.’ She appeared in guest roles in TV series such as ‘My Two Dads’ and ‘Equal Justice.’ Throughout the 1990s, she worked in many films and TV series. In 1996, her supporting role in the soap opera ‘The Bold and the Beautiful’ brought her the much-needed leverage to pave her way to success in the industry. She then appeared in another soap opera, titled ‘Pacific Palisades.’ In the late 1990s, she played a key role in the drama series ‘Pensacola: Wings of Gold.’ She received a lot of praises from critics for her role in the 2012 independent film ‘A Perfect Ending.’
Childhood & Early Life
Barbara Niven was born Barbara Lee Buholz, on February 26, 1953, in Portland, Oregon, US. She grew up with a sister in Portland..
Barbara initially did not have any interest in acting or performance arts. She focused on her academics and was an exceptional student. She was so serious about her education that she fell sick quite a few times in childhood because of it. In one of such instances, she worked on so much extra credit homework that she ended up getting migraine and was subsequently spared from having to do homework for the rest of the year.
During her teenage years, she also developed an eating disorder, mainly to keep herself in good shape. She later spoke about her eating disorders in many seminars.
She graduated high school with good grades. Without having any particular idea about her career, she got married and settled down. However, by her mid-20s, she had become sure that acting was something she was really interested in.
She once received an invitation to her high-school reunion party, and as she was one of the best students in her batch, she was asked by the committee to state if she was on the right track for her dreams to be fulfilled.
Barbara lived in Portland, was almost 30 years old, and was a single mother of a 2-year-old daughter at that time. She realized that she had done nothing significant in her life. She soon decided that acting was what she wanted to do.
She managed to get a reporting job and read many books about acting. She also moved to Los Angeles and enrolled at the acting school ‘Beverly Hills Playhouse.’ In the mid-1980s, she started auditioning for TV and film roles.
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She started her acting career in 1986, with a supporting role in the ‘Hallmark’ TV film ‘Promise.’ The film was appreciated for its strong content and its solid performances.
Excited with a decent debut, Barbara auditioned for more roles but did not earn any significant role for the next few years. She made a comeback in 1989, with a guest role in a single episode of the series ‘My Two Dads,’ titled ‘Duel.’ The next year, she played the role of ‘Maggie Sue’ in a single episode of the series ‘Equal Justice,’ titled ‘Balancing Act.’
In 1990, she appeared in two films, namely, ‘Hired to Kill’ and ‘Fatal Encounter.’ Both the films were low-budget action flicks, and both failed to get noticed by audiences or by critics.
Barbara entered the 1990s with a rocky beginning to her career. She appeared in the guest role of ‘Susan’ in one of the episodes of the series ‘Wings,’ titled ‘The Fortune Cookie.’
In 1993, she appeared in two films: ‘Psycho Cop Returns’ and ‘Illegal Entry: Formula for Fear.’ Both the films were box-office failures and failed to impress critics or audiences.
1996 turned out to be the best year of her acting career so far. She starred in two big films: ‘Foxfire’ and ‘Forest Warrior.’ However, it was her recurring role of ‘Brenda Dickerson’ in one of the most popular American soap-operas, ‘The Bold and the Beautiful,’ that brought her the fame she desired. It was the first time that Barbara was being noticed for her acting skills.
With that role, she became a soap-opera favourite for a while and then appeared in the recurring supporting role of ‘Evelyn Cabot’ in yet another daily soap, titled ‘Pacific Palisades’.
In 1998, she made yet another TV breakthrough when she was hired to play the role of Marilyn Monroe in the ‘HBO’ TV film ‘The Rat Pack.’ This film remains one of the biggest works of her career in the 1990s.
The same year, she also appeared in the drama ‘Pensacola: Wings of Gold.’ The critically and commercially acclaimed series featured her in the role of series regular ‘Kate’ for 43 episodes.
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Despite these successes, Barbara failed to forge a highly successful acting career. In the mid-2000s, she turned to doing TV films and appeared in films such as ‘The Perfect Neighbor’ (as ‘Donna Germaine’), ‘Back to You and Me’ (as ‘Connie Murray’), and ‘Stranger in My Bed’ (as ‘Christine Goudet’). She continued appearing in TV films and guest roles in series throughout the decade.
In 2012, she received a lot of critical appreciation for her portrayal of a troubled wife, ‘Rebecca Westridge,’ in the independent LGBT film ‘A Perfect Ending.’ The film was appreciated for the important themes it touched, such as domestic violence and getting comfortable with one’s sexual identity.
In 2013, she was signed on to play the role of series regular ‘Peggy Beldon’ in ‘Cedar Cove.’ More recently, she has appeared in TV films such as ‘A Christmas Detour’ (as ‘Susan’) and ‘Christmas in Evergreen’ (as ‘Carol Shaw’).
Although she did not play any role in the 2017 TV movie ‘Miss Christmas,’ her photo was used as that of the McNary family grandmother in the movie.
She has donned the producer’s hat for ‘A Perfect Ending’ (2012) and ‘Hamlet's Ghost’ (2015).
Family & Personal Life
Barbara Niven married Ronald Garrison in 1974 and had a daughter, Jessica, with him. The couple divorced shortly after. She then married David Alexander in 1985. Her second marriage, too, ended in a divorce.
She got married to David Niven Jr. in 1993. They got divorced in 1998.
Barbara runs her own website, where she interacts with her fans.
She has both US and Canadian citizenships.