Jean Louisa Kelly is a multifaceted American artist. She is an actress, singer, composer and dancer who has performed from a very young age in prestigious Broadway productions as well as in films and television series. Kelly started training to be a performer at a very young age with voice lessons, ballet dance, tap dance and jazz classes. She was only 11 years old when she played the title role in a theater production. By the time she went to college she was already performing in Broadway productions and had a film under her belt. In a career that has spanned almost three decades, Kelly has starred in TV series, TV movies, films and theater; however, she has maintained that singing has been her first love. She enjoys doing roles in musical theater and would love to do more of it. This love of hers found an outlet when she started composing music. She has 3 albums to her credit in which the songs have been composed and sung by her.
When she was 14, Jean Louisa Kelly won the ‘Talent America: New England contest. Soon she got her first major acting break as ‘Snow White’ in Academy Award winning lyricist and composer Stephen Sondheim’s musical for Broadway ‘Into the Woods’ in 1988.
At 16, while she was in high school in Maryland, she auditioned and got the role of Tia Russel in the film ‘Uncle Buck’. She worked with one of Hollywood’s greatest actors late John Candy who played her uncle in the film. The film became the 20th highest grossing film of 1989.
Though her career had gotten off to a flying start Kelly decided to give acting a break and pursue her education. After getting her bachelor’s degree she got back into acting with the Academy award and Golden Globe nominated film ‘Mr. Holland’s Opus’ in 1995. She was cast as Rowena Morgan and the film was a perfect showcase for her talent as an actor and a singer. Her rendition of the song ‘Someone to Watch Over Me’ was specially remarkable.
‘Mr. Fantastick’s’ was yet another musical film in which Kelly worked in. Though the work on the film started in 1995 it wasn’t released till 2000. Among her other major works was a leading role in the 2001 hit film ‘Landfall’.
Jean Louisa Kelly has also starred in several TV movies, such as ‘Breathing Lessons’ (1994), ‘Harvest of Fire’ (1996), ‘The Day Lincoln was Shot’ (1998) and ‘Cyberstalking’ (1999). She was also the voice of Princess Gwenevere in the second season fantasy animated series for children ‘Princess Gwenevere and the Jewel Riders’ in 1996.
Kelly has made guest appearances in numerous well-known TV series some of which are Ally McBeal, Eli Stone, Law and Order, Grey’s Anatomy and CSI. But the series that she is most remembered for is ‘Yes Dear’. In this sitcom, Kelly had a recurring role as Kim Warner from 2000 to 2006. For their performance in this series Kelly and her co-star Anthony Clark got nominated for the ‘Young Artist Award’ in the ‘Most Popular Mom & Dad in a Television Series’ in 2004.
Jean Louisa Kelly has been a singer all her life. Her first album though just happened when she was getting overwhelmed as a parent trying to make her son eat. She says that she started banging on the piano belting out some music and lyrics and before long she had composed enough songs to make a complete album. This album of endearing and charming children’s songs ‘Colour of Your Heart’ came out in 2013. It talks about life and growing up. More albums followed, these were ‘Willing’ (2015), and ‘For My Folks’ (2017).
In 2020, Kelly will be seen in the sequel to the film ‘Top Gun’ called ’Top Gun: Maverick’ and also in the film ‘Call of the Wild’.
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Family & Personal Life
Jean Louisa Kelly was born in Worcester, Massachusetts on March 9, 1972, to J. Joseph III Kelly and Wendy Kelly. Her father taught English in a high school and her mother taught piano. Music was an organic part of her growing up years and Kelly recalls how she and her brother would sing around the house as children.
The family moved from Massachusetts to Maryland when Kelly was a teenager and she went to the Easton High School there. As she had been doing theater since she was a child, Kelly wasn’t keen on going to a theater school. Instead, she chose Columbia University to experience what a real college life was and graduated with a Bachelors in English in 1994.
In 1997 she married James Pitaro a media executive and attorney who became the president of ESPN Inc. in 2018. It was her husband who encouraged her to explore working in television.
The couple has two children; Sean born in 2003 and Josey born in 2006. Acting took a backseat for a while for Kelly when her children were young. Her kids were her only priority during their younger years and Kelly took up only those jobs where she could balance motherhood and her career.