Childhood & Early Life
Katherine Whitton Baker was born on June 8, 1950, in Midland, Texas, US to Seawand Baker and Helene Andree (née Whitton). Her father was a geologist and educator..
She studied at the Mills High School in Millbrae, California and completed her graduation in 1968. She was quite influenced by her drama instructor Allen Knight that led her to develop interest in pursuing an acting career.
She enrolled at the California Institute of the Arts and studied acting during the early 1970s. She also attended UC Berkeley and obtained a B.A. degree in French in 1977.
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Kathy Baker made her debut in acting with stage at the Magic Theatre in San Francisco. There she landed up playing in several plays of Sam Shepard.
Her big break came when she garnered a role in an off-Broadway production of ‘Fool for Love’ in 1983. The role fetched her Obie Award in the category Best Performance by an Actress as also a Theatre World Award in 1984.
Some of her other notable stage performances include the plays ‘Desire Under the Elms’ (1984), and ‘Aunt Dan and Lemon’ (1986). The latter was staged at Joseph Papp's Shakespeare Festival.
Meanwhile, her on-screen debut happened with the role of Louise Shepard in the Oscar winning critically acclaimed 1983 American epic historical drama film ‘The Right Stuff’.
In 1987, she portrayed the character of Punchy, a prostitute, in the critically acclaimed American thriller-drama film ‘Street Smart’. Her performance in the film earned her Best Supporting Actress award at the Boston Society of Film Critics Award and Best Supporting Actress in National Society of Film Critics, in 1988.
Following such recognitions, Baker went on to star in other films like ‘Dad’ (1989), ‘Jacknife’ (1989), ‘Edward Scissorhands’ (1990) and ‘Mister Frost’ (1990).
One of her most notable portrayals was that of Dr. Jill Brock, a small-town mother and doctor, in the critically acclaimed American television drama series ‘Picket Fences’, created and produced by David E. Kelley. Baker featured in all the four seasons of the series that aired on CBS from September 18, 1992 to June 26, 1996.
She bagged several awards for her performance in ‘Picket Fences’. These include three Primetime Emmy Awards in the category of Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama Series in 1993, 1995 and 1996; two Viewers for Quality Television- Best Actress in a Quality Drama Series awards in 1994 and 1995; one Best Actress – Television Series Drama award at the 1994 Golden Globe Awards; and one Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Drama Series award at the 1995 Screen Actors Guild Awards.
Other television dramas featuring Kelley Baker include ‘Ally McBeal’ (1997), ‘The Practice’ (1998) and ‘Boston Public’ (2001–2002). Her recurring role of Meredith Peters, a manipulative mom, in the latter fetched her Primetime Emmy Award nomination for Outstanding Guest Actress in a Drama Series in 2001.
Meanwhile, she landed up playing Nurse Angela in the blockbuster hit Oscar winning American drama film ‘The Cider House Rules’ (1999) starring Tobey Maguire. In the course of her career, Baker has featured in many other blockbuster hit films. These include Jude Law, Nicole Kidman, and Renée Zellweger starrer 2003 epic war flick ‘Cold Mountain’; Jennifer Garner starrer 2004 fantasy rom-com ‘13 Going on 30’ and Emma Thompson and Tom Hanks starrer ‘Saving Mr. Banks’.
Over the years, she has featured in many televisions series like ‘Medium’ (2005-10), ‘Against the Wall’ (2011) and ‘Big Time in Hollywood, FL’ (2015); and television films like ‘A Season for Miracles’ (1999), ‘Too Big to Fail’ (2011), ‘Sister Cities’ (2016) and ‘Paterno’ (2018). Since 2016, she features in the recurring role of Joanne in the Netflix series ‘The Ranch’ that star Ashton Kutcher and Elisha Cuthbert among others.
Some of the other notable films of Kathy Baker include the two ‘Things You Can Tell Just by Looking at Her’ (2000), ‘Nine Lives’ (2005), ‘The Jane Austen Book Club’ (2007) and ‘Last Chance Harvey’ (2008).