Trained in ballet, Lesley Warren began her career as a ballet dancer. She was lucky to get an opportunity to shift her focus to acting. She made her Broadway debut in the musical ‘110 in the Shade’ in 1963; It was based on N. Richard Nash's 1954 play ‘The Rainmaker’. In 1965, she did the musical ‘Drat! The Cat!’, in which her performance was appreciated.
In 1965, she made her small screen debut as the main character Cinderella in Rodgers and Hammerstein's TV film ‘Cinderella’. That was her first major success in her acting career.
In 1966, she appeared in four episodes of the TV series ‘Dr. Kildare’ in a guest role as Bonda Jo Weaver. In 1967, she made her film debut as Cordy in ‘The Happiest Millionaire’, which was a musical film based on the true story of millionaire Anthony J. Drexel Biddle.
In 1968, she played Alice Bower in the film ‘The One and Only, Genuine, Original Family Band’, a Walt Disney Production based on the biography by Laura Bower Van Nuys. It was directed by Michael O'Herlihy.
In 1970, she was selected to portray the role of Dana Lambert, the leading lady in the TV series ‘Mission: Impossible’, created and produced by Bruce Geller. However, she was considered to be inexperienced for the role and was dropped after one year. This, however, did not impact her career as throughout the 1970s, she played the leading lady in numerous TV movies, series, and miniseries.
Warren played Scarlett O'Hara in the 1973 musical ‘Scarlett’, based on Margaret Mitchell's book ‘Gone with the Wind’. It portrayed Scarlett O'Hara’s relationship with Rhett Butler. While the producer wanted to perform it on the Broadway, it never happened as the musical was not well received by the critics.
Some of her successful TV roles in the 1970s included ‘S.W.A.T.’ in 1975, where she portrayed Linda. It was a crime series about the Special Weapons and Tactics’ (S.W.A.T.) operations in a city. Her role in the 1976 TV comedy series ‘Snip’ was critically acclaimed.
In 1981, she played Sally in the thriller film ‘Race for the Yankee Zephyr’, directed by David Hemmings. It was based on an original story by writer Everett De Roche. Her performance as the gangster's companion Norma Cassidy in the musical comedy ‘Victor/Victoria’ in 1982 was highly appreciated.
In 1990, she portrayed Barbara Walker in the TV miniseries ‘Family of Spies’, also known as ‘Family of Spies: The Walker Spy Ring’. Directed by Stephen Gyllenhaal, it was based on the United States Navy officer John A. Walker Jr., who was a Soviet spy for 17 years.
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She landed a strong supporting role in the 1994 film ‘Color of Night’, where she played a nymphomaniac. However, the film flopped at the box office and her performance received negative reviews.
Warren was cast in the series ‘Desperate Housewives’ from 2005-11. She played the recurring role of Sophie Bremmer in this comedy-mystery TV series, originally aired for eight seasons on ABC.
In 2010, she appeared in the comedic drama film ‘Peep World’, directed by Barry W. Blaustein. However, the film failed to impress the critics.
In 2013, Lesley Warren was featured as Clara Jobs in the film ‘Jobs’, the biopic of Apple co-founder Steve Jobs. The film revolved around the life of Steve Jobs, starting from his student days to the introduction and launch of the iPod in 2001. The film was screened at the 2013 Sundance Film Festival.
Her latest TV works include ‘Community’ and ‘Gigi Does It’. She did three episodes of ‘Blunt Talk’ in 2016, where she played Cornelia. From 2016-17, she played Dina in the TV series ‘Girlfriends' Guide to Divorce’.
Her latest movie appearances were in ‘I Am Michael’ and ‘The Sphere and the Labyrinth’ in 2015; ‘It Snows All the Time’ and ‘Between Us’ in 2016; ‘Life Support’ in 2017; and ‘American Pets’ in 2018.