Childhood & Early Life
Lori Petty was born in Tennessee, US, on October 14, 1964. She had two younger siblings. She had no aspiration for a career in the entertainment industry initially. The family, with no connections whatsoever in the film industry, survived on a very average wage earned by her father, who worked as a Pentecostal minister.
He father’s job required him to travel around quite a lot to different parts of the country, and he would often take his children along with him. Lori, the eldest of his children, accompanied him on most of these tours. This had her facing quite a lot of problems with her education, but it helped her discover an artistic side to herself, which later translated into great acting abilities.
She graduated in 1981 from ‘North High School’ in Iowa. Although she was a pretty decent student, she was considered a misfit, which had her spending more time alone. This further prepared her to express herself better.
Once out of school, she started looking for a job as a graphic designer. She worked for a few years in Nebraska but was soon tired of it. She then started looking for a more exciting profession. Acting seemed like the right choice. Soon, she landed in New York and joined an acting school.
She tried applying for ‘Broadway’ productions and advertisements in New York but did not succeed much. She then arrived in Los Angeles and started auditioning frequently. After months of struggle, she finally faced the camera in the mid-1980s.
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In 1986, she appeared in an episode of ‘The Twilight Zone.’ It was a small stint, which had her playing a teenager, with not much to do but look pretty.
The next year saw her in a string of TV roles, in both TV films and series such as ‘Stingray,’ ‘Bates Motel,’ ‘The Line,’ and ‘Head of the Class.’ Although she made a lot of TV appearances, she was not satisfied.
In 1988, she appeared in a short film, ‘...They Haven’t Seen This…’ She made her official film debut with the 1990 film ‘Cadillac Man.’ By then, things had begun to change and Lori was getting noticed. In 1991, she earned her breakthrough role in the action thriller ‘Point Break,’ which saw her appearing alongside the then-budding actor Keanu Reeves.
In 1992, ‘A League of Their Own’ followed. Lori played a tomboyish baseball player in the film and won immense accolades. The film’s eventual success paved her way to further roles. However, she found it difficult to shed her image of an action star with short hair and boyish looks.
She managed to bag a major role in the 1993 family drama ‘Free Willy,’ where she essayed the heart-warming role of a kind, young woman who loves animals. It seemed that she was gifted with immense versatility, as far as her acting skills were concerned. She cemented this belief with her role of a female recruit in the 1994 film ‘In the Army Now.’ She also exhibited her impeccable comic timing with the role that became iconic over the years.
She received another major role of her career as the leading lady in the 1995 science-fiction action–comedy film ‘Tank Girl.’ The film was adapted from a British comic-book series. Lori played the titular role in the film, which was widely appreciated.
The 1996 TV series ‘Lush Life’ had Petty playing the leading role of ‘George Sanders,’ a wild bohemian artist. The series was considered too unconventional for national TV and went off air after five episodes.
In 1998, she played ‘Maxine’ in the TV series ‘Brimstone.’ Following this, she showcased her comic timing again with the romantic comedy ‘Relax... It’s Just Sex.’
She was hired by ‘Warner Brothers’ to provide her voice as the super villain ‘Livewire’ in two of their animated series ‘Superman: The Animated Series’ and ‘The New Batman Adventures,’ based on the ‘DC’ comic series. Both her stints were appreciated.
Till the mid-2000s, Lori kept appearing in a variety of films and series, keeping her fan base intact.
In another major career milestone, Lori decided to become a director and scriptwriter for ‘The Poker House,’ which was based on her childhood days. The film portrayed how she survived an abusive relationship with her father. The film also showcased the emotional and mental trauma her mother went through, before finally leaving her husband, and how her mother had to work as a prostitute to feed her two daughters.
The film turned out to be a moderate critical success and is known to be one of the biggest roles in the lead actor Jennifer Lawrence’s career.
Lori then became choosy about the roles she did and appeared in two episodes of the internationally acclaimed series ‘Prison Break’ in 2009.
In 2014, she did a guest appearance in the hit ‘Netflix’ series ‘Orange is the New Black,’ and what was initially supposed to be just a one-episode stint, turned out to be a full-fledged role in the third and fourth seasons of the series.
Lori Petty is one of those actors who believe in staying single and enjoying optimum freedom. However, she had once stated in an interview that the events she experienced in her childhood and the hatred she saw between her parents had her hating the institution of marriage for a very long time, and the feeling continues to date.
She is currently known to be single. However, she had a long-term affair with David Alan Grier in the mid-1990s.
In September 2009, Lori was arrested for drunk driving. On being found guilty, she was slapped with a fine and five years of probation.