Born in Nashville in 1952, Annie Potts later starred in multiple films, earning a Golden Globe nomination for Corvette Summer, before her role as the sassy secretary in 1984's Ghostbusters. Her success continued with Pretty in Pink and on the CBS sitcom Designing Women. Later projects have included the TV shows Any Day Now, Huff and GCB.
Annie Potts was born on October 28, 1952 in Nashville, Tennessee. (Some sources list her place of birth as Franklin, Kentucky, where Potts grew up.) Her mother was named Dorothy Potts, and her father, Powell Potts, was a major in the United States Air Force during World War II who went on to a successful business career and served as president of the National Limestone Institute.
Potts first set her heart on acting at the age of 12 when she attended a drama camp in North Carolina. One of the counselors, Sylvia Bernard, who would become Potts' lifelong friend, cast her as the lead in the camp production of Heidi and told her, "You have a little light." Potts recalled, "Nobody had ever told me I was good at anything. It was, like, that's what I'm going to do, then!" When Potts returned home from camp, she set out to read every single play held by her local library.
The next year, when Potts was 13 years old, the Kentucky Arts Council decided to fund a community theater, the Piccolo Playhouse, in the basement of the Goodnight Memorial Library in Potts' hometown of Franklin. The subterranean stage became a kind of home away from home for a teenage Potts, who would eventually star in Piccolo Playhouse productions of The Curious Savage and The Fantasticks. "That's where I was first able to practice my art," she later remembered.
After graduating from high school and traveling abroad to France to study, Potts moved on to Stephens College in Columbia, Missouri, where she majored in theater and graduated with a Bachelor's of Fine Arts in 1973. While at Stephens, Potts met and fell in love with a fellow student named Steven Hartley; the pair married shortly after graduation in 1973.
While driving through New Mexico on a post-graduation road trip, Potts and Hartley were involved in a terrible car crash in which Potts broke both her legs. During her long rehabilitation in Santa Fe, she took up work in costuming for local theaters. Upon her full recovery from her injuries, Potts landed a position in the company of the Globe Playhouse in West Hollywood, where she appeared in productions of Cymbeline and The Merchant of Venice.
Potts made her feature film debut in the 1978 picture Corvette Summer, earning a Golden Globe nomination for her performance. "It seemed so easy to me then," Potts later recalled of her first years in Hollywood. "I thought, I don't know what people are talking about. This place is a snap."
Potts spent the next several years appearing in TV movies like The Scarlett O'Hara War (1980), Something So Right (1982) and Cowboy (1983) as well as the series Remington Steele (1983). She then delivered her breakthrough performance as the sassy secretary Janine Melnitz in the 1984 blockbuster Ghostbusters. She would later appear in the 1989 sequel Ghostbusters II and perform voice acting for the Ghostbusters video game released in 2009.
'Designing Women' and Other Series
Propelled by Ghostbusters, Potts received her next big role in the 1986 classic Pretty in Pink. That same year, she landed the role for which she is now best remembered: Mary Jo Shively, a redheaded divorcee who is one of a quartet of Southern women running an Atlanta interior design firm on the long-running CBS sitcom Designing Women. The original cast members included Delta Burke, Dixie Carter and Jean Smart. Potts starred on the show for the duration of its seven-year run, from 1986 to 1993.
When Designing Women went off the air, Potts immediately landed a starring role in the television series Love & War, where she remained in the cast for two years, from 1993-95. The next year, in 1996, Potts played an inner city schoolteacher in the acclaimed but short-lived series Dangerous Minds, and she delivered another esteemed performance as a white Alabama homemaker who has a friendship with a black female attorney in the series Any Day Now (1998-2002).
TV and Broadway
Potts also played the voice of Bo Peep in Toy Story (1995) and Toy Story 2 (1999). Potts' TV appearances in the new millennium include the series Joan of Arcadia (2004-2005) and Law & Order: SVU (2005-2009).
Even after four decades performing on television, in films and on the stage, Annie Potts' remarkable career is still going strong. In 2009, at the age of 57, she fulfilled a lifelong dream by making her debut on Broadway in the 2009 production of God of Carnage.
At this point in her career, Potts says that she continues to act simply because she cannot imagine what she would do with her life if she were to stop. "I am a real workhorse," she said. "I like to work 12-15 hours a day and go to sleep exhausted. If I don't, then I feel I have fallen short of what I ought to have been doing that day."
Additional TV work has included the 2010 two-part Lifetime movie Marry Me, starring Lucy Liu, as well as the 2012 series GCB, which aired during the spring season. And in 2014, she returned to Broadway for several months, starring as Berthe in the revival of the musical Pippin.
Annie Potts has been married four times. She and her first husband Steven Hartley divorced in 1978. She married Greg Antonacci in 1978 and called it quits in 1980. She married B. Scott Senechal in 1981 with whom she has a son, Clay. The pair divorced in 1989. She married James Hayman in 1990 and they have two sons together. (Hayman is the producer and director of shows such as Ugly Betty and Judging Amy.)
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