Actress Christine Baranski was born in Buffalo, New York, in 1952. A 1974 graduate of Juilliard, she earned early success on Broadway in the 1980s with the plays The Real Thing and Rumors, winning two Tony awards. In the 1990s she became known for her acclaimed work on television, where she won an Emmy and has been nominated for many others for her work on Cybill, The Big Bang Theory and The Good Wife. Baranski has also co-starred in a variety of films with musical leanings, including The Bird Cage, Chicago, Mamma Mia! and Into the Woods.
Stage and television actress Christine Jane Baranski was born in Buffalo, New York, on May 2, 1952. As a child her family maintained a strong bond with its Polish heritage. Her father, Lucien, edited a Polish-language newspaper in Buffalo, and her paternal grandparents were both actors in the local Polish theater.
Due in part to seeing her grandparents perform as well her parents being active in local choruses, Baranski was drawn to the stage. As a young girl she took ballet lessons and developed a passion for dance.
By her sophomore year of high school in Cheektowaga, a Buffalo suburb, she had begun dabbling in acting. Under the tutelage of the school’s drama coach, a retired opera singer from Austria, Baranski was encouraged to push her talents as a thespian.
“By the time I was a junior, I thought, ‘Oh, this is it, I want—just want—to be an actress,” Baranski said in a 2006 interview with Metro Weekly.
Early Stage Career
Baranski auditioned for several theater schools, but she had her heart set on Juilliard. At first the famed conservatory rejected her application because of a significant gap between her teeth that made it tough for her to pronounce a proper “s” sound.
Taking the school’s advice, she had her teeth capped and worked with a speech instructor for several months. She was eventually accepted into Juilliard on nearly a full scholarship.
Even before she graduated in 1974, Baranski was working as a full-time actress. While taking on screen work, she also created a home for herself on the stage. In 1980, Baranski made her Broadway debut in Hide & Seek. More Broadway productions followed, including Tom Stoppard’s The Real Thing in 1984, which netted the actress a Tony for Featured Actress in a Play. A second Tony came her way five years later for her performance in Neil Simon’s Rumors.
Small Screen: 'Cybill,' 'Big Bang' and 'Good Wife'
While for years rumors have circulated that Baranski had appeared as a young actress on The Brady Bunch, she has steadfastly denied that claim.
Instead, she made her television debut in soap operas like All My Children and Another World. After subsequent years of guest starring on shows like The Equalizer and Law & Order, her first recurring primetime role came in 1995 when she landed the role of the hard-drinking Maryanne Thorpe, best friend to Cybill Shepherd’s titular character in the CBS sitcom Cybill. Baranski earned an Emmy Award for Best Supporting Actress in a Comedy as well as a Screen Actors Guild award for the show.
Following Cybill’s cancellation in 1998, Baranksi continued to find television work on shows like Welcome to New York, Ugly Betty and 3rd Rock from the Sun and returned to series fare with 2003's Happy Family. Later she received two Emmy nominations for her guest appearances as Dr. Beverly Hofstadter, the extremely analytical mother of Leonard Hofstadter (Johnny Galecki) on The Big Bang Theory.
In 2009, she landed the role of Diane Lockhart, a powerful attorney and senior law partner in the CBS drama The Good Wife, starring Julianna Margulies. The role has further cemented Baranski’s status as one of television’s most versatile actresses and has garnered her six consecutive Emmy nominations.
Varied Film Projects
Despite a heavy television load, Baranski has also found time to maintain a steady diet of film work. Beginning with 1982’s Soup for One, her credits include 9 1/2 Weeks (1986), Addams Family Values (1993), The Birdcage (1996), Dr. Seuss’ How the Grinch Stole Christmas (2000), and Mamma Mia! (2008), among many other titles. In addition to Mia!, she showed off her singing shops both as journalist Mary Sunshine in the edgy musical Chicago (2002), co-starring Renee Zellweger and Catherine Zeta-Jones, and as Cinderella's wicked stepmother in the film adaptation of Stephen Sondheim's Into the Woods (2014).
In 1983 Baranski married actor Matthew Cowles. The couple remained together until Cowles’ death in 2014. They have two daughters together, Isabel and Lily.
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