Actress Lorraine Bracco’s performance as Karen Hill in Goodfellas (1990) brought her fame and an Oscar nomination for Best Supporting Actress. More success came Bracco's way with the acclaimed TV series The Sopranos, which earned her multiple Emmy Award nominations for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama Series in 1999, 2000, 2001, and for Outstanding Supporting Actress in 2007. Off-screen Bracco is an environmentalist and works to help women in the arts.
Background and Career
Actress Lorraine Bracco was born on October 2, 1954, in New York, New York. Despite being voted the ugliest girl in the sixth grade, Bracco grew up to become a successful fashion model. While working as a model in Paris during the 1970s, she began to explore other career opportunities. Bracco worked as a radio disc jockey for a time and made her film debut in the French comedy Duos sur Canapé (1979).
Bracco returned to the United States in the 1980s to make her mark on Hollywood. She drew strong reviews for her portrayal of Ellie Keegan, a cop's wife, in the thriller Someone to Watch Over Me (1987). But it was her performance as Karen Hill, a long-suffering wife of a mobster, in Goodfellas (1990) that brought her fame and an Academy Award nomination for Best Supporting Actress.
Oscar Nod and 'Sopranos'
Bracco continued to act, appearing in several films that included Radio Flyer (1992) and Even Cowgirls Get the Blues (1993). Bracco then had a supporting role in The Basketball Diaries (1995) as writer Jim Carroll's mother, with Leonardo DiCaprio playing the lead character. Her greatest success, however, came on the small screen. At the end of the decade, Bracco landed the role of Dr. Jennifer Melfi on the hit HBO series The Sopranos.
Bracco was originally offered the part of Carmela, wife of troubled mob boss Tony Soprano. Edie Falco was later picked to be Carmela and Bracco was asked instead to play the part of Tony's therapist. Dr. Melfi's professional, calm demeanor served as an interesting contrast to Tony's dark moods and emotional outbursts. Bracco earned wide acclaim for her work, including Emmy Award nominations for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama Series in 1999, 2000 and 2001, and for Outstanding Supporting Actress in 2007.
'Rizzoli & Isles' and Other Projects
After The Sopranos ended in 2007, Bracco continued to work in television. She made guest appearances on such shows as Lipstick Jungle and Law & Order: Criminal Intent. Bracco later became a producer and narrator for a true-crime documentary show called I Married a Mobster, which aired in 2011 and 2012.
Around this time, Bracco also worked in front of the camera as a cast member of the Boston-based crime series Rizzoli & Isles. Bracco plays Angela Rizzoli, the tough yet nurturing mother of detective Jane Rizzoli (played by Angie Harmon).
In the spring of 2016 Bracco guest starred opposite Adrien Brody on Showtime's comedy series Dice.
Activism and Personal Life
Outside of acting, Bracco has been active in ecological and artistic organizations. Bracco is a longstanding member of the board of directors of Riverkeeper, an environmental organization dedicated to the preservation of the Hudson River. She has served on the board of the New York Council for the Humanities as well. In an effort to help other women in the arts, Bracco also spoke at a congressional hearing about women in the workplace in 2002.
Bracco lives in New York and has two daughters. Margaux Guerard, her oldest, is from Bracco’s brief marriage to Daniel Guerard. She was later in a long relationship with actor Harvey Keitel, and together they had daughter Stella Keitel in 1985. The two split in the early 1990s and engaged in a bitter custody battle over Stella, which was later resolved. Bracco was also wed to actor Edward James Olmos; the couple divorced in 2002.
In 2006, Bracco published her memoir On the Couch, in which she shares many of her personal and professional triumphs and challenges.
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