Portia de Rossi
Australian actress Portia de Rossi was born in 1973, and starred in her first film, Sirens (1994), at age 21. She later moved to California to try and forge an acting career and landed her big break in 1998 when she was cast as the cold-hearted Nelle Porter on Ally McBeal. Other notable TV credits include Arrested Development (2003-06, 2013), playing Lindsay Bluth-Funke, the self-centered sister of Michael, Gob and Buster Bluth. De Rossi is also known for being one half of a Hollywood power couple; she and comedian Ellen DeGeneres wed in 2008.
Actress Portia de Rossi was born Amanda Lee Rogers in Horsham, Victoria, Australia, on January 31, 1973, to Barry Rogers and Margaret Rogers. Barry died when de Rossi was 9. With Margaret struggling to provide for de Rossi and her brother, the 11-year-old girl embarked upon a career in the entertainment industry, working as a model and an actress in TV commercials.
By the age of 15, she legally changed her name to Portia de Rossi—taking "Portia" from the heroine in the Shakespearean play The Merchant of Venice, and the Italian surname "de Rossi" because it sounded more exotic. De Rossi would later state that her desire to change her name at such a young age may have stemmed from her struggle with her sexual identity.
After graduating from high school, de Rossi studied law at the University of Melbourne, but didn't complete her degree due to landing a role on the 1994 comedy film Sirens (her work in a commercial had made a big impression on a casting agent, who subsequently contacted her about the part). She accepted the role and stunned audiences with her film debut, in which she was required to be completely nude. The movie co-starred Hugh Grant and supermodel Elle Macpherson.
After filming the edgy movie, de Rossi left Australia for Los Angeles to pursue an acting career. She soon found roles on several series that failed to launch, including Too Something (1995) and Nick Freno, Licensed Teacher (1996), and Scream 2 (1997), but it was her role on Ally McBeal that gave de Rossi the exposure to American audiences that she needed. The actress fit in perfectly as a cast member during the hit show's second season, taking on the role of Nelle Porter, the typical "ice queen" character, and starring opposite lead actress Calista Flockhart. De Rossi remained on the series until it was canceled in 2002. Not only did her role on Ally McBeal give de Rossi the opportunity to show off her comedic chops, she—along with the rest of the cast—won a Screen Actors Guild Award in 1999 for her work on the series.
Several roles followed, but none came close to the success she garnered with Ally McBeal until she landed a part on another TV comedy, Arrested Development (2003-06, 2013), playing Lindsay Bluth-Funke, the self-absorbed sister of twin Michael (Jason Bateman) and Gob (Will Arnett) and Buster Bluth (Tony Hale). Her character couldn't differ more from her portrayal as Nelle Porter on Ally McBeal, but the actress still played the part convincingly, captivating audiences with her dysfunctional relationship with on-screen husband Tobias Funke, played by comedic actor David Cross.
The show was quickly deemed a hit by critics, revered for its wit and cast of absurd yet relatable characters. For her performance on the series, de Rossi won a Golden Satellite Award (best actress in a series, comedy or musical) and was nominated for two more Screen Actors Guild Awards (outstanding ensemble). Though it won critical acclaim, the series saw poor ratings and was canceled after airing on FOX for three seasons. After its initial run (2003-06), however, the show was renewed—due in no small part to its strong, cult-like following—this time airing exclusively on Netflix. Premiering in 2013, the series' fourth season saw the reunion of the entire original cast.
De Rossi has had a very public personal life. De Rossi was married to male filmmaker Mel Metcalfe from 1996 to '99, later stating that she had entered into the union in order to get a green card. In 2000, photos of the actress with her then-partner, female singer Francesca Gregorini, were leaked to the public, creating speculation surrounding her sexual orientation. Initially, De Rossi neither confirmed nor denied the allegations, but she later used the photos as an informal way of coming out to the public and to her family, who was previously unaware of her sexual identity.
De Rossi dated Gregorini for four years before becoming romantically linked to comedian Ellen DeGeneres; the two first met when de Rossi was a cast member of Ally McBeal, before de Rossi had gone public about her homosexuality. They met again after de Rossi and Gregorini broke up, and their relationship began shortly thereafter. It was then, in 2005, that de Rossi publicly announced her sexual orientation. The couple married in 2008, and de Rossi legally changed her name to Portia Lee James DeGeneres.
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