Jenna Elfman was born September 30, 1971, in Northridge, California. In the early 1990s, she acted in commercials. She eventually earned more work on sitcoms. In 1997, she landed her most important role to date in Dharma and Greg, and made her film debut in Grosse Pointe Blank. Elfman’s later film work includes EdTV and Keeping the Faith. In 2003 she joined the cast of the Broadway revival of Nine.
Actress and dancer Jennifer Mary Butala was born on September 30, 1971, in Northridge, California. She was the youngest of three children born into a middle-class family. Raised by her parents, Richard and Susan Butala, Elfman enjoyed a carefree childhood in Southern, California, where she began classical ballet training at age five. In 1989, she entered Los Angeles County High School for the Arts as a dance major. Shortly after her enrollment, she abandoned a professional ballet career when a recurring ankle injury limited her range of motion.
After briefly attending the University of California at Northridge, Elfman's first step toward a career in show business came when she was awarded the opportunity to perform in the opening presentation for the 1991 Academy Awards Show. The exposure led to greater opportunities, and she was cast in a slew of rock videos for various artists, including Depeche Mode and Chris Isaak. Standing five feet ten inches tall, the striking California blonde, also toured with ZZ Top as one of the band's signature "Legs" girls.
While moonlighting in rock videos, Elfman sharpened her acting skills at the Beverly Hills Playhouse, studying under famed acting teacher Milton Katselas. In the early 1990s, she launched her acting career with appearances in dozens of national television commercials.
Elfman eventually earned more substantial work on some of TV's most popular sitcoms, including Roseanne and The Single Guy, as well as dramas such as N.Y.P.D. Blue and Murder One. In 1996, she was cast as a regular on the sitcom Townies, which explored the lives of three working women living in an East Coast fishing community. The short-lived series did not fare well among television viewers, however, Elfman was noted for her part as a promiscuous waitress.
Dharma and Greg
In 1997, Elfman landed her most important role to date - that of the free-spirited half of the husband-and-wife duo Dharma and Greg. Elfman and costar Thomas Gibson (whose conservative character, Greg, perfectly complimented Elfman's passionate Dharma) shared a great small-screen chemistry. The ABC sitcom was warmly received by critics and audiences, who credited the show for its refreshing take on modern day romance.
Elfman's success on TV has allowed her to cross over to films, making her debut in the 1997 dark comedy Grosse Pointe Blank, which starred Minnie Driver and John Cusack. The following year, she landed her first lead role in the disappointing Richard Dreyfuss vehicle Krippendorf's Tribe. She exhibited her diverse talents when she provided the voice of an owl in the Eddie Murphy comedy Doctor Dolittle (1998).
Elfman's role as Dharma earned her a Golden Globe Award for Best Actress in a Comedy Series in 1999. Later that year, her popularity was confirmed when she was asked to co-host the Emmy Awards presentation, alongside David Hyde Pierce.
In her most recent work, Elfman offered charming performances in the comedies EdTV (1999) and Keeping the Faith (2000), opposite Edward Norton and Ben Stiller. Town and Country (2000), cast her alongside a stellar company comprised of Warren Beatty, Diane Keaton, Andie MacDowell, and Goldie Hawn. In 2003, the actress joined the cast of the Tony-winning Broadway revival Nine.
During an audition for a Sprite commercial, in 1991, Elfman met her future husband, and fellow aspiring actor, Bodhi Elfman. The couple lived together for four years and married in 1995. Their son, Story Elias, was born in July 2007. They are both devout Scientologists.
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