Maya Rudolph first put her interest in acting to work with the Groundlings and landed a few small roles in TV and in film. When a producer for Saturday Night Live saw her perform with the acting troupe, Rudolph was brought to New York and joined the SNL cast in 2000. On SNL, she became a featured player known for impersonations of such celebrities as Christina Aguilera, Oprah Winfrey and Donatella Versace. She stayed with the show until 2007, appearing in several films both during and after the SNL ride was over.
Maya Rudolph was born in Gainesville, Florida, on July 27, 1972, her father a music writer and producer and her mother a singer (Minnie Riperton, who hit the top of the pop charts in 1974 with "Lovin' You"). After moving from Gainesville, Florida, to Southern California, when Rudolph was almost seven, her mother died of breast cancer, and Rudolph, as if carrying on her mother's legacy, began singing and appearing in local theater, which she did throughout childhood. After high school, she enrolled in the photography program at the University of California at Santa Cruz, where she formed the band Super Sauce. Super Sauce wouldn't be Rudolph's last band, as she went on to play keyboards for The Rentals, a Weezer spin-off band, in the mid-1990s.
Around this time, Maya Rudolph also began exploring acting, first with the Groundlings, a popular and edgy comedy troupe. After performing with the Groundlings and getting her bearings in the acting performing arena, Rudolph began landing small parts in films such as As Good as It Gets (1997) and Gattaca (1997) and on the TV drama Chicago Hope (1996-1997, in a recurring role).
Rudolph's career took a major turn when a Saturday Night Live producer saw her performing with the Groundlings in late 1999. She soon auditioned for the show in New York and joined the cast in 2000 as a featured performer. Rudolph brought to the table a unique blend of acting and musicality, always mixed with a madcap comedic streak, and this range led to a promotion to full cast member in late 2001. She developed a true following on the show through the often outrageous characters she'd create or, more often, the real-life characters she'd impersonate. Her over-the-top but somehow dead-on impersonations of such celebrities as Donatella Versace, Oprah Winfrey, and Christina Aguilera made her one of the stars of the show, and her comedic skills led not only to a larger part on the show but to more and more non-SNL roles.
Before her SNL tenure even began, Rudolph was appearing in films, and her work on the big screen continued after she joined the cast in such films as the comedy Chuck and Buck and the musically oriented Duets (both in 2000), that later of which allowed her to work with childhood friend Gwyneth Paltrow. She followed these with a few more projects, notably a recurring role on TV's City of Angels (2000) and in the romantic comedy 50 First Dates (2004), with Adam Sandler.
In 2005, Rudolph took a break, going on maternity leave, her pregnancy now a part of film history as it was captured via her role in the ensemble of Robert Altman's A Prairie Home Companion. Her first daughter with director Paul Thomas Anderson, Pearl Minnie, was born in October 2005, and Lucille and Jack followed in 2009 and 2011, respectively. In 2013, the couple welcomed daughter, Minnie Ida.
The End of an Era & New Projects
Upon her return, Rudolph kept busy with Saturday Night Live and with several film projects. She scored a leading role in the quirky independent film Idiocracy in 2006, and the following year Rudolph lent her vocal skills to the animated hit Shrek the Third, the same year she brought her SNL tenure to a close (marking her final season with an NAACP Image Award nomination for Outstanding Actress in a Comedy Series).
Once off the SNL set for good, Rudolph appeared on the NBC version of the Australian hit show Kath & Kim and took the lead in the thoughtful independent film Away We Go in 2009. She also reprised her voiceover role in Shrek Forever After (2010), the fourth installment in the Shrek franchise, and appeared in several high-profile comedies, including Grown-ups (2010), The Zookeeper (2011), and the international smash hit Bridesmaids (2011).
With guest spots on SNL, the lead in TV's Up All Night (2011-2012), and film roles always keeping her onscreen, Maya Rudolph has thrived in her post-SNL landscape.
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