“Ever since those reviews for Showgirls, it’s like I was that woman in The Scarlet Letter except that instead of having to wear the letter ‘A’ for adulteress, I was condemned to wear an ‘S’ for showgirl.” Elizabeth Berkley
American television, film, and stage actress Elizabeth Berkley initially received recognition while portraying intelligent Jessie Spano in the well-liked sitcom “Save by the Bell” (1989-1992) and its TV movie sequels. She is also best known as the star of the much-criticized Showgirls (1995), a film from director Paul Verhoeven. Delivering a mixed performance of conniving lap dancer Nomi Malone, Berkley netted two Razzie Awards in 1996. Berkley later acquired appreciation for her performances in such films as Tom DeCillo’s The Real Blonde (1997, as Tina), Woody Allen’s The Curse of the Jade Scorpion (2001, played Jill), the independent Roger Dodger (2002, as Andrea) and Moving Malcolm (2003, portrayed Liz Woodward). Her film credits also include The First Wives Club (1996), A Time to Revenge (1997), Random Encounter (1998), Oliver Stone’s Any Given Sunday (1999), The Shipment (2001), Cover Story (2002), Detonator (2003) and Meet Market (2004).
On stage, Berkley won overwhelmingly positive reviews for her fine performance of Bonnie in the 2005’s Off-Broadway production of “Hurlyburly” for director Scott Elliott. In 1999, she also received critical acclaim as Honey, the stripper married to comic Lenny Bruce, in the London stage version of “Lenny.”
Off screen, Berkley stands 5’10” inch tall and measured 34C-23-36 (during Showgirls in 1995). Vegan Berkley donned a $600 formfitting gown made entirely of collard greens for the “Lettuce Be Lean” campaign sponsored by People for Ethical Treatment of Animals. As for her romantic life, the curly-haired beauty is now the wife of artist/actor Greg Laurent, whom she has been married to since 2003. She formerly dated actor Roger Wilson (born in 1958, together from 1997-1999).
Childhood and Family:
Born in Farmington Hills, Michigan, on July 28, 1972, Elizabeth Berkley showed a great passion for dance. Recognizing their daughter’s talent, Elizabeth’s parents signed her up with the Detroit Dance Company when she was 5. As her love for dance grew, young Elizabeth began participating in a number of ballets, including the high-profile show “Swan Lake,” and by age 11, she had begun to work in musicals.
Elizabeth attended North Farmington High School in Farmington Hills, Michigan, where she was active on the student council and a member of the school ballet club. She later enrolled as an English Literature major at a collage in California.
On November 1, 2003, Elizabeth married Greg Laurent, a successful and professional nude painter and an actor. The couple had their wedding at the Esperanza Hotel in Cabo San Lucas, in Mexico, where Elizabeth wore a silk sheath with pearled spaghetti straps wedding dress designed by Greg’s uncle, fashion magnate Ralph Lauren. Elizabeth met Greg in a dance class in 2000.
Saved by the Bell
Dancing by age 5, Elizabeth Berkley moved from Farmington Hills to Los Angeles at age 13 to take acting, singing and dancing lessons. After a brief stint as a teen model for Elite, the statuesque blonde got her first taste in front of the TV camera as an extra in such shows as “Gimme a Break” and “Silver Spoons” (both in 1986). She followed with small roles in the made for TV movie Frog (1987) and television series like “Day by Day,” “Valerie,” “Married People,” “Life Goes On,” “Raven,” “Step by Step” and “Baywatch.” However, Berkley made a real impression on TV viewers when she was cast as intellectual Jessie Spano in the popular sitcom “Saved by the Bell” (1989-1992), a role that made Berkle a TV star. After four seasons, she left the show to pursue a movie career.
The actress made her film debut in 1994 with the Paul Leder-directed Molly & Gina. The drama film starred Frances Fisher and Natasha Gregson Wagner. The same year, she also appeared on the small screen as Beth in the made-for-cable film Bandit: Bandit Goes Country (1994) and reprised her breakthrough role Jessie for TV movie spin-off Saved by the Bell: Wedding in Las Vegas.
After a direct-to-video film, White Wolves II: Legend of the Wild (1995), where she was seen as an edgy youngster named Crystal, Berkley starred in Paul Verhoeven’s controversial movie Showgirls (1995). The sex and nudity-laden film, given an NC-17 rating in America, was a box office disaster and widely panned as one of the worst movies of the year. As for Berkley, her performance as scheming lap dancer Nomi Malone received mixed reviews that resulted in two Razzies for Worst New Star and Worst Actress in 1996. Disappointed with the result, her agent dropped her and Berkley had trouble finding a suitable follow-up vehicle.
“I’m very grateful because a lot of actors would kill to work with any one of them. It’s been a very conscious choice on my part to work with the best - even if it was taking a small supporting role. After Showgirls, I really wanted to surround myself with the best people. I wanted to build it that way instead of doing flashy roles just like Showgirls, which would have hurt me.” Elizabeth Berkley
Learning from failure, Berkley tried to drive out the legacy that she is less an actress than a good-looking face. She took supporting parts like Victor Garber’s empty-headed actress-girlfriend Phoebe LaVelle in The First Wives Club (1996) and Tiffany Whittmar in the John Harwood-directed A Time to Revenge (1997). Also in 1997, Berkley’s performance in the independent film The Real Blonde, in which she appeared as Tina, won the actress some attention. The comedy-romance film starred Matthew Modine, Catherine Keener and Daryl Hannah, and was helmed and written by Tom DeCillo.
The following years saw Berkley star opposite J.H. Wyman in the crime/thriller Random Encounter (1998), pick up major roles in the indie movies The Taxman (1999) and Last Call (1999), appear in Africa (1999) and Tail Lights Fade (1999), and play the supporting role of high-class call girl Mandy Murphy in Oliver Stone’s Any Given Sunday (1999). In 1999, Berkley scored a critical success as Honey, the stripper married to comic Lenny Bruce, in the London stage version of “Lenny.”
After a series of film work, Berkley returned to TV in 2000. She was seen in the made-for-TV movie Becoming Dick (2000), had a two-episode performance in “NYPD Blue” and guest starred in an episode of “Jack and Jill.” She followed that up with another television movie, The Elevator, in 2001 before having the small part of Jill in Woody Allen’s The Curse of the Jade Scorpion (2001), a role that garnered Berkley some positive reviews. After having a reoccurring role on the Fox sitcom “Titus” (2002), Berkley received a small, but memorable, turn as Andrea in the independent film Roger Dodger (2002) following starring roles in The Shipment (2001) and Cover Story (2002).
2003-2004 saw roles in Control Factor (2003, TV), Detonator (2003), Student Seduction (2003, TV), Moving Malcolm (2003, earned rave reviews for her role as Liz Woodward) and Meet Market (2004). In addition, Berkley debuted on Broadway with a starring role in the production of “Sly Fox” in 2004. In 2005, she gathered strong reviews from critics as Bonnie in the Off-Broadway production of “Hurlyburly.” The acclaimed play was directed by Scott Elliott and co-starred Ethan Hawke, Parker Posey and Wallace Shawn.