Actress Erica Gimpel rose to prominence in the 1980s with her portrayal of Coco Hernandez on the successful television series “Fame” (NBC, 1982-1983; Syndication, 1983-1987), on which she performed the opening theme song from the first to fourth season. She gained additional notice for portraying Angel Brown on NBC's “Profiler” from 1996 to 1998 and for her recurring roles on “ER” (1997-2003, as Adele Newman), “Veronica Mars” (2004-2006, as Alicia Fennel) and “Boston Legal” (2006-2007, as Attorney Samantha Fried). She has also acted in many television movies and in various feature films, including Abel Ferrara's “King of New York” (1990), David Mamet's “Homicide” (1991), Hal Hartley's “Amateur” (1994), “Flirt” (1995) and “No Such Thing” (2001), Wayne Wang's “Smoke” (1995), Mark Waters' “Freaky Friday” (2003), Emily Young's “Veronika Decides to Die” (2009) and Sasha Krane's “Machete Joe” (2010). In addition to acting, Gimpel sings, writes her own music, plays the piano and has performed on tours.
In her spare time, Gimpel enjoys roller skating. She also loves dance and the sea. She is close friends with actress Lori Singer.
The School of Performing Arts
Childhood and Family:
Erica Fawn Gimpel was born on June 25, 1964, in New York City, New York. Her father is Joseph Gimpel, a short story writer, and her mother is Shirley Bass, a singer. She attended Junior High School 104 in New York City with fellow actors Robert Downey Jr., Jon Cryer and Kadeem Hardison. She graduated from New York's High School for The School of Performing Arts in 1982.
“My mom, who was a singer and an actress, performed as Serena in 'Porgy and Bess' when she was eight and a half months pregnant with me. Even then, she said, ‘I would move over to let her (draw a deep breath) and hit the high notes!’” Erica Gimpel (on her mother)
Erica Gimpel made her major acting debut in “Fame” (NBC, 1982-1983; Syndication, 1983-1987), a television series adaptation of the 1980 motion picture of the same name. Playing Coco Hernandez, she was on the series from the first to third season and became a reoccurring player from the fourth to its sixth and final season. Created by Christopher Gore, “Fame” was a success and won a number of Emmy awards and Golden Globe Awards. Its popularity, especially in the U.K., led to several hit records and live concert tours by the cast. Gimpel also performed the opening theme “Fame” during the first four seasons.
After her auspicious debut, Gimpel appeared as a guest star in an episode of “Spenser: For Hire” called “Original Sin” (1985) and was cast in the ABC miniseries “North and South” (1985), opposite James Read, Patrick Swayze, Kirstie Alley, Lesley-Anne Down, Wendy Kilbourne, David Carradine, Terri Garber and Genie Francis. She went on to reprise her role in the sequel “North and South, Book II” (1986), which enjoyed similar success as its predecessor, and closed out the decade with appearances in “The Cosby Show” (1988, the episode “Waterworks”) and the television film “Case Closed” (1988), starring Marc Alaimo, Byron Allen and Donna Biscoe.
In 1990, Gimpel branched out to the big screen with the supporting role of Dale Martinez in the indie flick “Penny Ante: The Motion Picture,” opposite Ja'net DuBois, Donald Fullilove and Steve Garland. Later that same year, she was cast as Dr. Shute in “King of New York” (1990), a well received drama directed by Abel Ferrara that was written by his partner and friend Nicholas St. John and starred Christopher Walken, David Caruso and Laurence Fishburne. 1990 also saw her portray Wendy on the based on play TV film “Women & Wallace,” opposite Josh Hamilton, Joanna Going and Mary Joy.
The actress then appeared in such films as David Mamet's “Homicide” (1991, starred Joe Mantegna, William H. Macy and Vincent Guastaferro), Thomas F. Mazziotti's “Undertow” (1991, with Peter Dobson and Anita Gillette), Peter Pistor's “The Fence” (1994, starred Freddy Rodríguez, Stacy Logan and Anne Jacques), and Hal Hartley's “Amateur” (1994, starred Isabelle Huppert, Martin Donovan and Elina Löwensohn). She also appeared in Wayne Wang's “Smoke” (1995, starred Harvey Keitel, William Hurt and Giancarlo Esposito), Hartley's “Flirt” (1995, starred Paul Austin, Robert John Burke and Martin Donovan), David Burton Morris's “The Price of Love” (1995, starred Peter Facinelli, Laurel Holloman and Jay R. Ferguson), Neil Tolkin's “Sticks & Stones” (1996, starred Justin Isfeld, Max Goldblatt and Chauncey Leopardi) and H. Gordon Boos' “Touch Me” (1997, starred Amanda Peet, Michael Vartan and Peter Facinelli). In addition, Gimpel acted in various television projects and guest starred in episodes of “Law & Order” (1994), “New York Undercover” (1995), “Babylon 5” (1996), “The Big Easy” (1997) and “Any Day Now” (1999) and the TV films “Intimate Betrayal” (1999, as Toni) and “Santa and Pete” (1999, as Cassie Moore). Gimpel, however, is perhaps best recognizable for her role of Angel Brown on the NBC series “Profiler,” which ran from September 1996 until July 2000. She was on the show from 1996-1998. In January 1997, Gimpel also began her role of Adele Newman on the NBC hit medical drama “ER,” a gig she would keep until January 2003. She appeared in 20 episodes of the series.
Entering the new millennium, Gimpel played the roles of Ella's Lawyer in two episodes of “The District” called “The Real Terrorist” and “How They Lived” (both 2000) and FBI Agent Suzanne Duff on three episodes of “Roswell” called “We Are Family,” “Disturbing Behavior” and “How the Other Half Lives” (all 2001). She also portrayed Sydney Jessup in an episode of “Touched by an Angel” titled “The Last Chapter” (2002), a role she originated in the 1994 episode “Tough Love.” She also guest starred as Allison Greely in an episode of “MDs” (2002) and resumed her film career in 2001 by working with Sarah Polley, Helen Mirren and Julie Christie in “No Such Thing,” by Hal Hartley. She next worked with Shane Brolly, Vincent D'Onofrio and Gary Sinise in Gary Fleder's thriller “Impostor” and was featured in the Disney remake “Freaky Friday” (2003), starring Jamie Lee Curtis and Lindsay Lohan. She next played the supporting of Yolie on the 2004 drama “In Your Eyes,” for director and writer Trae Briers.
A busy actress, Gimpel played Varese Chestnut on two episodes of “JAG” called “A Merry Little Christmas” (2003) and “What If” (2004) and Aimee Breckridge in “Bite Me” (2004), an episode of “The Division.” She also guest starred in “Everwood” (2005, as Dr. Gans), “House M.D.” (2006, as Elizabeth Stone), “Numb3rs” (2006, as Principal Riva Bell), “Criminal Minds” (2006, as Sarah) and “Close to Home” (2007, as Dr. Udell). From 2004 to 2006, Gimpel portrayed the recurring role of Alicia Fennel on the Kristen Bell series “Veronica Mars” (9 episodes). From 2006 to 2007, she appeared as Attorney Samantha Fried in four episodes of the David E. Kelley show “Boston Legal.” She also supported Kelli Williams, Patrick Muldoon and Charles Durning in the TV movie “A Boyfriend for Christmas” (2004), teamed up with Lea Thompson, Joe Penny and William R. Moses for the Hallmark Channel film “Jane Doe: The Harder They Fall” (2006), played the role of Gail in the Brandon Sonnier directed “The List” (2007) and portrayed Joanne Matterson in the television movie “Murder 101: If Wishes Were Horses” (2007), starring Dick Van Dyke as Dr. Jonathan Maxwell.
Gimpel next portrayed Lizzie Summers in an episode of “Eleventh Hour” called “Cardiac,” which aired on October 16, 2008. She resurfaced on television on November 5, 2009, as Bethany Anderson in the episode “Invest in Love” of “Grey's Anatomy.” Also in 2009, she appeared in the 2009 Cannes premiered drama “Veronika Decides to Die,” directed by Emily Young and starring Sarah Michelle Gellar, Jonathan Tucker and Erika Christensen, and as Sandra in “Olhos azuis,” a Brazilian drama directed by José Joffily. In 2010, she portrayed Erica in the horror film “Machete Joe,” with Monique Barajas, Chris Blasman and Malika Blessing. The same year, she served as a judge on “Fame: The Musical,” a singing and dance contest in Ireland.