An Emmy Award-winning American actress known largely for portraying tough, self-determining, on occasion arrogant, but humorous women on television, Holland Taylor is most popular to the small screen audience for playing the forthrightly sexy, middle-aged judge Roberta Kittelson on the ABC legal drama “The Practice” (1998-2003), from which she nabbed her Emmy Award, and, more recently, as the self-obsessed mother of Charlie Sheen and Jon Cryer in the CBS hit sitcom “Two and a Half Men” (2003-?), in which she was nominated for an Emmy in 2005. Her portrayal of a gossip journalist in the cable series “The Lots” (1999) also brought the versatile actress another Emmy nomination, in 2000. A veteran of TV sitcom, she also has acted in such series as “Bosom Buddies” (1980-1982), “Going Places” (1990-1993), “The Powers That Be” (1992-1993), “Saved By the Bell: The New Class” (1993-1994), “The Naked Truth” (1995-1998) and “The L Word” (2004-2006), and for TV films like The Spiral Staircase and Mail to the Chief (both 2000).
On the big screen, Taylor made her debut in 1976 and later gained notice as Kathleen Turner’s book publisher-pal in Robert Zemeckis movies Romancing the Stone (1984) and The Jewel of the Nile (1985). However, she was unable to acquire impetus until 1995. That year the demanding actress appeared in colorful supporting roles in four movies: To Die For, How to Make an American Quilt, Steal Big, Steal Little, and Last Summer in the Hamptons. She has since built a respected career with roles in movies like Next Stop, Wonderland (1998), The Truman Show (1998), Keeping the Faith (2000), Happy Accidents (2000), Legally Blonde (2001), Spy Kids 2: The Island Of Lost Dreams (2002), Spy Kids 3-D: Game Over (2003) and The Wedding Date (2005).
On stage, the hazel-eyed, stage-trained strawberry blonde performer is known for her long-term partnership with playwright A.R. Gurney, who had cast her in such successful plays as “Children” (1976), “The Perfect Party” (1986), “The Cocktail Hour” and “Love Letters” (both 1988). Other notable performances include as half of a radio talk show squad in the popular comedy “Breakfast with Les and Bess” (1983).
As for her private life, Taylor has never married nor had children.
Childhood and Family:
The third born (and last) daughter of her mother Virginia Taylor, and the only child of her father C. Tracy Taylor, a lawyer, Holland Taylor was born on January 14, 1943, in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. As a teenager, she was raised in nearby Allentown, Pennsylvania and received the nickname “Penny Taylor” due to her coppery hair color. She was educated at a Quaker boarding school, Westtown School, and later at Bennington College, majoring in drama, before moving to New York City in the 1960s to become an actress on Broadway.
Two and a Half Men’s Mom
22-year-old Holland Taylor moved from her local of Pennsylvania to New York City with the dream of becoming a Broadway star. Soon, she made her debut by appearing with Anne Bancroft in “The Devils” (1965), and often performed Off-Broadway in such productions as “The Poker Session” (1967), writer A R Gurney’s “The David Show” (1968) and “Colette” (1970), to name a few. She revisited Broadway in 1972 to essay the role of Alan Bates’ alienated wife in “Butley.” Taylor gradually made transition to television. After making TV-movie debut in J.T. (1969) and series debut with “Love Is a Many Splendored Thing” (1971), she was cast as a tough policewoman in the NBC daytime series “Somerset” in 1973 and hit the primetime serial two years later as a patrician Boston Brahmin in CBS’s soon-cancelled “Beacon Hill” (1975). The next year, she rejoined with ‘The David Show’ playwright A R Gurney for the Obie-winning play “Children” and had her first taste in front of the film camera as a TV interviewer in the independent film The Next Man, starring Sean Connery. The actress returned to daytime realm as the wicked Denise Cavanaugh on the ABC drama “The Edge of Night” (1977).
Taylor’s first taste of prominent arrived when she was handed the regular role of Ruth Dunbar, the flamboyant boss of Tom Hanks and Peter Scolari, on the ABC sitcom “Bosom Buddies” in 1980. She played the role until the show came to an end in 1982. She further boosted her fame with her role as the book publisher-friend of Kathleen Turner in the Robert Zemeckis film Romancing the Stone (1984), a role she soon reprised for the 1985 installment The Jewel of the Nile. In between the gigs, she could be found on the stage, starring as half of a radio talk show team in the successful comedy “Breakfast with Les and Bess” (1983) and as the lead in the Broadway comedy failure “Moose Murders” (1983). Throughout the rest of the 1980s, she went on to alternate between stage and the screen. Taylor costarred as Zena Hunnicutt in the ABC brief sitcom “Me and Mom” (1985), played Nurse Duckett on the Alan Arkin sitcom “Harry” (1987) as well as portrayed the mother of Kevin Bacon in the John Hughes-helmed/written comedy film She’s Having a Baby (1988). She enjoyed stage victory with the A.R. Gurney plays: “The Perfect Party” (1986), “The Cocktail Hour” and “Love Letters” (both 1988).
After relocating to Los Angeles, Taylor rejoined with ‘Bosom Buddies’ executive producers Thomas L. Miller and Robert L. Boyett for the comedy series “Going Places” (1990-1993, where she played a hearty TV producer, Dawn St. Clare, offered a hilarious performance as the tart-tongued political wife of John Forsythe in NBC’s “The Powers That Be” (1992-1993), took on the recurring role of Dean Susan McCann on the Saturday morning sitcom “Saved By the Bell: The New Class” (NBC, 1993-1994) and perfectly played the haughty, energetic tabloid editor/reporter Camilla Dane on the sitcom “The Naked Truth” (1995-1998), starring the magnificently daffy Tea Leoni. However, she did not experience a big breakthrough until she landed the plum supporting role of Judge Roberta Kittleson on the David E. Kelley-created ABC legal drama “The Practice.” During her five-year stint on the show (from 1998-2003), Taylor delivered her great acting that finally won her a 1999 Emmy for Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Drama Series.
Despite her hectic TV gigs, Taylor remained a minor figure in film until 1995, when she was tapped to play supporting roles in four projects. She first played the mother of Nicole Kidman in To Die For, as Andy Garcia’s bohemian adoptive mom in Steal Big Steal Little before portraying the actress daughter of Viveca Lindfors in the Henry Jaglom ensemble comedy/drama Last Summer in the Hamptons. She also costarred with Anne Bancroft in How to Make an American Quilt, as Mrs. Rubens. More film roles followed in the next years, including playing Ursula’s mother in George of the Jungle (1997), Hope Davis’ polished, matchmaking mother in nephew Brad Anderson’s Next Stop, Wonderland (1998), and ,most memorably, as Jim Carrey’s mother in The Truman Show (1998).
Television still proved to be the best media for Taylor to display her versatility. She made guest appearances in such popular shows as “Veronica’s Closet” (2 episodes, 1998), “ER” (1 episode, 1999) and “Ally McBeal” (2 episodes, 1999-2000). For her fine acting as Letitia DeVine, a gossip columnist, in the AMC original series “The Lot” (1999), she picked up a 2000 Emmy nomination for Outstanding Guest Actress in a Comedy Series. Her growing spotlight on “The Practice” helped her snatch coveted roles as the ailing mother of Judd Nelson in the TV film remake The Spiral Staircase (2000) and as Randy Quaid’s super-cynical advisor in the ABC telepic Mail to the Chief (also 2000). Still in 2000, she could be seen appearing with Ben Stiller Edward Norton’s feature directing debut, Keeping the Faith and opposite Marisa Tomei in the the Sundance-screened Happy Accidents The following years saw roles in The Day Reagan Was Shot (2001, TV), the hit comedy Legally Blonde (2001, as Reese Witherspoon’s professor), the family-adventure feature Spy Kids 2: The Island Of Lost Dreams (2002) and its 2003’s installment Spy Kids 3-D: Game Over, Home Room (2002) and Intent (2003). She also played Madeline Collins, the grandmother of a talking baby, in the ill-considered “Baby Bob” (2002).
After “The Practice,” the never-married Taylor once again was put on the limelight when she joined the cast of the CBS popular sitcom “Two and a Half Men” (2003-?), playing Charlie Sheen and Jon Cryer’s serious, petty, self-absorbed, Botox-loving mother Evelyn Harper. Now still in the show, she was nominated for an Emmy for Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Comedy Series in 2005. She also had recurring roles as billionaire Peggy Peabody on “The L Word” (2004-2006) and as Peggy Davenport on “Monk” (2005-2007). Her latest film, the romantic comedy The Wedding Date (2005), cast the vigorous actress as the mother of Debra Messing.
- Emmy: Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Drama Series, “The Practice,” 1999