Homicide: Life on the Street
First achieving notice with high-flying roles in the television films Independence (NBC, 1987), from which she jointly nabbed a Western Heritage Award, and The Town Bully (ABC, 1988), productive guest performer and series regular in television starting in the mid-1980s Isabella Hofmann became well-known while portraying Lieutenant (later Captain) Megan Russert on the applauded NBC series “Homicide: Life on the Street” (1994-1997). She also has had regular roles in shows like “Dear John” (1988-1992), “The Boys” (1993) and “Beggars and Choosers” (1999) and guest roles in such series as “Sisters,” “ER,” “Touched by an Angel,” “Party of Five,” “NYPD Blue,” “Providence,” “JAG,” Judging Amy,” “Crossing Jordan,” “The L Word” and more recently, “Close to Home.”
A doe-eyed actress with a striking apple-cheeked face, Hofmann also has added several big screen performances to her resume. However, she is probably most known for portraying Miss Genovia Hildegard on the hit comedy The Princess Diaries 2: Royal Engagement (2004), directed by Garry Marshall.
After her marriage to Steven Memel ended, Hofmann became involved with her “Homicide: Life on the Street co-star,” Daniel Baldwin (born 1961), whom she met on the series’ set. She lived with him from 1995 to 2005. Hofmann and Baldwin have a son, Atticus. He is now 11 years old.
Childhood and Family:
Isabella Hofmann was born on December 11, 1958, in Chicago, Illinois. She graduated from East Troy High School in East Troy, Wisconsin, and earned a BA in Theater and Music from Columbia College in Chicago, Illinois. She was a member of the celebrated Second City Chicago.
In 1988, Isabella married Steven Memel, but they later divorced in 1994. She had a son, Atticus Baldwin, on July 13, 1996, with former companion Daniel Baldwin.
After college, Isabella Hofmann worked with the Chicago-based comedy troupe Second City and broke into television in 1986 by having a recurring part in the sitcom “Head of the Class,” as Suzanne McGraw. Her big break arrived in the following year when she was cast in the starring role of Bridie on the acclaimed television film Independence. This NBC movie won a Western Heritage’s Bronze Wrangler for Best Fictional Television Drama, an honor she shared with costar John Bennett Perry, the producer Joseph B. Wallenstein, the director John Patterson, as well as the writer Gordon T. Dawson. The same year, she also made her feature film debut in the James Belushi-John Ritter comedy Real Men.
A string of guest appearances followed, including playing Dr. Townsend in “Night Court” and Melinda Stuart in “Matlock” (both 1987), before Hofmann booked her first regular role on the NBC comedy “Dear John” in 1988. As one of the less oddball members of a therapy support group, Kate McCarron stayed with the show until it came to an end in 1992. Also in 1988, she gained additional notice for playing Ronnie Doniger on the ABC movie The Town Bully, opposite Pat Hingle and Bruce Boxleitner.
Next, Hofmann costarred with Terence Knox and David Warner in the action movie Tripwire (1990), acted in television films Saturday’s (1991) and And Then She Was Gone (1991), as well as appeared in episodes of “L.A. Law” (1990), “Civil Wars” (1993) and “Sirens” (1993). She also found herself playing Yelena on a Chicago revival of the classic Chehov play, “Uncle Vanya,” which was staged at the Goodman Theater in 1990. She returned as a series regular in 1993 as Molly Rich on CBS’s “The Boys.” Unfortunately for Hofmann, the sitcom had a short life.
After the cancellation, the actress had a recurring role on “Sisters” (1994) and took on the role of Marie in the Penny Marshall-directed directed comedy Renaissance Man (1994), starring Danny DeVito. However, she did not find huge success until she began her regular role on the acclaimed NBC police drama “Homicide: Life on the Street” in its third season in 1994. She played Lieutenant (later Captain) Megan Russert until 1997.
While enjoying her TV series success, Hofmann guest starred in such popular series as “ER” (1996) and “Touched by an Angel” (1997), as well as made a handful of TV films, including Twisted Desire (1996) and Dying to Belong (1997). Working in numerous television films and a recurring gig on the hit series “Party of Five” (1998-1999) kept her busy throughout the reminder of the decade. She also could be seen returning to series TV as a co-star of Showtime’s comedy series “Beggars and Choosers” (1999). There, she played Brian Kerwin’s wife, Cecile Malone.
Kicking of the new millennium, Hofmann reprised her role of Megan Russert for a TV special, Homicide: The Movie (2000), and starred as Nikki Barrington in the film version of Touched by a Killer (2001), opposite James Wilder and Erin Gray. She went on to make a number of guest performances in such series as “The Practice” (2001), “NYPD Blue” (2002), “Providence” (2001-2002, as Dr. Renee Dunseith) and “Karen Sisco” (2003). From 2002-2004, she appeared as Meredith Cavanaugh on the commended crime series “JAG,” starring David James Elliott, Catherine Bell and Patrick Labyorteaux.
Back to movies, Hofmann experienced a blockbuster hit with the successful sequel The Princess Diaries 2: Royal Engagement (2004), where she appeared as Miss Genovia Hildegard. She snatched another small role, this time playing Gwenivere Lebauve in the 2006 drama Little Chenier. In between gigs, she maintained her presence on the small screen by appearing in many TV series in guest roles and was seen in “Judging Amy” (2005), “Crossing Jordan” (2005), “The L Word” (2006) and “The Unit” (2006). More recently, on November 2006, she appeared as Kimberly Nelson in an episode of “Close to Home.”
- Western Heritage: Bronze Wrangler, Fictional Television Drama, Independence, 1988