“Lois is a great mother. They can’t afford any help so she takes care of the kids along with working. They have dinner together every night. Those kids don’t get away with anything.” Jane Kaczmarek on her role on “Malcolm in the Middle”
Golden Globe- and Emmy Award-nominated American actress Jane Kaczmarek rocketed to stardom two decades after her initial foray into television with her role as the no-nonsense mother of a genius and his inveterate siblings, Lois, in the popular Fox sitcom “Malcolm in the Middle” (2000-2006). For her outstanding performance, she was nominated for seven Emmys, three Golden Globes, and also won two Television Critics Association Awards, a Family Television Award, an American Comedy Award as well as a Satellite Award. Prior to her successful tenure on the show, the pretty, dark-haired performer launched herself as a versatile supporting actress in movies, including The Chamber (1996) and Pleasantville (1998), and on television films such as Something About Amelia (1984). A veteran of short-lived series, Kaczmarek has appeared on a number of television series, most notably “Equal Justice” (1990), “Frasier” (1996) and “Felicity” (1999-2000). She also had a recurring role on the favorite animated series “The Simpsons” (2001-2005). On the stage, Kaczmarek took home a Los Angeles Drama Critics Award for “Raised in Captivity” (1995) and an Ovation Award for “Kindertransport” (1996).
“Well, I love having kids. But I have the advantage of having a lot of help, a real hands-on husband and small children whom I can easily manipulate.” Jane Kaczmarek
Outside the spotlight, Kaczmarek is currently enjoying a happy family with her husband of 15 years, actor Bradley Whitford, son of Genevieve Smith Whitford, and their three kids, Frances (born 1998), George (born 1999) and Mary Louisa (born 2002). They reside in Los Angeles. Kaczmarek and her husband both actively participate in charity, and frequently spotted attending main award shows together. Kaczmarek is the co-founder of Clothes Off Our Back, an aid organization to support children by selling superstar clothing. In April 2004, the down to earth Midwesterner undertook a hip replacement because of persistent arthritis. She got well soon, and the following summer, used an X-ray of her new hip for her Emmy campaign. She promoted herself as “the only Emmy nominee with a synthetic hip (not including Anthony LaPaglia).”
Childhood and Family:
Jane Frances Kaczmarek was born on December 12, 1955, in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, to Edward Kaczmarek, who worked for the Defense Department, and Evelyn Kaczmarek, an educator. The oldest of four, she has a sister, Mary Kaczmarek, is an Internet company employee, and two brothers, Jim Kaczmarek, a teacher, and Bill Kaczmarek, an entrepreneur.
After graduating from Greendale High School in Greendale, Wisconsin in 1974, Jane went to the University of Wisconsin in Madison, where she earned her BFA in Theater, and continued to pursue her theater studies at the Yale University School of Drama, in New Haven, Connecticut. She received her MFA degree in 1982.
Jane was marries to “West Wing” actor Bradley Whitford on August 15, 1992. In January 1998, the couple had their first child, daughter Frances Whitford, and their son, George Whitford, was born on December 23, 1999. The family extended its member with the birth of Mary Louisa Whitford on November 25, 2002.
Raised in Captivity
Daughter of a schoolteacher, Jane Kaczmarek, who made her acting debut at age five in a school play, broke her traditional background and original plan of becoming an educator in favor of acting. While studying at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, where she acted in school productions, she became involved with future actor Tony Shalhoub, who encouraged her to track his lead to Yale. In addition to further honing her crafts, there she also was a part of its theater company.
Kaczmarek debuted on the small screen with a role in “For Lovers Only” (1982), an unsuccessful pilot about a honeymoon resort broadcast as an ABC TV-film. A year later, she landed a recurring role on the tense NBC drama “St. Elsewhere,” playing Nurse Sandy Burns, and appeared in episodes of the downy romantic crime shows “Remington Steele” and “Scarecrow and Mrs. King.” The same year, she also made the entry to the silver screen with a role as the tolerant wife of a Vietnam vet (played by Fred Ward) in the attention-grabbing drama Uncommon Valor. She resurfaced in the following years as the wife of Robert De Niro’s disloyal husband on the flop Falling in Love (1984) and Emily Barnes on the cute critical disappointment The Heavenly Kid (1985). Both movies, unfortunately, did noting to boost her career.
Meanwhile, television provided good media for Kaczmarek to demonstrate her skills. She offered a fine supporting turn opposite Ted Danson and Glen Close in the groundbreaking TV-movie Something About Amelia (ABC, 1984) and was impressive as Joanna Brady on the touching syndicated drama special The Last Leaf (also 1984), based on a popular story by O Henry. In 1985, she had her first series regular as Mary Newell Abbott on the well-done, but short-lived, CBS drama “Hometown.” After the cancellation of the series, she could be seen in many television movies, most notably ABC’s The Right of the People and CBS’s The Christmas Gift (both 1986), and in her first miniseries, “I’ll Take Manhattan” (1987), opposite Valerie Bertinelli, Barry Bostwick and Francesca Annis.
In 1988, Kaczmarek briefly returned to features with roles in the role-reversal comedy Vice Versa and the thriller remake D.O.A., as the former wife of Dennis Quaid’s fated lead character, before enjoying a successful regular role as lawyer Linda Bauer on the ABC legal drama “Equal Justice” (1990). The great show, however, only had a short life, and after its cancellation moved to another series with a role as Karen Fisher on the CBS sitcom “Big Wave Dave’s” (1993). Unfortunately for her, the series also quickly departed the airwaves. The following year, she made guest appearances on the hit CBS courtroom dramas “L.A. Law” and “Law & Order.”
A stage trained performer, Kaczmarek took some time off from the screen to focus on theater work. She was cast as a Jewish woman who sends her daughter to Britain during the Holocaust era on the off-Broadway “Kindertransport” (1994) and for her bright turn as a self-loathing psychologist in the Nicky Silver absurdist comedy “Raised in Captivity” (1995) at South Coast Repertory Theatre, she nabbed a Los Angeles Drama for Featured Performance. She was handed an Ovation when she reprised her “Kindertransport” role for a 1996 run at West Hollywood’s Tiffany Theater. However, in 1996, Kaczmarek was well-remembered to TV viewers as the tough but friendly traffic police officer on an episode of the NBC comedy “Frasier.” Still in 1996, she also gave a powerful supporting turn in the movie The Chamber, a legal thriller whose casts including Chris O’Donnell, Gene Hackman and Faye Dunaway.
After returning to her ill-treated-wife roots in the indie-drama Wildly Available (1997) as well as portraying the mother of Tobey Maguire and Reese Witherspoon in Gary Ross’ delightful fantasy Pleasantville (1998), Kaczmarek snatched a recurring role as Carol Anderson on The WB’s drama “Felicity.” She played the confronted and conflicted birth mother of confidante Julie, the title character’s fellow college student, from 1999 to 2000.
It was also in 2000 that Kaczmarek eventually made it big when she landed the role of the harassed, edgy mother of four on Lois on the surprise hit sitcom “Malcolm in the Middle,” which starred Frankie Muniz on the title role. During her stint on the show (2000 until it ended in 2006), she collected seven consecutive Emmy nominations for Best Actress in a Comedy Series, three Golden Globe nominations for Best Performance by an Actress in a TV-Series - Comedy/Musical, as well as several other nominations. She won two Television Critics Association for Individual Achievement in Comedy (2000 and 2001), a 2001 Family Television, a 2001 American Comedy for Funniest Female Performer in a TV Series (Leading Role) Network, Cable or Syndication and a 2004 Satellite for Best Performance by an Actress in a Series, Comedy or Musical.
Kaczmarek played Valerie Estess on the television film Jenifer (2001), provided the vocal for Judge Constance Harm on the popular cartoon series “The Simpsons” (2001-2005), and after the demise of “Malcolm,” portrayed Anne Hoffman on the series “Help Me Help You” (2006). She will appear on the reality TV Backstage: Hollywood Fashion (2007), as the co-founder of Clothes Off Our Back, the charity she formed in 2002 with husband Bradley Whitford.
- Satellite: Best Performance by an Actress in a Series, Comedy or Musical, “Malcolm in the Middle,” 2004
- American Comedy: Funniest Female Performer in a TV Series (Leading Role) Network, Cable or Syndication, “Malcolm in the Middle,” 2001
- Family Television: Actress, “Malcolm in the Middle,” 2001
- Television Critics Association: Individual Achievement in Comedy, “Malcolm in the Middle,” 2001
- Television Critics Association: Individual Achievement in Comedy, “Malcolm in the Middle,” 2000
- Ovation: Featured Actress (Play), “Kindertransport,” 1996
- Los Angeles Drama Critics: Featured Performance, “Raised in Captivity,” 1996