“When I got the job on 'Saturday Night Live', they never said, ‘You have to be a known impressionist.’ It’s one of those things that comes with the job and you’re lucky if you can do it. I’ve been doing it my whole life. I just didn’t notice I was doing it.” Maya Rudolph
American comedian and actress Maya Rudolph rose to TV stardom thanks to her participation on the NBC comedy series “Saturday Night Live” from May 2000 to November 2007. As one of the most recognizable stars on the show, she impersonated many celebrities like Donatella Versace, Whitney Houston, Liza Minelli and Barbara Streisand, to name a few, and created such memorable characters as Britannica, Megan, Charli Coffee and Mrs. Denmont. For her efforts, Rudolph was handed a 2006 Golden Satellite nomination and a 2007 Image nomination.
Multi-talented Rudolph got her start as a keyboard player in the funk band Supersauce before joining the rock group The Rentals in the mid-1990s, where she sang backup vocals and played the keyboard. After the group broke up, she embarked on her comedy career by joining the famed troupe the Groundlings. Shortly thereafter, she began her stint on “SNL.”
As an actress, Rudolph made her debut in five episodes of the CBS series “Chicago Hope” (1996-1997). She next appeared in the movies “Gattaca” (1997), “As Good as It Gets” (1997), “Chuck & Buck” (2000), “Duets” (2000), “Duplex” (2003) and “50 First Dates” (2004). She also scored a regular role on the brief-lived show “City of Angels” (2000). Rudolph received her first major film role in Robert Altman's “A Prairie Home Companion” (2006), from which she netted a Gotham nomination. Her more recent and upcoming film credits include “Idiocracy” (2006), “Shrek the Third (2007, voiced Rapunzel), “Away We Go” (2009), “Grown Ups” (2010) and “Shrek Forever After” (2010). She revisited the small screen after leaving “SNL” in “Kath and Kim” (2008-2009), where she played the recurring role of Athena Scooberman.
As for her personal life, Rudolph has been in a relationship with director Paul Thomas Anderson since 2001. They have a young daughter named Pearl Minnie Anderson. In May 2009, Rudolph announced via the NBC daytime talk show “The View” that she is expecting her second child with Anderson.
The self-described worrier and nail biter ranked No. 2 on the Entertainment Weekly list of “Funniest People in America” in April 2004.
Childhood and Family:
Maya Khabira Rudolph was born on July 27, 1972, in Gainesville, Florida. The daughter of Richard Rudolph, a composer, songwriter and music producer, and Minnie Ripperton, a soul singer, her family moved to California when she was a young child to further launch her mother's career. It was in California that her mother recorded her best-known song, “Lovin' You” (1975), which was created for Maya when she was a baby. Maya’s mother died of breast cancer on July 12, 1979. The death, combined with her multiracial upbringing, had an effect on Maya's life. “My mom was black and my dad is Jewish and I lost my mom when I was seven. That made me feel really different from other kids,” she revealed.
Known by the nickname Rudy, Maya was educated at St. Augustine By-the-Sea Episcopal Day School in Santa Monica, California, in which she met childhood friend Gwyneth Paltrow. The girls' fathers were old friends from Tulane University. Maya next attended the Crossroads School for Arts and Science in Santa Monica, California. She later attended the University of California at Santa Cruz, where she majored in photography. She earned her BA in 1994.
Maya is a vegetarian. On October 15, 2005, she welcomed her first child, daughter Pearl Minnie Anderson, with companion Paul Thomas Anderson, a film and music video director. The couple is expecting their second child.
Maya has an older brother named Marc. He is a music engineer.
A Prairie Home Companion
“When I was a little girl, I would stand on the side of the stage and watch my mom singing out there in beautiful gowns. She was such a diva in the most exquisite sense. I always had the idea of wanting to be on stage in those beautiful gowns, with a microphone in my hand, and that comes from my mom.” Maya Rudolph
Raised in California, Maya Rudolph was exposed to show business early and by age 4, had done her first impersonation of Roseanne Roseannadanna, a character played by “Saturday Night Live” cast member Gilda Radner, while she and her family watched the sketch comedy series on NBC. During her childhood, she also performed in local theater productions.
Rudolph's gift and passion for performing later led her to music. During her years in college, she joined forces with friends and fellow classmates to form the band Supersauce, in which she played the keyboard. She left the group when she graduated and then joined the band The Rentals. She toured with the group in the U.S. and Europe during the mid-1990s, during which time The Rentals became an opening act for The Red Hot Chili Peppers, Garbage, and Alanis Morissette. Also a backup vocalist, Rudolph's vocals could be heard in the song “Barcelona” and “My Head is in the Sun” from the group’s second album “Seven More Minutes” (1999).
A long break between The Rentals' first and second albums left the creative Rudolph looking for other opportunities, and she chose acting. She made her TV acting debut as Nurse Leah Martine in five episodes of the CBS series “Chicago Hope,” a role she played from 1996 to 1997. She went on to appear in the movies “Gattaca,” with Ethan Hawke and Uma Thurman, and “As Good As It Gets,” alongside Jack Nicholson, Helen Hunt and Greg Kinnear. She was also seen in the ABC television movie “The Devil's Child” (all 1997).
Maya was next directed by Michael Lembeck in the ABC television movie “True Love” (1999), played Jordan Brighten in the 40-minute drama “A Glance Away” (1999), which was directed and written by Brin Hill, and appeared in episodes of “MTV's Undressed” and “Action” (both also 1999).
Following a world tour to promote “Seven More Minutes,” The Rental disbanded and Rudolph decided to pursue her first love, comedy. She joined the Groundlings, the L.A-based improvisational troupe widely known for leap-starting the careers of “SNL” luminaries like Will Ferrell, Jon Lovitz, Conan O'Brien, Ana Gasteyer, Phil Hartman, Will Forte, Chris Kattan, Laraine Newman, Julia Sweeney and Chris Parnell. In one of her performances, she caught the attention of “SNL” producer Steve Higgins and was invited to audition for the show. She joined the cast of “SNL” during its 25th season in 2000.
First hired as a featured performer, Rudolph introduced notable characters such as Britannica and Megan and performed impressive impersonations of fashion diva Donatella Versace and others. By the beginning of the show's 2001-2002 season, she had progressed to a regular cast member with a string of unforgettable characters like Beertje Van Beers, drunk nightclub singer Charli Coffee, Mrs. Denmont, Tuhnay Griggs, and Rebecca from “Fiesta Politica.” She also impersonated a large number of celebrities, including Beyoncé Knowles, Halle Berry, Diana Ross, Jennifer Lopez, Barbara Streisand, Lisa Kudrow, Paris Hilton, Lucy Liu, Nelly Furtado, Christina Aguilera, Whitney Houston and Liza Minelli.
While on “SNL,” Rudolph managed to do other projects out side of the show. She was cast in the supporting role of Jamilla in the indie-drama “Chuck and Buck” (2000) and reunited with longtime friend Gwyneth Paltrow for the karaoke comedy “Duets” (2000), which was helmed by Paltrow's father. In addition to portraying a supporting role as a hostess, she also served as a music supervisor. The same year, she also had a regular role on the short-lived series “City of Angels” (CBS), playing Nurse Grace Patterson. The next year, she provided the voice of Oprah in “Safari Day,” an episode of “TV Funhouse,” and appeared in the award winning short “Frank's Book,” which starred John C. Reilly.
Rudolph resumed her film career by taking the substantial supporting roles of Tara and Stacy in the Drew Barrymore vehicles “Duplex” (2003), helmed by Danny DeVito, and “50 First Dates” (2004), respectively. In 2005, she received a Golden Satellite nomination for Best Actress in a Series, Comedy or Musical for her work on “SNL.” Later that same year, Rudolph took a break from the show to have a baby. She returned to the show in February 2006.
Rudolph played Molly in the Robert Altman comedy “A Prairie Home Companion” (2006), from which she jointly picked up a Gotham nomination for Best Ensemble Cast. 2006 also saw her in the Mike Judge sci-fi comedy “Idiocracy,” costarring with Luke Wilson, and an episode of “Campus Lady” called “All Nighter.” In 2007, Rudolph voiced Rapunzel in the animated movie “Shrek the Third,” which starred the voices of Mike Myers as Shrek and Cameron Diaz as Princess Fiona. She later provided her voice for an episode of “The Simpsons” titled “Homer of Seville.”
The Gainesville, Florida, native made her last appearance on “SNL” on November 3, 2007. By this time, the show had brought her a 2007 Image nomination in the category of Outstanding Actress in a Comedy Series. She would return to the show as a featured guest in October 2008 and December 2008 and perform two sketches in the 2008/2009 season finale, with host Will Ferrell and musical guest Green Day. The episode aired on May 16, 2009.
Fans could also see Rudolph in the 2008 short musical “Prop 8: The Musical,” which was directed by Adam Shankman. She then played the recurring role of Athena Scooberman in four episodes of the comedy series “Kath and Kim” (2008-2009).
Recently, Rudolph starred with John Krasinski in Sam Mendes' “Away We Go,” which premiered at the Edinburgh Film Festival on June 17, 2009. She will team up with Adam Sandler, Maria Bello, Salma Hayek, Kevin James, Rob Schneider, David Spade and Chris Rock in the upcoming comedy “Grown Ups” (2010), directed by Dennis Dugan. She will also reprise her voice role of Rapunzel in “Shrek Forever After,” which is slated to be released on May 21, 2010.