American actress and producer Nancy Valen, sometimes credited as Nancy Valin and Nancy Van Patten, is perhaps most popular for playing lifeguard Samantha Thomas in “Baywatch,” a role she held from 1996 to 1997. She previously portrayed Melinda Weaver in the daytime soap opera “Ryan's Hope” (1985-1987) and Donna Breedlove on “Hull High” (1990). She has also guest starred in episodes of “Miami Vice,” “Saved by the Bell,” “Murder, She Wrote,” “Walker, Texas Ranger,” “Silk Stalkings,” “Friends,” “CSI: Crime Scene Investigation” and “Spin City.” Valen's movie credits include “The Heavenly Kid” (1985), “The Big Picture” (1989), “Loverboy” (1989), “Listen to Me” (1989), “Final Embrace” (1992), “Black Thunder” (1998), “Written in Blood” (2002) and “The Wager” (2007). In addition to acting, she has produced several TV programs, including “Living in TV Land,” “Chasing Sarah,” “William Shatner in Concert” and “Let's Kill Scott Baio.”
Valen has been married to actor Nels Van Patten since 1994. She is close friends with her former “Baywatch” costar Yasmine Bleeth.
Childhood and Family:
Nancy Valen was born on December 16, 1965, in Hallandale, Florida. When she was 12 years old, she began spending her summers modeling in New York City and also studied acting at the HB Studios under Uta Hagen. She graduated from a performing arts high school in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida, and won a theatrical scholarship to the University of Florida. She, however, turned down the scholarship to pursue her career in Miami where she studied theatre at Broward Community College. After one year of college, Nancy pursued her ambitions in New York and later Los Angeles.
On October 9, 1994, Nancy married Nels Van Patten, the son of actor Dick Van Patten.
Nancy Valen received her first taste in front of the film cameras when she was cast as Ginger in the comedy “Porky's Revenge” (1985), starring Dan Monahan, Wyatt Knight and Tony Ganios. Directed by James Komack, the film was shot in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. She followed it up with a supporting role in “The Heavenly Kid” (also 1985), starring Lewis Smith, Jason Gedrick and Jane Kaczmarek. The same year, Valen made her television debut with an unaccredited part in an episode of “Miami Vice” called “Rites of Passage.” A month later, she was invited to return to the show, this time playing Lana in the episode “The Home Invaders.”
After moving to New York, Valen received a role on the ABC long running, but now defunct, soap “Ryan's Hope,” playing Melinda Weaver Ryan. She was on the show from 1985 to 1987 before heading to Los Angeles to find other opportunities.
In 1988, Valen guest starred as Tammy in “Charles in Charge,” an American sitcom starring Scott Baio. She next appeared as Selina Williams Waverly in an episode of “Murder, She Wrote” called “Night of the Tarantula” (1989), which marked her first appearance on the show. She would later return for the 1992 episode “Danse Diabolique,” playing Lily Roland. She also appeared as Erika Eleniak's friend, Hallie, in an episode of “Baywatch” called “Panic at Malibu Pier.”
Also in 1989, Valen resumed her film career by portraying a young Sharon in the Christopher Guest directed “The Big Picture,” which was a commercial disappointment. She went on to play Jenny Gordon, the girlfriend of Patrick Dempsey's Randy Bodek, in the comedy “Loverboy,” by Joan Micklin Silver. Costars of the film included Kate Jackson, Kirstie Alley, Carrie Fisher and Robert Ginty. In “Listen to Me,” a drama written and directed by Douglas Day Stewart that starred Kirk Cameron, Jami Gertz and Roy Scheider, she had the small role of Mia.
In 1990, Valen landed the regular role of Donna Breedlove on the NBC teen drama series “Hull High,” which was created and executive produced by Gil Grant. Premiering on August 20, 1990, the show was canceled after eight episodes. She next received guest spots in “Save by the Bell” (1990), “The Young Riders” (1991), “Full House” (1991), “Silk Stalkings” (1993 and 1994), “Fortune Hunter” (1994), “Walker, Texas Ranger” (1994), “Boy Meets World” (1994) and “Friends” (1995). She also appeared as Jennifer in the pilot of “Hardball” (1994) and made her television movie debut with “Perry Mason: The Case of the Fatal Framing” (NBC, 1994), opposite Raymond Burr, Barbara Hale and William R. Moses. Valen next costarred with Robert Rusler and her soon-to-be father-in-law, Dick Van Patten, in the thriller “Final Embrace” (1992), which was co-written by Jim Wynorsky, starred in the Canadian comedy “Little Devils: The Birth” (1993) and appeared with Rod Steiger, Susan Blakely and Molly Ringwald in the French production “Tous les jours dimanche” (1994), which was written and directed by Jean-Charles Tacchella.
Valen's big break arrived when she returned to the David Hasselhoff action series “Baywatch” in the regular role of Samantha Thomas. She appeared on the show from September 1996 to May 1997 and while on the series, made a guest appearance in an episode of “Viper” (1997).
After leaving “Baywatch,” Valen received a small role in the independent film “Black Thunder” (1998), starring Marcus Aurelius, Catherine Bell and Michael Cavanaugh, portrayed Leslie in a 1999 episode of UPN's “Love Boat: The Next Wave,” based on the ABC sitcom “The Love Boat,” and was featured in the 2000 comedy film “The Funky,” which was helmed by her brother-in-law Vincent Van Patten. Another brother-in-law, James Van Patten, also co-wrote the screenplay and starred in the film. Valen then appeared as Detective Angela Archer/Angel of Death in an episode of the Sci-Fi Channel “Black Scorpion” called “Kiss of Death” (2001), in the “CSI: Crime Scene Investigation” episode “Burden of Proof” (2002), and as Ashley in “Sex, Lies and Video Date” (2002), an episode of “Spin City.” She was also cast as Michael T. Weiss' wife, Mary, in the dramatic film “Written in Blood” (2002), for director John Terlesky and writer David Keith Miller. The film starred Weiss and Peter Coyote as Detective Matthew Ransom and his partner and friend, Detective John Traveller, respectively.
Valen put acting on the backburner when she began a second career as a producer. She founded the production company Windmill Entertainment, with Craig J. Nevius, and made her producing debut with the TV documentary series “Living in TV Land” (2004), which was written and directed by her partner Nevius. She went on to produce the TV series “Chasing Sarah” (2005), the TV special “William Shatner in Concert” (2006) and “Let's Kill Scott Baio” (2006).
In 2007, Valen revisited acting with the supporting role of Tanya Steele in the Christian dramatic film “The Wager,” an adaptation of the novel of the same name by Bill Myers. Directed and scripted by Judson Pearce Morgan, the film received negative reviews.