Without A Trace
American actress Talia Balsam, the daughter of the late actor Martin Balsam and actress Joyce Van Patten, has worked extensively on both the small and large screen since making her acting debut in 1977. Starting out guest starring in such hit TV shows as “Happy Days” (1977) and “Taxi” (1978), the native of New Yorker went on to appear in such TV series as “Family Ties” (1983) and “Punky Brewster” (1984). She later attracted attention with appearances in popular TV shows like “thirtysomething” (1990), “Murder, She Wrote” (1990) and “Law & Order” (2 episodes, 1992, 1996). Balsam also had recurring roles in “L.A. Doctors” (1998-1999) and “K Street” (2003), but she is perhaps best recalled by TV viewers for playing Anthony LaPaglia's estranged and devious wife, Maria Malone, on CBS' “Without a Trace,” a role she played from 2003 to 2004. More recently, she portrayed Mona Sterling on “Mad Men” (2007-2008), opposite husband John Slattery. Balsam has also acted in many TV films, including “Survival of Dana” (1979), “Consenting Adult” (1985), “The Ladies” (1987), “The Companion” (1994), and “Into the Fire” (2005).
As a film actress, Balsam, who made her debut in 1979's “Sunnyside,” has collected a number of credits, among them “Mass Appeal” (1984, with Jack Lemmon), “Crawlspace” (1986, with Klaus Kinski), “In the Mood” (1987, with Patrick Dempsey), “Camp Stories” (1997, with Jerry Stiller), “Little Manhattan” (2005, with Bradley Whitford and Cynthia Nixon), “All the King's Men” (2006, with Sean Pean and Anthony Hopkins), “Cake Eaters” (2007, with Bruce Dern) and “The Wackness” (2008, with Ben Kingsley). She will team up with Kevin Pollack for the upcoming drama “Choose” (2009).
On stage, Balsam is a Theater World Award winner thanks to her good acting in the Broadway production of Neil Simon’s “Jake’s Women.”
This brunette beauty has been married twice. She was married to actor/director/writer/producer George Clooney from 1989 to 1993. She and present husband, actor John Slattery, whom she married in late 1998, share one child.
Childhood and Family:
Talia Balsam was born on January 1, 1960, in New York, New York, to actors Martin Balsam (born on November 4, 1919; died on February 13, 1996 of a heart attack) and Joyce Van Patten (born on March 9, 1934). From her mother's side, she is the niece of actor Dick Van Patten (born on December 9, 1928) and actress Patricia Van Patten. Her cousins are actors Vincent Van Patten (born on October 17, 1957), James Van Patten (born on October 7, 1956) and Nels Van Patten (born in 1955). Talia attended Treehaven School, a boarding school in Tucson, Arizona, from 1971 to 1974.
At age 29, on December 15, 1989, Talia married actor George Clooney in Las Vegas. The marriage, however, only had a short life when the couple divorced in September 1993. Engaged in April 1998, Talia married actor John Slattery on December 30, 1998. They have one child together.
Though she was born into a show business family, Talia Balsam did not start her screen career until age 17 with small roles in the made-for-TV film “Alexander: The Other Side of Dawn” (1977) and the ABC popular comedy series “Happy Days” (1977), where she played Nancy Croft. She also appeared in one episode of the first season of the drama “Rosetti and Ryan” (1977), starring Tony Roberts and Squire Fridell. She continued to appear in a series of TV movies throughout the 1970s, including the thriller “The Initiation of Sarah” (1978), the remake “The Millionaire” (1978), which starred her father, and “Survival of Dana” (1979), in which she supported Melissa Sue Anderson, Robert Carradine and Marion Ross. Her big screen debut arrived when she landed a small role in the independent feature “Sunnyside” (1979), starring John Travolta's brother, Joey Travolta.
Balsam became even busier during the following decade. Apart from her reoccurring role on the hit series “Taxi,” in which she portrayed Cathy Consuelos, the long-lost daughter of Alex Reiger (played by Judd Hirsch) from 1978 to 1980, the young aspiring actress made several television films like “Kent State” (1981), the Emmy-nominated biopic “Calamity Jane” (1984, starred Jane Alexander), “Consenting Adult” (1985, opposite Marlo Thomas, Martin Sheen and Barry Tubb), “The Ladies” (1987), a sentimental drama in which she starred as a new widow who moves in with her daughter, and “Tales from the Hollywood Hills: Golden Land” (1988). She also guest starred in such television series as “Hill Street Blues” (1982), “Family Ties” (1983), “Magnum, P.I.” (1984), “Punky Brewster” (1984) and “Tour of Duty” (1988). Balsam then supported Jack Lemmon in the drama feature “Mass Appeal” (1984), scripted by Bill C. Davis from his play, costarred with Maxwell Caulfield and Nichelle Nichols in the science fiction film “The Supernaturals” (1986) and starred as Lori Bancroft in director/writer David Schmoeller's “Crawlspace” (1986, opposite Klaus Kinski). Her other film credits include the horror film “The Kindred” (1987), for which she teamed up with David Allen Brooks, Rod Steiger and Amanda Pays, the 1940s-set comedy “In the Mood” (1987), costarring Patrick Dempsey, and the indie-comedy “Trust Me” (1989), alongside Adam Ant and David Packer.
In the early 1990s, Balsam offered a notable performance as Paige in an episode of “thirtysomething” called “Pulling Away.” She went on to guest star in “Murder, She Wrote” (1990), “Life Goes On” (1991), “Jake and the Fatman” (1991), “The Larry Sanders Show” (1993), “Mad About You” (1993), “Diagnosis Murder” (1995) and “Touched by an Angel” (1995). She played the role of Jeannie Guthrie on three episodes of the short-lived sitcom “Almost Perfect” in 1995 and had a memorable turn as Teri Marks in an episode of the NBC hit series “Law & Order” in 1996. Balsam also acted in the movies “The Walter Ego” (1991), “Killer Instinct” (1991) and “Coldblooded (1995), a black comedy starring Jason Priestley as a mob bookie named Cosmo. She then appeared in the made-for-TV films “Sins of the Mother” (1991), “The Companion” (1994) and “Shame II: The Secret” (1995).
Following a guest spot in “Early Edition” (1997), Balsam returned to features after two years absence in the 1997 indie-comedy “Camp Stories,” which was directed and written by Herbert Beigel and starred Elliott Gould and Jerry Stiller. Also in 1997, she appeared twice as Monica Sikes on the NBC drama series “Profiler.” She was then cast as Julie Lonner in the brief drama series “L.A. Doctors” (1998-1999), which won a 1999 People's Choice for Favorite Television New Dramatic Series. She closed out the decade with a small role in the drama feature “Valerie Lake,” starring Susan Traylor, and a guest role in “Ally McBeal.”
Entering the new millennium, Balsam appeared as Mrs. Mason in a 2000 episode of “The $treet,” which was followed two years later with a small part in the mystery “Emmett's Mark.” She next guest starred in “Third Watch” (2003) and portrayed Gail in four episodes of the HBO improvised series “K Street” (2003), starring Mary McCormack and Balsam's husband, John Slattery. From 2003 to 2004, she had the reoccurring role of Maria Malone, the alienated wife of Jack Malone (played by Anthony LaPaglia), on the CBS successful drama series “Without A Trace.”
In 2005, Balsam appeared with Sean Patrick Flanery and Melina Kanakaredes in the made-for-TV film “Into the Fire,” her first TV movie after 10 years. The same year also saw her playing Jackie Telesco in the Mark Levin-directed comedy feature “Little Manhattan,” starring young actors Josh Hutcherson and Charlie Ray, and appearing in the pilot “Commander in Chief” with Geena Davis for ABC. The next year, she costarred with big names like Sean Pean, Jude Law, Anthony Hopkins, Kate Winslet, James Gandolfini and Kathy Baker in the Toronto-premiered “All the King's Men” (2006), which was based on the 1947 Pulitzer Prize winner of the same name by Robert Penn Warren, and appeared as Victoria Carson in a single episode of “Law & Order: Criminal Intent.”
Balsam next played the role of Violet in “Cake Eaters,” which debuted at the Tribeca Film Festival on April 29, 2007. Directed by Mary Stuart Masterson, the drama also starred Aaron Stanford, Bruce Dern, Elizabeth Ashley, Jayce Bartok and Miriam Shor. She then supported Ben Kingsley, Famke Janssen, Josh Peck and Olivia Thirlby in the Jonathan Levine comedy “The Wackness,” which premiered at the Sundance Film Festival on January 18, 2008. On the small screen, from July 2007 to September 2008, Balsam played the role of Mona, the wife of Roger Sterling (played by her real life husband) on the American Movie Classics (AMC) drama series “Mad Men.”
Talia will play soon Clarissa in the drama feature “Choose” (2009), which is being directed by Robert Legato and co-scripted by Brandon Camp and Mike Thompson. Among her costars in the film are Katheryn Winnick, Bruce Dern and Kevin Pollak.
In addition to her film and television work, Balsam has also acted in several stage productions. She won a Theater World Award for a performance in the Broadway production of Neil Simon’s “Jake’s Women” and picked up a L.A. Weekly Award for “Vicious.” Other theater credits include John Patrick Shanley’s “Psychopathia Sexualis,” “Hand to Hand” and “Naked Angels.”
Theater World Award: “Jake’s Women”