Martha Plimpton

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Martha Plimpton
Martha Plimpton.jpg
Martha Plimpton, May 23, 2010
Born Martha Campbell Plimpton
(1970-11-16) November 16, 1970 (age 44)
New York, NY
Occupation Actress, singer, model
Years active 1981–present

Martha Plimpton is an American stage, film, and television actress, singer, and former model. Her feature film debut was in The River Rat (1984) before rising to prominence in the Richard Donner film The Goonies (1985). She has also appeared in The Mosquito Coast (1986), Running on Empty (1988), Parenthood (1989) and Small Town Murder Songs (2011).

She is recognized on Broadway for her roles in The Coast of Utopia (2006–2007), Top Girls (2007–2008), Pal Joey (2008–2009) and Shining City (2006–2007). She has performed in theatre productions of The Playboy of the Western World, A Midsummer Night's Dream, The Glass Menagerie, The Sisters Rosensweig, and Uncle Vanya. She returns to Broadway in the fall of 2014 in a revival of A Delicate Balance co-starring Glenn Close and John Lithgow.[1]

Plimpton most recently played Virginia Chance on the Fox sitcom Raising Hope, which earned her a Primetime Emmy Award nomination for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Comedy Series.[2] She has also received three Tony Award nominations as well as a Primetime Emmy Award nomination for Outstanding Guest Actress in a Drama Series in 2002. She won an Emmy for the same category in 2012 as attorney Patti Nyholm in the CBS legal drama The Good Wife.

Early life[edit]

Further information: Carradine family

Plimpton is the daughter of Keith Carradine and Shelley Plimpton.[3] Her parents met while performing in the original Broadway run of Hair. Her paternal grandfather was actor John Carradine and she is the niece of Robert and David Carradine.[citation needed] She is a "very distant" cousin of writer and editor George Plimpton,[4][5] and, despite the different spelling, cartoonist Bill Plympton.[6] She attended the Professional Children's School in Manhattan.[7] Her first stage appearance was when her mother brought her on stage in costume for the curtain call of the short-lived Broadway play The Leaf People then another play in "The Ass and the Heart."[8]



Plimpton began her career as a model, securing an early 1980s campaign for Calvin Klein, making an impression as a sophisticated but tomboyish little girl. She made her feature film debut in 1981, when at the age of eleven, she had a small part in the film Rollover. In 1984, she appeared in the Deep South drama The River Rat opposite Tommy Lee Jones. Her breakthrough performance was as Stef Steinbrenner in the 1985 film The Goonies. She also appeared that year on the sitcom Family Ties.

This began a trend of Plimpton being typecast in the role of a rebellious tomboy, beginning with her critically lauded performance as the Reverend Spellgood (Andre Gregory)'s daughter in the 1986 film The Mosquito Coast, starring Harrison Ford. The critically praised but commercially unsuccessful 1987 film Shy People (co-starred with Barbara Hershey and Jill Clayburgh) was followed by a performance in the 1988 ensemble comedy Stars and Bars. This was released shortly before Running on Empty, an Academy Award-nominated film starring River Phoenix, for which she was nominated for a Young Artist Award.

She began a career trend, making small independent film appearances with supporting roles in big-budget films. She appeared in the 1989 Woody Allen film Another Woman; that year, she co-starred with Jami Gertz as a cancer patient in the German film Zwei Frauen (released in America as Silence Like Glass). The film was nominated for Outstanding Feature Film at the German Film Awards. Plimpton shaved her head to play a cancer patient in Zwei Frauen, and her reputation for playing rebellious teenagers secured her the role of the indignant teenage daughter (who shaves her head) of Dianne Wiest in Parenthood. Plimpton appeared with Joaquin Phoenix (then credited as Leaf Phoenix), who portrayed her brother. Parenthood grossed over $126 million and received two Academy Award nominations, her most successful movie appearance since The Goonies.


In 1991, Plimpton appeared in the Robert De Niro film Stanley & Iris in a supporting role. She also appeared in the TV movie A Woman At War as the lead, Helene Moskiewicz alongside Eric Stoltz.[citation needed]

In 1992, Plimpton appeared as a lesbian terrorist in the independent film Inside Monkey Zetterland. She played the starring role in the film Samantha.[citation needed]

The success of Samantha garnered Plimpton a variety of roles in 1993. She appeared with Cuba Gooding, Jr., in the television film Daybreak and was a part of the largely improvised television film Chantilly Lace. She had a featured role in the big-budget films Josh and S.A.M. and played the lead in the critically blasted film adaptation of the Carolyn Chute novel The Beans of Egypt, Maine. Plimpton also appeared as herself in the independent film My Life's in Turnaround, a movie about filmmakers trying to make a movie. Plimpton continued to appear in featured roles in both independent films and mainstream movies from 1994 through 1997, most notably as a close friend of radical feminist Valerie Solanas in the film I Shot Andy Warhol.[citation needed]

In 1997, the Showtime Network cast Plimpton as the female lead in the television film, The Defenders: Payback. This show was a retooling of the classic television show by the same name, and the characters were descendants of Lawrence Preston, a role reprised by actor E.G. Marshall. The intent was to spin the program off as a series akin to Law & Order, but Marshall died in 1998. Two more episodes (The Defenders: Choice of Evils and The Defenders: Taking the First) were aired that year. The decision was made to not continue production (despite high ratings and critical praise) due to Marshall's death.[citation needed]

Plimpton became involved with The Steppenwolf Theatre Company in Chicago, appearing in Hedda Gabler (2001) among others.[9] In 1998 she appeared in the John Waters film Pecker; the film was lambasted but Plimpton's work was praised.[citation needed] This also happened with the 1999 film, 200 Cigarettes.[citation needed] In 1999, Plimpton had a recurring role in the sixth season of the NBC medical drama ER as Meg Corwyn.[citation needed]


In 2001, she co-starred with Jacqueline Bisset in The Sleepy Time Gal, and nominated for the Grand Jury Prize at Cannes Film Festival.[citation needed]

In 2002, she appeared in the documentary Searching for Debra Winger and nominated for a Primetime Emmy Award[10] for her guest appearance on the television drama Law & Order: Special Victims Unit. Plimpton was the voice of Miss Crumbles in the 2004 animated film Hair High by Bill Plympton. In 2004, she guest-starred on an episode of 7th Heaven; she received her first writing credit for a different episode of the show that year entitled "Red Socks". She continues to act in television, film and on stage. She had a recurring role on the NBC show Surface (2005–06).[citation needed]

Plimpton attending the 63rd Tony Awards, 2009

From October 2006 until May 2007, she was in The Coast of Utopia, a trilogy of plays by Tom Stoppard at the Lincoln Center. For her work she won a Drama Desk Award and was nominated for a Tony award. In October 2007 Plimpton completed a starring role in A Midsummer Night's Dream on Broadway in New York City. She then began rehearsing for the play Cymbeline.[citation needed] She co-founded a production company, Everything is Horrible, which has produced short films for the Internet.

Plimpton received her second nomination for a Tony Award in 2008, Best Performance by a Featured Actress In a Play, for her work in Top Girls at the Biltmore Theater.[11]

In November 2008, she earned rave reviews as Gladys Bumps in the Roundabout Theatre Company production of the Rodgers and Hart musical Pal Joey on Broadway and garnered her third consecutive Tony nomination, for Best Featured Actress in a Musical.[citation needed]

Plimpton appeared in the 2008 Entertainment Weekly photo issue spread as one of "The Hardest Working Actors In Showbiz." she appears In the spread with Lance Reddick, Celia Weston, John Slattery, Bobby Cannavale, James Rebhorn, Lynn Cohen, Matt Servitto and Bob Balaban. Plimpton said in the write-up "I went to jury duty the other day, and somebody said, 'You always play drug addicts!' I've played a few on TV, and I imagine because the shows get replayed, it seems like more. But yeah, people tend to see me as this pregnant teenage heroin addict."[12]


In November 2009, Plimpton signed on for the Fox sitcom Raising Hope. The show premiered on September 21, 2010, receiving strong reviews for Plimpton and the pilot. The New York Times called Raising Hope "the most promising" of "the best new fall shows,"[13] and said "Plimpton isn't the only reason 'Raising Hope' could be the best new sitcom of the season, but she is the main reason."[14] On July 14, 2011, Plimpton was nominated for the Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Comedy Series for her portrayal as Virginia Chance in Raising Hope and submitted the episode "Say Cheese" on her behalf.

She guest starred in five episodes of CBS legal drama The Good Wife. She played attorney Patti Nyholm who appeared through four seasons. Her performance earned her a Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Guest Actress in a Drama Series in 2012.

Plimpton performed "God Bless America" during the seventh inning stretch of Game 3 of the 2010 World Series in Texas on Fox, October 30, 2010.[citation needed]

On December 15, 2010, Chicago's Steppenwolf Theatre announced that Plimpton will be the guest of honor at their second-annual "Salute to Women in the Arts".[15]

In 2010, starred in Ed Gass-Donnelly's independent, the crime thriller Small Town Murder Songs, and was given a trophy for best actress by the Whistler Film Festival.[16]

In 2014, Plimpton returns to Broadway as Julia, the daughter of Glenn Close and John Lithgow in a revival of Edward Albee's A Delicate Balance. The limited engagement runs 18 weeks at the Golden Theatre and co-stars Lindsay Duncan, Bob Balaban and Clare Higgins.[17]

Political campaigns[edit]

Plimpton is an abortion rights campaigner who has lobbied Congress on behalf of Planned Parenthood and is on the board of directors of "A Is For..."; according to the organization's website, Plimpton has been politicially active in abortion rights since her teenage years and speaks at campuses and rallies.[18]

In 2014, Plimpton wrote a lengthy article decrying both U.S. Supreme Court decisions in Burwell v. Hobby Lobby and McCullen v. Coakley and revealing in part that she herself has had an abortion more than once.[19] She wrote that her purpose was "A) to contribute to the dismantling of an oppressive, artificial and unfair shaming of women who seek abortion care, B) make clear just how normal, common, and healthy a decision it is for the women who make it, and C) to encourage women who are part of this one third to be unashamed and come out of the abortion closet."[19]

In this same article, Plimpton wrote:

"I wasn’t raped, but I didn’t have to be to know I had the right to terminate an unwanted and unplanned pregnancy. My health wasn’t compromised by pregnancy, but it didn’t have to be for me to know I have the right to decide when or if to have children. My pregnancies weren’t the result of incest or abuse of any kind, but they didn’t have to be for me to know I have the right to determine my own physical life and future. I wasn’t underage, but I didn’t have to be to know that having a kid at that time wasn’t right for me. And I wasn’t free of all emotion about it, but I didn’t have to be to know that my life has value, that I am a whole person, and that I come first when making decisions about what is best for me and what I am capable of."[19]

Other work[edit]

Plimpton is friends with singer Lucy Wainwright Roche. In 2008, she performed a duet with Roche on the E.P. 8 More singing the Bruce Springsteen song Hungry Heart.[citation needed] In 2010, she sang another Springsteen song, this time Thunder Road, on the public radio program Studio 360 with Kurt Andersen, accompanied by whistler Eric Gilliland.[20] She has appeared multiple times as a guest on public radio's The Leonard Lopate Show, and performed in a roast of Lopate celebrating the 25th anniversary of his radio program.[21]

Plimpton sits on the board of directors of The Players,[22] a New York City social club founded in 1888 by actor Edwin Booth. In 2009, she was profiled by The New York Times for their "A Night Out With..." series, in which Plimpton hosted an evening of poker at The Players.[23]

In January 2010, she performed a one-woman show, Martha Plimpton Sings? for the Lincoln Center's American Songbook program.[24] This show explored her experiences growing up in 1970s New York City. Her performance, well received by critics, included songs "Jolly Coppers on Parade", "Woman Is the Nigger of the World", and The Smiths's "Ask" tied together with humorous monologues.[25]

Plimpton also narrates audiobooks, notably the novels Diary by Chuck Palahniuk and Mrs. Kimble by Jennifer Haigh.[citation needed]

Media references[edit]

She is referenced in the Lawrence Arms song "Light Breathing (Me and Martha Plimpton in a Fancy Elevator)," a song detailing the singer unexpectedly stepping into an elevator with her, unable to overcome shyness to strike up a conversation.[citation needed]

Personal life[edit]

River Phoenix and Plimpton on the red carpet at the 61st Academy Awards, 1989

Plimpton is a member of the Carradine family.[26]

Plimpton became engaged to stage actor Jon Patrick Walker in March 1995. They planned to wed in April 1996, according to Plimpton's spokeswoman.[27] Shortly thereafter, Plimpton and Walker announced that they had called off their engagement.[citation needed]



The Public Theater's Shakespeare in the Park[edit]

Steppenwolf Theatre Company[edit]

Off Broadway[edit]

Seattle Repertory Theatre with Stephanie Hagarty[edit]

New York Philharmonic[edit]



Year Title Role Notes
1981 Rollover Fewster's Older Daughter
1984 The River Rat Jonsy
1985 The Goonies Stef Steinbrenner Nominated—Young Artist Award for Exceptional Performance by a Young Actress in a Motion Picture
1986 A Life in the Day
1986 The Mosquito Coast Emily Spellgood Nominated—Young Artist Award for Best Young Female Superstar in Motion Pictures
1987 Shy People Grace Nominated—Independent Spirit Award for Best Supporting Female
1988 Stars and Bars Bryant
1988 Running on Empty Lorna Phillips Nominated—Young Artist Award for Best Young Actress in a Motion Picture – Drama
1988 Another Woman Laura
1989 Zwei Frauen Claudia Jacoby
1989 Parenthood Julie Buckman-Higgins
1990 Stanley & Iris Kelly King
1992 A Blink of Paradise Mother
1992 Inside Monkey Zetterland Sofie
1992 Samantha Samantha
1993 The Perfect Woman
1993 Daybreak Laurie Television movie
1993 Josh and S.A.M. Alison (The Liberty Maid)
1993 My Life's in Turnaround Herself
1994 The Beans of Egypt, Maine Earlene Pomerleau
1994 Mrs. Parker and the Vicious Circle Jane Grant
1995 Last Summer in the Hamptons Chloe
1996 I Shot Andy Warhol Stevie
1996 Beautiful Girls Jan
1996 I'm Not Rappaport Laurie Campbell
1997 Colin Fitz Ann
1997 Eye of God Ainsley Dupree
1998 Music from Another Room Karen Swan
1998 Pecker Tina
1999 200 Cigarettes Monica
2001 The Sleepy Time Gal Rebecca
2004 Hair High Miss Crumbles Voice
2006 Marvelous Gwen
2007 Dante's Inferno Celia
2008 Gone to the Dogs Leslie
2008 Puppy Love Leslie
2010 I Thought About You Gloria
2010 Small Town Murder Songs Sam
2010 Remember Me Helen Craig Uncredited


Year Title Role Notes
1985 Family Ties Jessie Black Episode: "You've Got a Friend"
1999 ER Meg Corwin 4 episodes
2002 Law & Order: Special Victims Unit Claire Rinato Episode: "Denial"
Nominated—Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Guest Actress in a Drama Series
2003 Karen Sisco Chelsea Wentworth Episode: "The One That Got Away"
2003 Hack Louise O'Connor Episode: "Black Eye"
2004 7th Heaven Venus Episode: "Regret to Inform"
2006 Law & Order: Criminal Intent Jo Gage Episode: "Blind Spot"
2006 Surface Mr. Big/Dr. Morris 2 episodes
2009 Medium Rosemary Widdick Episode: "Pain Killer"
2009 Grey's Anatomy Pam Michaelson 2 episodes
2010 Fringe Sheriff Ann Mathis Episode: "Northwest Passage"
2010 How to Make It in America Edie Weitz 6 episodes
2010–2014 Raising Hope Virginia Chance 88 episodes
Satellite Award for Best Actress – Television Series Musical or Comedy
Nominated—Critics' Choice Television Award for Best Actress in a Comedy Series (2011–12)
Nominated—Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Comedy Series
2009–2013 The Good Wife Patti Nyholm 5 episodes
Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Guest Actress in a Drama Series
Nominated—Critics' Choice Television Award for Best Guest Performer in a Drama Series

Awards and recognition[edit]

Plimpton has garnered three consecutive Tony Award nominations: In 2007 for Best Featured Actress in a Play for her role in Top Girls, in the same category in 2008 for Coast of Utopia, and for Best Featured Actress in a Musical in 2009 for Pal Joey. In 2002, she received an Emmy Award nomination for her performance in Law & Order: Special Victims Unit. She received a Primetime Emmy Award nomination in 2011 for Best Lead Actress in a Comedy in the first season of Raising Hope. She submitted the episode "Say Cheese." Plimpton won the 2012 Emmy Award for Outstanding Guest Actress in a Drama Series as Patti Nyholm on The Good Wife.

Plimpton won the 2001 Obie Award for Outstanding Performance for Hobson's Choice. She also won the Drama Desk Award and the Outer Critic's Circle Award for Best Featured Actress in a Play in 2008 for her role in Coast of Utopia, and was nominated for a Drama Desk Award in 2009 for Pal Joey.

In film, Plimpton was nominated for three Young Artist Awards: Exceptional Performance by a Young Actress for Goonies, Best Young Female Superstar in Motion Pictures for The Mosquito Coast, and Best Young Actress in a Motion Picture for Running on Empty. She was nominated for an Independent Spirit Award in the Best Supporting Female category for her performance in Shy People.


  1. ^
  2. ^ "FOX Broadcasting Company – Raising Hope – Bios". August 20, 2012. 
  3. ^ IMBD [1]
  4. ^ Adams, Cindy "Cousins Who Miss, Kiss, Hiss and Dismiss" The New York Post, July 24, 2009 "Martha Plimpton on cousin George Plimpton: "There was no Plimpton competition. We encouraged each other. People see the Plimptons as stodgy, but there's this whole other Plimpton branch that's different. We're not all bankers."
  5. ^ Dayton (September 13, 1970). "New York Times 9-13-70". 
  6. ^ Plympton, Bill "But through my beautiful and talented cousin, Martha Plimpton (the star of Broadway), David, her uncle, was kind enough to do a starring voice in my wonderful film "Hair High."
  7. ^ Ryzik, Melena. "So Odd, but Lately in Classic Fashion", The New York Times, November 25, 2007. Retrieved November 25, 2007. "ON a break from rehearsals for “Cymbeline” at Lincoln Center Martha Plimpton dashed outside for a cigarette and immediately ran into a classmate from her alma mater, the nearby Professional Children’s School."
  8. ^ "Working in the Theatre" – April 2004 panel discussion at American Theatre Wing
  9. ^ Steppenwolf Theatre website company list
  10. ^ "Martha Plimpton Emmy Nominated". July 19, 2012. 
  11. ^ "– The American Theatre Wing's Tony Awards". 
  12. ^ "The Hardest Working Actors in Showbiz –". Entertainment Weekly. 
  13. ^ Stanley, Alessandra (September 9, 2010). "‘Raising Hope' and ‘Outsourced' Embrace Malaise". The New York Times. 
  14. ^ New York Times review of Raising Hope
  15. ^ "Theatre in Chicago website". 
  16. ^ Vlessing, Etan. "Small Town Murder Songs". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved May 27, 2011. 
  17. ^
  18. ^ "Board of Directors". A Is For... Retrieved 2015-02-04. 
  19. ^ a b c "Freedom Whore – Abortion, Shame, and The Right To Deny Me My Rights by Martha Plimpton". 
  20. ^ "Plimpton, Ritter, Diaz". Studio 360. May 14, 2010. 
  21. ^ "Rosie Perez, Martha Plimpton, et al. Set for A Leonard Lopate 25th Anniversary Roast". February 16, 2010. 
  22. ^ [2][dead link]
  23. ^ Rothstein, Mervyn (February 1, 2009). "Old Hand, New Hands". The New York Times. 
  24. ^ Bougerol, Elizabeth (January 5, 2010). "Hot Ticket: Martha Plimpton Sings?". NBC New York. 
  25. ^ Suskin, Steven (January 18, 2010). "Martha Plimpton Sings?". 
  26. ^
  27. ^ Shaw, Jessica (March 17, 1995). "MONITOR –". Entertainment Weekly. 
  28. ^ Evans, Suzy (November 28, 2014). "Martha Plimpton on Returning to Broadway in 'A Delicate Balance'". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved December 9, 2014. 

External links[edit]