Blair Brown

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Blair Brown
Brown at Wondercon, March 2012
Bonnie Blair Brown

(1946-04-23) April 23, 1946 (age 77)
Alma materNational Theatre School of Canada
Years active1971–present
PartnerRichard Jordan (1976–1985)

Bonnie Blair Brown (born April 23, 1946)[1] is an American theater, film and television actress. She has had a number of high-profile roles, including in the play Copenhagen on Broadway, the leading actress in the films Altered States (1980), Continental Divide (1981) and Strapless (1989), as well as a run as the title character in the comedy-drama television series The Days and Nights of Molly Dodd, which ran from 1987 to 1991.[2] Her later roles include Nina Sharp on the Fox television series Fringe and Judy King on the Netflix series Orange Is the New Black.

Early life[edit]

Brown was born in Washington, DC. Her mother was a teacher and her father worked for the Central Intelligence Agency.[3] She graduated from The Madeira School in McLean, Virginia, and then pursued acting at the National Theatre School of Canada, graduating in 1969.[4] She gained notice as a participating actor at the Stratford Shakespeare Festival and spent several years working on the stage.



Brown's first feature role was in the Oscar-winning 1973 film The Paper Chase; her first major starring role was in The Choirboys in 1977. Among her other film credits were Altered States (opposite William Hurt), One Trick Pony (with Paul Simon), the film Stealing Home (opposite Mark Harmon) and A Flash of Green (1984). Her arguably highest profile film role to date was the romantic lead opposite John Belushi in Continental Divide (1981) for which she received her first Golden Globe Award nomination, in the category of Best Motion Picture Actress in a Comedy/Musical.

Other film roles include: And I Alone Survived (1978), Strapless (1989),[5][6] The Astronaut's Wife (1999), Clint Eastwood's Space Cowboys (2000), Lars von Trier's Dogville, the Kevin Bacon-directed Loverboy (2005) and The Sentinel (2006).


Brown appeared in several television movies and miniseries, primarily during the 1980s. A high-profile role as Jacqueline Kennedy in the 1983 TV miniseries Kennedy earned her a second Golden Globe nomination, for Best Actress in a Mini-Series or Motion Picture Made for Television, as well as a BAFTA nomination. She also appeared in several other programs about the Kennedys, including the 1996 miniseries A Season in Purgatory, which was a thinly veiled portrait of the family, as well as an appearance as Anna Roosevelt in a telefilm about Franklin Delano Roosevelt and Eleanor Roosevelt.

Brown's visibility rose during her five-year run (1987–1991) on the comedy-drama series The Days and Nights of Molly Dodd. She played the title role, and she, and the show, earned a small but dedicated following. Brown received five consecutive Emmy Award nominations for each season, in the category of Outstanding Lead Actress in a Comedy Series, but never won. The show spent two years on NBC, then moved to the Lifetime cable channel for the remainder of its run.[7]

Brown also appeared in other prime-time series including The Rockford Files, Kojak, Frasier, Smallville, Touched by an Angel, ER, and Ed. In 1975 she appeared in one episode of the television mini-series Wheels and the following year she appeared in the TV pilot for The Oregon Trail. Beginning in 2008, Brown starred as Nina Sharp in the Fox television series Fringe. Brown also appeared in several seasons of the Netflix comedy-drama series Orange is the New Black as fictional television personality Judy King, an inmate loosely based on Martha Stewart.[8]


Brown has been involved with theater since the beginning of her career. She appeared in the 1975 New York Shakespeare Festival production of The Comedy of Errors.[9] Among her earlier roles was a run as Lucy Brown in the 1976 production of The Threepenny Opera, produced by Joe Papp and directed by Richard Foreman. She left the production for film work, but after being away from the production for eight months, Ellen Greene, who was playing the part of Jenny, fell ill. Brown astounded the stage manager of the production by coming in and, with one hour of rehearsal, put on a "brilliant" performance as Jenny.[10] Her first major appearance on Broadway came in 1989, in the play Secret Rapture, written by David Hare.

Once "Molly Dodd" concluded, Brown became a prolific Broadway actress, appearing in, among other productions, Tom Stoppard's 1995 Lincoln Center Theater production of Arcadia[11] and two separate runs as Frau Schneider in the revival of Cabaret (1998 and 2003).[12] She played Margrethe, the wife of physicist Niels Bohr, in the play Copenhagen,[13] a role for which she won a 2000 Tony Award in the category of Best Featured Actress in a Play.[14] Brown played the lead role in Sarah Ruhl's 2006 play The Clean House at Lincoln Center.[15]


In the 1990s, Brown expanded her career into voiceover work, narrating both audiobooks and films and documentaries. Her audiobooks projects include John Grisham's The Client, Lois Lowry's Number the Stars, Stephen King's Rose Madder, Kevin Henkes' Olive's Ocean, Sue Miller's 2005 novel Lost in the Forest, and Isabel Allende's Inés of My Soul.

Her voiceovers are heard on a number of documentaries, including PBS's American Experience series and the 2007 PBS series The Mysterious Human Heart. Other documentary narrations include the scientific series The Secret Life of the Brain, a documentary on Aimee Semple McPherson, which aired in April 2007, and a 2006 PBS documentary about Marie Antoinette. In April, 2010, she co-narrated the PBS special The Buddha with Richard Gere.

Personal life[edit]

Brown had a relationship with actor Richard Jordan, whom she met while filming the miniseries Captains and the Kings in 1976. The couple lived together from 1976 to 1985; their son Robert Anson Jordan III was born in 1983. She dated playwright David Hare from 1985 to 1990; he referred to her as his muse.[citation needed] She mentioned on The Tonight Show in 1989 that she is a Democrat.



Year Title Role Notes
1972 House of Lovers George Thacker
1973 The Paper Chase Miss Farranti
1977 The Choirboys Kimberly Lyles
1980 One-Trick Pony Marion Levin
1980 Altered States Emily Jessup
1981 Continental Divide Nell Porter Nominated—Golden Globe Award for Best Actress – Motion Picture Musical or Comedy
1984 A Flash of Green Kat Hubble
1988 Stealing Home Ginny Wyatt
1989 Strapless Dr. Lillian Hempel
1991 The Good Policeman Rebecca Karp
1992 Passed Away Amy Scanlan
1999 The Astronaut's Wife Shelly McLaren
2000 Space Cowboys Dr. Anne Caruthers
2002 Grasp Jean Malcheck
2002 Benjamin Franklin Jane Franklin Mecom
2002 Young Dr. Freud Narrator
2003 Dogville Mrs. Henson
2005 Loverboy Jeanette Rawley
2006 The Sentinel National Security Advisor
2006 The Treatment Miss Callucci
2006 Griffin & Phoenix Eve
2007 Dark Matter Hildy
2007 First Born Laura's Mother
2011 The Speed of Thought Bridger

Television films[edit]

Year Title Role Notes
1973 Dracula Mina Harker
1975 The School for Scandal Lady Teazle
1976 Captains and the Kings Elizabeth Healey Hennessey
1977 Eleanor and Franklin: The White House Years Anna Roosevelt
1977 Charlie Cobb: Nice Night for a Hanging Charity
1977 The 3,000 Mile Chase Rachel Kane
1977 The Quinns Millicent Priestley
1978 And I Alone Survived Lauren Elder
1979 The Child Stealer Jan Rodman
1983 The Skin of Our Teeth Sabina
1985 The Bad Seed Christine Penmark
1987 Hands of a Stranger Diane Benton
1990 Extreme Close-Up Margaret Toll
1991 Lethal Innocence Sally Hatch
1992 Those Secrets Neille Banesh
1992 Majority Rule Gen. Katherine Taylor
1993 Rio Shannon Elizabeth Cleary
1993 The Day My Parents Ran Away Mrs. Judy Miller
1994 Moment of Truth: To Walk Again Carol Keating
1994 The Gift of Love Helen Porter
1996 The Ultimate Lie Joan 'Joanie' McGrath
1996 A Season in Purgatory Grace Bradley
1997 Convictions Zalinda Dorcheus
2000 In His Life: The John Lennon Story Mimi Smith
2000 Hamlet Gertrude
2001 Follow the Stars Home Hannah Parker
2004 Dark Shadows Elizabeth Collins Stoddard Unaired TV pilot
2004 Copshop Frances Harding

Television series[edit]

Year Title Role Notes
1971 Police Surgeon Dulcy Episode: "Lies"
1972–75 The Whiteoaks of Jalna Pheasan Vaughan 2 episodes
1975 The Rockford Files Kate Flanders Episode: "The Girl in the Bay City Boys Club"
1976 Kojak Stella Episode: "Where Do You Go When You Have Nowhere to Go?"
1977 Family Flora Jessup Episode: "We Love You, Miss Jessup"
1978 Wheels Barbara Lipton Episode: "#1.1"
1983 Kennedy Jacqueline Kennedy Episode: "#1.2"
Nominated—BAFTA TV Award for Best Actress
Nominated—Golden Globe Award for Best Actress – Miniseries or Television Film
1985 Space Penny Hardesty Pope 5 episodes
1985 ABC Afterschool Special Joan Stewart Episode: "Don't Touch"
1986 Comedy Factory Valerie Arnold Episode: "The Faculty"
1987–91 The Days and Nights of Molly Dodd Molly Dodd 65 episodes
Nominated—Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Comedy Series (1987–91)
1995 Frasier Jill Episode: "Shrink Rap"
1995 American Experience Evelyn Nesbit Episode: "Murder of the Century"
1997 Feds Erica Stanton Unsold TV pilot
2001 Touched by an Angel Victoria Episode: "A Winter Carol"
2002 Smallville Rachel Dunleavy Episode: "Lineage"
2002 CSI: Miami Margie Winters Episode: "Camp Fear"
2003 Law & Order Virginia Masters Episode: "Seer"
2003–04 Ed Mary Burton 2 episodes
2003–07 American Experience Narrator 5 episodes
2004 ER Dr. Vicki Ford Episode: "Midnight"
2004 Law & Order: Special Victims Unit Attorney Lynne Riff 2 episodes
2005 Missing Emma Roderick Episode: "Off the Grid"
2008–13 Fringe Nina Sharp 46 episodes
Nominated—Saturn Award for Best Guest Starring Role on Television
2011 Falling Skies Sonya Episode: "What Hides Beneath"
2012 Political Animals Mrs. Berg Episode: "16 Hours"
2014 Forever Fawn Mahoney Ames Episode: "The Man in the Killer Suit"
2014 The Affair Dr. Gunderson Episode: "8"
2015 Person of Interest Emma Blake Episode: "Guilty"
2015–19 Orange Is the New Black Judy King 26 episodes
2015–16 Limitless Marie Finch 7 episodes
2017 Elementary Kate Durning 2 episodes
2018 Jack Ryan CIA Director Sue Joyce 2 episodes


  1. ^ Motion Picture Almanac. University of Michigan. 2008. p. 95. ISBN 9780900610806.
  2. ^ Weber, Bruce (April 27, 1995). "AT HOME WITH: Blair Brown; Never the Ingenue". The New York Times.
  3. ^ interview with Blair Brown, The Johnny Carson Show (television),February 14, 1979
  4. ^ "Alumni: 1963-1969". National Theatre School of Canada. Archived from the original on May 12, 2012.
  5. ^ "Review/Film; Womanhood and Politics In David Hare's 'Strapless'". The New York Times. May 20, 1990.
  6. ^ Thomas, William (January 1, 2000). "Strapless Review". empireonline.
  7. ^ Weber, Bruce (April 27, 1995). "AT HOME WITH: Blair Brown; Never the Ingenue". The New York Times.
  8. ^ Schremph, Kelly (2015). "Who Plays Judy King On 'Orange Is The New Black'? You've Definitely Seen This Actress Before". Retrieved June 19, 2016.
  9. ^ O'Hare, Patricia (April 19, 2000). "Red-haired Brown liable to lasso two Tony nominations". New York Daily News.
  10. ^ Gindi, Roger (February 6, 2000). "Blair Brown; To the Rescue". The New York Times.
  11. ^ "PHOTO ARCHIVE: Arcadia in 1995, With Billy Crudup, Blair Brown and Victor Garber". Archived from the original on September 10, 2012. Retrieved July 29, 2016.
  12. ^ Hernandez, Ernio (September 8, 2003). "Tony Roberts and Blair Brown Are Cabaret's New Schultz and Schneider, Sept. 22". Retrieved July 29, 2016.
  13. ^ Brantley, Ben (April 12, 2000). "Theater Review; A Fiery Power In the Behavior Of Particles And Humans". The New York Times. Retrieved July 29, 2016.
  14. ^ McBride, Murdoch (June 4, 2000). "2000 TONY AWARD WINNER: Best Featured Actress In A Play - Blair Brown". Archived from the original on September 8, 2012.
  15. ^ Isherwood, Charles (October 31, 2006). "Theater Review: 'The Clean House'". The New York Times.

External links[edit]