Jenna Elfman

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Jenna Elfman
Elfman at the 2023 WonderCon
Jennifer Mary Butala

(1971-09-30) September 30, 1971 (age 52)
Occupation(s)Actress, producer
Years active1990–present
(m. 1995)

Jennifer Mary Elfman (née Butala, born September 30, 1971)[1] is an American actress. She is best known for her leading role as Dharma on the ABC sitcom Dharma & Greg (1997–2002), for which she received the Golden Globe Award for Best Actress – Television Series Musical or Comedy in 1999, and three nominations for the Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Comedy Series. After making her film debut in Grosse Pointe Blank (1997), she has appeared in Krippendorf's Tribe (1998), Dr. Dolittle (1998), EDtv (1999), Keeping the Faith (2000), Town & Country (2001), Looney Tunes: Back in Action (2003), Clifford's Really Big Movie (2004), and Big Stone Gap (2014).

Elfman has also played leading roles on other television comedies, including Courting Alex (2006), Accidentally on Purpose (2009–2010), 1600 Penn (2012–2013), Growing Up Fisher (2014), and Imaginary Mary (2017). She also had a recurring role on the FX legal drama Damages in 2012, and has been a series regular on the AMC horror drama series Fear the Walking Dead since 2018.[2]

Early life[edit]

Elfman was born Jennifer Mary Butala in Los Angeles, California. She was the youngest of three children born to homemaker Sue Butala (née Grace) and Richard Butala, a Hughes Aircraft executive.[citation needed] Her paternal uncle is Tony Butala, lead singer of the American vocal trio The Lettermen since 1958. She is of Croatian ancestry on her father's side[3] and was raised Roman Catholic.[4][5]

Elfman attended high school at St. Genevieve High School in the San Fernando Valley for a year, before eventually graduating at the Los Angeles County High School for the Arts; she then attended college at California State University, Northridge (CSUN).[6] She trained in ballet from age five, but later gave it up when a tendon separated from bone.[citation needed] She studied at the Westside School of Ballet, receiving a full scholarship.


1990—1996: Early works[edit]

Elfman in 2000

Elfman began her professional career as a dancer, appearing in music videos for Depeche Mode ("Halo", 1990), Anthrax ("Black Lodge", 1993), and Chris Isaak ("Somebody's Crying", 1995), and touring with the rock band ZZ Top on their 1994 tour as a "Legs Girl". After appearing in television commercials, Elfman co-starred in the made-for-television movie Double Deception (1993) and guest-starred on Roseanne, NYPD Blue, Almost Perfect and Murder One. In 1996, she was cast as a lead character alongside Molly Ringwald and Lauren Graham in the short-lived ABC sitcom Townies. The series was cancelled after one season and 15 episodes.[7] The following year, she made her big screen debut appearing in the black comedy film, Grosse Pointe Blank.

1997—2002: Breakthrough[edit]

In 1997, Elfman was cast in the ABC comedy series Dharma & Greg playing the leading role of Dharma Freedom Finkelstein Montgomery. She received positive reviews from critics for her breakthrough performance.[8][9][10] She won the Golden Globe Award for Best Actress – Television Series Musical or Comedy in 1999 for the show's second season, as well as three Primetime Emmy Awards nominations for the Outstanding Lead Actress in a Comedy Series.[11] Elfman also received TCA Award for Individual Achievement in Comedy nomination in 1998, as well as three Satellite Award for Best Actress – Television Series Musical or Comedy nominations. The show ran for five seasons until its cancellation in 2002.

During her time on Dharma & Greg, Elfman starred in a number of movies. In 1998, she starred alongside Richard Dreyfuss in the comedy film Krippendorf's Tribe. The film received generally negative reviews from critics.[12] In 1999, she starred opposite Matthew McConaughey in the satirical comedy film EDtv.[13] The film received mixed-to-positive reviews, with some criticizing its similarity to The Truman Show (1998), but was a box office flop, grossing only $35.2 million compared to its $80 million production budget.[14] The following year, she starred in the romantic comedy film Keeping the Faith opposite Ben Stiller and Edward Norton (who also directed).[15][16] The film received generally positive reviews and grossed $60 million.[17] Elfman received Satellite Award for Best Actress – Motion Picture Musical or Comedy nomination for her performance. In 2001, she appeared in the romantic comedy film Town & Country, a $105 million production budget box office bomb. The film was filmed in 1998, and after 12 release date changes, the film finally made it into theaters on April 27, 2001, nearly three years after filming began.[18] It received negative reviews from critics.[19] Elfman has also done voice-over work in the animated films Dr. Dolittle (1998) and CyberWorld (2000).

Elfman posing during a break from filming The Six Wives of Henry Lefay in New Milford, Connecticut in 2007


After Dharma & Greg, Elfman played against the type role as a psychotic woman in the made-for-television thriller film, Obsessed (2002). She received positive review from Chicago Tribune for her performance.[20] In 2003, she starred in the live-action/animated comedy film, Looney Tunes: Back in Action. The film received mixed to positive reviews from critics and was a box-office bomb, grossing $68.5 million worldwide on an $80 million budget.[21] In 2005, she starred and produced the romantic drama film, Touched.[22]

In 2006, Elfman returned to television with the leading role in the CBS sitcom, Courting Alex.[23] The series was cancelled after one season. She guest-starred on Two and a Half Men, My Name Is Earl and Brothers & Sisters. In 2009, she appeared in the comedy films The Six Wives of Henry Lefay and Love Hurts. In 2011, she played Justin Timberlake's character sister in the romantic comedy film, Friends with Benefits. In 2012, Elfman and her husband Bodhi started their podcast, Kicking and Screaming by Jenna and Bodhi Elfman.[24]

Elfman starred in another short-lived CBS sitcom, Accidentally on Purpose during the 2009–10 season. In 2012, she took a recurring role in the FX legal thriller series, Damages. In 2013, Elfman starred in the NBC comedy series, 1600 Penn and later in Growing Up Fisher, which were each cancelled after a single season.[25] She starred in the romantic comedy film, Big Stone Gap (2014) opposite Ashley Judd, and appeared in the drama film Barry about Barack Obama's life at Columbia University in 1981. In 2017, she starred in another one-season sitcom, Imaginary Mary on ABC. Like 1600 Penn and Growing Up Fisher, the series was cancelled after its first season.[26]

In 2018, Elfman was cast in the AMC horror drama series, Fear the Walking Dead playing the mysterious nurse June "Naomi/Laura" Dorie.[27] She made her debut in the fourth season and stayed on show to the eighth and final season.[28] In 2020, she starred in an episode of the horror anthology series, The Twilight Zone.[29]

Personal life[edit]

Elfman at The Heart Truth in 2012

In February 1991, she met actor Bodhi Pine Elfman (né Saboff) during an audition for a Sprite commercial.[30] Four years later, they were married on February 18, 1995. Bodhi is of Jewish descent, and Jenna was raised Catholic.[4][31] When they met, he was a practicing Scientologist. She became a Scientologist as well after her husband introduced her to its teachings.[32]


Elfman is a member of the Church of Scientology.[32] By 2001 she had attained the State of Clear, and by 2020 she was on the OT VII level.[33][34] Since the early 1990s Elfman had studied acting with prominent acting teacher and long-time Scientologist Milton Katselas, but cut ties with him in 2004 when Katselas had fallen into disfavor with Scientology.[35] In 2001, Elfman opened a Scientology mission in San Francisco.[34]

In 2005 she appeared at the grand opening of Citizens Commission on Human Rights' museum, Psychiatry: An Industry of Death.[36] She and husband Bodhi are listed on the CCHR website as members of the board of advisers.[37]

On May 24, 2006, she was the keynote speaker at the Human Rights Hero Award event in participation with the Scientology-affiliated groups Youth for Human Rights International and Artists for Human Rights (AFHR), an organization formed with the purpose of bringing artists together with the common cause of raising awareness of human rights around the world.

On March 27, 2008, she and actor Charlie Sheen co-hosted the Scientology-affiliated New York Rescue Workers Detoxification Project charity event at Geisha House in Hollywood.[38]

Fundraising activities[edit]

Elfman participated in fundraising activities, including donating an hour of her time for auction,[39] donating a print of her lips,[40] participating in a telethon fundraiser,[41] hosting a comedy show,[42] and asking for charity donations instead of birthday presents.[43]

Elfman participated in awareness-raising initiatives, including modeling for a fashion show,[44] reading to schoolchildren as part of the National Education Association Read Across America program, and hosting a party in her home to raise awareness for causes headed by the Environmental Working Group.

Elfman is on the board of directors of the Dizzy Feet Foundation.[45]



Year Title Role Notes
1997 Grosse Pointe Blank Tanya
1998 Dr. Dolittle Owl Voice
Can't Hardly Wait The Angel Uncredited
Krippendorf's Tribe Prof. Veronica Micelli
1999 EDtv Shari
Venus Venus
2000 The Tangerine Bear Lorelei Voice
CyberWorld Phig Voice
Keeping the Faith Anna Riley
2001 Town & Country Auburn
2003 Looney Tunes: Back in Action Kate Houghton
2004 Clifford's Really Big Movie Dorothy Voice
2005 Touched Angela Martin Executive producer
What's Hip, Doc? Supermodel Voice
2008 Struck Pregnant date Short film
2009 The Six Wives of Henry Lefay Ophelia
Love Hurts Darlene
2011 Friends with Benefits Annie
2014 Big Stone Gap Miss Iva Lou Wade
2016 Barry Kathy Baughman


Year Title Role Notes
1992 Murder, She Wrote Ballet Dancer in background Uncredited; Episode: "Dance Diabolique"
1993 Double Deception Lisa Majorski Television film
1994 The George Carlin Show Psychedelic girl As Jenna Butala; Episode: "George Does A Bad Thing"
1995 The Monroes Lily Episode: "Bottoms, Up"
1995 Roseanne Garland Episode: "The Getaway, Almost"
1996 Her Last Chance Leslie Television film
1996 Townies Shannon Canotis Main cast; 15 episodes
1996 Murder One Angela Scalese Episode: "Chapter Seventeen"
1996 Almost Perfect Becky Toll Episode: "Being Fired Means Never Having to Say You're Sorry"
1996 NYPD Blue Patty Snow Episode: "The Nutty Confessor"
1997 The Single Guy Jordan Episode: "Just Friends?"
1997–2002 Dharma & Greg Dharma Freedom Finkelstein Montgomery Main cast; 119 episodes
2002 Obsessed Ellena Roberts Television film
2004 Two and a Half Men Frankie 2 episodes
2006 Courting Alex Alex Rose Main cast; 13 episodes
2007 Brothers & Sisters Lizzie Jones-Baker Episode: "Game Night"
2008 My Name Is Earl Kimmi Himmler Episode: "We've Got Spirit"
2009–2010 Accidentally on Purpose Billie Main cast; 18 episodes
2011 Two and a Half Men Dharma Montgomery Episode: "Nice to Meet You, Walden Schmidt"
2012 Shameless Jill Episode: "Fiona Interrupted"
2012 Damages Naomi Walling 7 episodes
2012–2013 1600 Penn Emily Nash Gilchrist Main cast; 13 episodes
2013 Royal Pains Lacy Episode: "Open Invitation"
2014 Growing Up Fisher Joyce Fisher Main cast; 13 episodes
2014 So You Think You Can Dance Herself Guest judge[46]
2015 The Perfect Stanleys Ellen Television film
2017 Imaginary Mary Alice Main cast; 9 episodes
2018–2023 Fear the Walking Dead June "Naomi/Laura" Dorie Main cast; 39 episodes
2018–2021 Talking Dead Herself 6 episodes
2020 The Twilight Zone Barbara Episode: "A Human Face"
2024 Will Trent Director GBI Episode: "Cpt. Duke Wagner"

Music videos[edit]

Year Song Artist
1990 "Halo"[47] Depeche Mode


Association Year Category Nominated Work Results Ref
American Comedy Awards 1999 Funniest Female Performer in a TV Series (Leading Role) Network, Cable or Syndication Dharma & Greg Nominated
Blockbuster Entertainment Awards 2001 Favorite Actress — Comedy/Romance Keeping the Faith Nominated
Golden Globes 1998 Best Performance by an Actress in a Television Series — Musical or Comedy Dharma & Greg Nominated [48]
1999 Won
2000 Nominated
Golden Apple Awards 1998 Female Discovery of the Year Won
Online Film & Television Association 1998 Best Actress in a Comedy Series Dharma & Greg Nominated [49]
1999 Nominated [50]
Primetime Emmy Awards 1998 Outstanding Lead Actress in a Comedy Series Nominated [51]
1999 Nominated
2000 Nominated
Satellite Awards 2000 Best Actress in a Series, Comedy or Musical Nominated
2001 Nominated
2001 Best Actress in a Motion Picture, Comedy or Musical Keeping the Faith Nominated
2002 Best Actress in a Series, Comedy or Musical Dharma & Greg Nominated
TCA Awards 1998 Individual Achievement in Comedy Nominated
TV Guide Awards 1999 Favorite Actress in a Comedy Won
2000 Won
2001 Nominated
Viewers for Quality Television Awards 1998 Best Actress in a Quality Comedy Series Nominated
1999 Nominated


  1. ^ "Celebrity birthdays for the week of Sept. 26-Oct. 2". AP News. September 20, 2021. Retrieved August 5, 2023.
  2. ^ "'Fear the Walking Dead' Recruits Jenna Elfman as Season 4 Regular". The Hollywood Reporter. November 15, 2017. Retrieved February 19, 2018.
  3. ^ Elfman, Jenna. (November 21, 2003). "Elfman happily shows her 'Looney' side", Interviewed by Angela Dawson, Chicago Sun-Times. Retrieved on April 23, 2010. Jenna Elfman says of her maiden name (Butala) origin, "It's Croatian. My great-grandparents are from Croatia. My dad visited Croatia and I'd love to go too someday. He met some relatives who have survived some really incredible, traumatic experiences. He was just so blown away by their stamina – their spiritual stamina – to keep going and to survive and create that life no matter what ... It's really commendable."
  4. ^ a b Associated Press (July 30, 2007). "Publicist: Jenna Elfman Gives Birth to First Child, a Son Named Story Elias". Fox News. Retrieved January 21, 2022. The 35-year-old actress
  5. ^ "Jenna Elfman". Yahoo! Movies. Retrieved May 15, 2010. Elfman was raised in a Roman Catholic home.
  6. ^ "Campus Facts: Notable CSUN Alumni". Archived from the original on July 14, 2010.
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  21. ^ "Looney Tunes: Back in Action - Rotten Tomatoes". November 14, 2003.
  22. ^ "Touched - Rotten Tomatoes". May 22, 2017.
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  28. ^ Hansen, Renee (March 10, 2023). "Fear the Walking Dead Jenna Elfman says goodbye to June, Laura, Naomi".
  29. ^ Pollock, Sarabeth (July 5, 2020). "Review: Jenna Elfman in The Twilight Zone 'A Human Face'".
  30. ^ "Jenna Elfman's Winning Formula: Hard Work That's Fun". Seattle Post-Intelligencer. November 25, 1997.
  31. ^ "Jenna Elfman Gives Birth to a Son in LA: Jenna Elfman and Husband Welcome First Child, a Son Named Story Elias, Her Publicist Says". ABC News. Associated Press. July 23, 2007. Retrieved February 25, 2008. [dead link]
  32. ^ a b Reitman, Janet (February 8, 2011) [February 23, 2006]. "Inside Scientology". Rolling Stone. Archived from the original on May 2, 2018. And those celebrities begat others, including Tom Cruise, who was introduced by his then-wife, Rogers, and Jenna Elfman, introduced by her husband, actor Bodhi Elfman.
  33. ^ "Interview of the month with actress Jenna Elfman". Celebrity. No. 330. Church of Scientology Celebrity Centre International. 2001. pp. 10–13.
  34. ^ a b "Celebrity Interview : Jenna Elfman". Celebrity. No. 363. Church of Scientology Celebrity Centre International. 2020. pp. 8–11.
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  39. ^ "Grammy Award-Winning Singers Alicia Keys and Patti LaBelle, Actress Jenna Elfman Top the List of Entertainers to Participate in Online Celebrity Auction". Archived from the original on November 10, 2006. Retrieved January 10, 2013.
  40. ^ "Jessica Alba, Jessica Biel and Other Celebs Offer Kiss Stamps for Charity – January 28, 2007". January 28, 2007. Retrieved January 10, 2013.
  41. ^ Oldenburg, Ann (January 22, 2010). "George Clooney explains 'Hope for Haiti' celebrity phone bank". USA Today. Retrieved May 16, 2012.
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  44. ^ "Red Dress fashion show draws attention to heart disease". CBS News. February 8, 2012. Archived from the original on October 19, 2013. Retrieved January 10, 2013.
  45. ^ "Dizzy Feet Foundation Board Members". April 17, 2014.
  46. ^ "So You Think You Can Dance - 2014 Casting Guide with Call Dates". Retrieved June 19, 2014.
  47. ^ "Jenna Elfman reveals past as Depeche Mode video star: 'They told me to dance badly!'". May 5, 2014. Retrieved June 22, 2022.
  48. ^ "Jenna Elfman". Retrieved January 13, 2021.
  49. ^ "2nd Annual TV Awards (1997-98) - Online Film & Television Association". Retrieved January 13, 2021.
  50. ^ "3rd Annual TV Awards (1998-99) - Online Film & Television Association". Retrieved January 13, 2021.
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External links[edit]