Jennifer Mary Butala
September 30, 1971
Jennifer Mary "Jenna" Elfman (née Butala; born September 30, 1971) is an American actress and producer. She is perhaps 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, as well as 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 appeared in leading roles on numerous other television comedies, including Courting Alex (2006), Accidentally on Purpose (2009–2010), 1600 Penn (2012–2013), Growing Up Fisher (2014), and Imaginary Mary (2017)—all of which were cancelled after a single season. She also had a recurring role on the FX legal drama Damages in 2012, and since 2018 has been a series regular on the AMC horror drama Fear the Walking Dead.
Elfman was born Jennifer Mary Butala in Los Angeles, California. She was the youngest of three children born to homemaker Sue (Grace) Butala and Richard Butala, a Hughes Aircraft executive. Her uncle (father's younger brother) is Tony Butala, lead singer since 1958 of the American vocal trio The Lettermen. She is of Croatian ancestry on her father's side and was raised Roman Catholic.
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 and then attended college at California State University, Northridge (CSUN). She trained in ballet from age 5 but later gave it up when a tendon separated from bone. She studied at the Westside School of Ballet, receiving a full scholarship.
Elfman began her professional career as a dancer, appearing in the music videos for Depeche Mode ("Halo" in 1990), Anthrax (1993's "Black Lodge"), Chris Isaak (1995's "Somebody's Crying") and touring with the rock band ZZ Top on their 1994 tour as a "Legs Girl". After appearing in television commercials, Elfman was cast in the short-lived 1996 American sitcom Townies on ABC. In 1997 Elfman was cast in Dharma & Greg on ABC as Dharma Freedom Finkelstein Montgomery. The show ran for five seasons until its cancellation in 2002.
In 2012, Elfman and her husband Bodhi started their podcast, Kicking and Screaming by Jenna and Bodhi Elfman.
In February 1991 she met actor Bodhi Pine Elfman (born Bodhi Pine Saboff) during an audition for a Sprite commercial. Four years later they were married on February 18, 1995. Bodhi is of Jewish descent, and Jenna was raised Catholic. When they met he was a practicing Scientologist. Jenna became a Scientologist after her husband introduced her to its teachings. As of 2018, both were active Scientologists.
In 2005, she appeared at the Scientology-backed Citizens Commission on Human Rights' "Psychiatry: An Industry of Death" museum grand opening and she and husband Bodhi are listed on the organization's website as members of the board of advisers from the arts, entertainment and media community.
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.
Elfman participated in fundraising activities, including: donating an hour of her time for auction; donating a print of her lips; participating in a telethon fundraiser; hosting a comedy show; and asking for charity donations instead of birthday presents.
Elfman participated in awareness-raising initiatives including: modeling for a fashion show; 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.
|1997||Grosse Pointe Blank||Tanya|
|Can't Hardly Wait||The Angel||Uncredited|
|Krippendorf's Tribe||Prof. Veronica Micelli|
|2000||The Tangerine Bear||Lorelei||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|
|2011||Friends with Benefits||Annie|
|2014||Big Stone Gap||Miss Iva Lou Wade|
|1992||Murder, She Wrote||Ballet Dancer in background||Uncredited; Episode: "Dance Diabolique"|
|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||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|
|2015||The Perfect Stanleys||Ellen||Television film|
|2017||Imaginary Mary||Alice||Main cast; 9 episodes|
|2018–present||Fear the Walking Dead||Naomi / Laura / June||Main cast; 32 episodes|
|2018–present||Talking Dead||Herself||4 episodes|
|2020||The Twilight Zone||Barbara||Episode: "A Human Face"|
- "'Fear the Walking Dead' Recruits Jenna Elfman as Season 4 Regular". Retrieved February 19, 2018.
- "Jenna Elfman Biography (1971–)". Filmreference.com. Retrieved January 10, 2013.
- 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."
- "Jenna Elfman". Yahoo! Movies. Retrieved May 15, 2010.
Elfman was raised in a Roman Catholic home.
- Campus Facts: Notable CSUN Alumni Archived July 14, 2010, at the Wayback Machine
- "Rockin' Libsyn Podcasts: Kicking and Screaming by Jenna and Bodhi Elfman". February 8, 2013.
- Andreeva, Nellie (May 7, 2012). "2ND UPDATE: '1600 Penn', 'Animal Practice', 'New Normal', 'Revolution' & 'Save Me' Picked Up To Series At NBC". Deadline Hollywood. Retrieved May 16, 2012.
- Cruz, Gilbert. "Which Network TV Shows Have Been Canceled?". The New York Times. Retrieved May 12, 2017.
- "Jenna Elfman's Winning Formula: Hard Work That's Fun". Seattle Post-Intelligencer. November 25, 1997.
- The Associated Press (July 23, 2007). "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. Retrieved February 25, 2008.[dead link]
- Reitman, Janet (February 8, 2011). "Inside Scientology". Rolling Stone. Retrieved February 21, 2016.
- "Scientology actress Jenna Elfman fully stoked by church's new expansion push! - Scientology News - The Underground Bunker". tonyortega.org.
- "New L.A. Museum Targets Psychiatry as an Industry of Death". CCHR International. December 17, 2005. Archived from the original on February 12, 2007. Retrieved March 18, 2007.
- "Citizens Commission on Human Rights Board of Advisors". CCHR International. April 10, 2009. Retrieved April 10, 2009.
- "Jenna hosts NY Rescue Workers Detoxification Project Charity Event". JennaElfman.com. March 27, 2008. Archived from the original on September 29, 2013. Retrieved March 27, 2008.
- "Grammy Award-Winning Singers Alicia Keys and Patti LaBelle, Actress Jenna Elfman Top the List of Entertainers to Participate in Online Celebrity Auction". .sys-con.com. Retrieved January 10, 2013.
- "Jessica Alba, Jessica Biel and Other Celebs Offer Kiss Stamps for Charity – January 28, 2007". Shoppingblog.com. January 28, 2007. Retrieved January 10, 2013.
- "George Clooney explains 'Hope for Haiti' celebrity phone bank". USA Today Ann Oldenburg. January 22, 2010. Retrieved May 16, 2012.
- "Jenna Elfman Interview". Laughspin.com. Archived from the original on November 1, 2012. Retrieved January 10, 2013.
- "Jenna Elfman Charity Biography". LookToTheStars.org.
- "Red Dress fashion show draws attention to heart disease". CBSNews.com. February 8, 2012. Retrieved January 10, 2013.
- "Dizzy Feet Foundation Board Members". dizzyfeetfoundation.org.
- "So You Think You Can Dance - 2014 Casting Guide with Call Dates". Retrieved June 19, 2014.
- "Jenna Elfman". www.goldenglobes.com. Retrieved January 13, 2021.
- "2nd Annual TV Awards (1997-98) - Online Film & Television Association". Retrieved January 13, 2021.
- "3rd Annual TV Awards (1998-99) - Online Film & Television Association". Retrieved January 13, 2021.
- "Jenna Elfman". Television Academy. Retrieved January 13, 2021.
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