Margaret JoBeth Williams
December 6, 1948
Houston, Texas, U.S.
|Alma mater||Pembroke College in Brown University|
Margaret JoBeth Williams (born December 6, 1948) is an American actress. She rose to prominence appearing in such films as Kramer vs. Kramer (1979), Stir Crazy (1980), Poltergeist (1982), The Big Chill (1983), The Day After (1983), Teachers (1984), and Poltergeist II: The Other Side (1986). A three-time Emmy Award nominee, she was nominated for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Miniseries or a Movie for her work in the TV movie Adam (1983) and the TV miniseries Baby M (1988). Her third nomination was for her guest role in the sitcom Frasier (1994). She also starred in the TV series The Client (1995–96) and had recurring roles in the TV series Dexter (2007) and Private Practice (2009–11).
Her directorial debut with the 1994 short film On Hope earned her an Academy Award nomination for Best Live Action Short Film. In 2009, she began serving as president of the Screen Actors Guild Foundation; she is President Emeritus of the foundation.
Williams was born in Houston, Texas, and is the daughter of Frances Faye (née Adams), a dietitian, and Fredric Roger Williams, an opera singer and manager of a wire and cable company. Williams grew up in the South Park neighborhood of Houston, and attended Jones High School, from which she graduated in 1966.
Williams's first television role was on the Boston-produced first-run syndicated children's television series Jabberwocky, which debuted in 1972. Her character was named JoBeth. She joined the Jabberwocky cast in season two, replacing the original hostess, Joanne Sopko. The series ran until 1978. She was a regular on two soap operas, playing Carrie Wheeler on Somerset and Brandy Shelloe on Guiding Light. Williams's feature-film debut came in 1979's Kramer vs. Kramer as a girlfriend of Dustin Hoffman's character, memorably quizzed by his son after being discovered walking nude to the bathroom.
Williams is perhaps most recognized for her roles in Stir Crazy (1980), with Gene Wilder and Richard Pryor, The Dogs of War (1980) with Christopher Walken and Tom Berenger, and Poltergeist (1982), as suburban housewife Diane Freeling, a character she reprised in a sequel, Poltergeist II: The Other Side, 1986). A year later, she was part of the ensemble comedy-drama The Big Chill (1983). Her starring role in the film American Dreamer (1984), opposite Tom Conti, earned her the 1985 Best Actress Award from the Kansas City Film Critics Circle. High-profile co-starring roles in Teachers (1984) with Nick Nolte, Desert Bloom (1986) with Jon Voight, Memories of Me with Billy Crystal (1988), and Blake Edwards's Switch (1991) with Ellen Barkin followed.
She is also known for starring opposite Kris Kristofferson in Oscar-winning director Franklin J. Schaffner's final film, the Vietnam POW drama Welcome Home (1989). In 1992, she re-teamed with The Big Chill director Lawrence Kasdan to portray Bessie Earp in Wyatt Earp with Kevin Costner, and starred as Crazy Diane/Sane Diane, a schizophrenic shut-in, in the dark independent comedy, Me Myself & I.
She also co-starred with Ed O'Neill in the John Hughes-written comedy Dutch (1991), and starred in Stop! Or My Mom Will Shoot (1992) as the police detective/love interest of Sylvester Stallone's character. In 1995, she was nominated for an Academy Award for her 1994 live-action short On Hope, starring Annette O'Toole; the film was Williams's directorial debut. In 1997, she played a domineering lesbian in the independent comedy Little City with Jon Bon Jovi, and an hysterical publishing editor in Just Write with Jeremy Piven. In 2005, she appeared in the Drew Barrymore-Jimmy Fallon baseball comedy Fever Pitch.
Williams has also gained critical acclaim for a number of performances in notable television movies, including the nuclear holocaust film The Day After (1983), Murder Ordained (1987), as Lois Burnham Wilson in My Name is Bill W. (1989), and the critically acclaimed Masterpiece Theatre presentation of The Ponder Heart (2003) for director Martha Coolidge.
She earned Emmy nominations for starring as real-life characters Revé Walsh (the wife of John Walsh) in the film Adam (1983) and Mary Beth Whitehead in Baby M (1988). In 1993, she anchored the improvised Showtime dramedy Chantilly Lace with Helen Slater and Martha Plimpton.
She also had an Emmy-nominated guest-starring role on Frasier and played Reggie Love in the 1995–1996 CBS series The Client (adapted from the 1994 film of the same title), which lasted only 21 episodes, but gained a wider audience when it was rebroadcast in reruns on the TNT Network.
In 1999, Williams teamed with John Larroquette and Julie Benz for the CBS network situation comedy Payne. The show, which was the American television version of the hit British comedy Fawlty Towers, lasted just 10 episodes.
In 2007, she joined Dexter for a four-episode arc as the serial killer's future mother-in-law, whose daughter was also played by Benz. Also, she appeared in a memorable 2009 Criminal Minds listed as Special Guest Star in the episode "Empty Planet" as Professor Ursula Kent, who helps the BAU with a bomb threat in Seattle.
In 2014, she appeared in the CBS science-fiction drama Extant, as Leigh Kern (season one, episode seven).
|1979||Kramer vs. Kramer||Phyllis Bernard|
|The Dogs of War||Jessie Shannon|
|Endangered Species||Harriet Purdue|
|1983||The Big Chill||Karen Bowens|
|American Dreamer||Cathy Palmer / Rebecca Ryan|
|1986||Desert Bloom||Lily Chismore|
|Poltergeist II: The Other Side||Diane Freeling|
|1988||Memories of Me||Lisa|
|1992||Stop! Or My Mom Will Shoot||Lt. Gwen Harper|
|Me Myself & I||Diane|
|1994||Wyatt Earp||Bessie Earp|
|1997||Jungle 2 Jungle||Dr. Patricia Cromwell|
|Just Write||Sidney Stone|
|When Danger Follows You Home||Anne Werden|
|2002||The Rose Technique||Dr. Lillian Rose|
|2005||Fever Pitch||Maureen Meeks|
|2007||In the Land of Women||Agnes Webb|
|2011||The Big Year||Edith Preissler|
|What the Night Can Do||Bettye Sue Dryer|
|2018||Alex & the List||Mrs. Stern|
|2019||Sgt. Will Gardner||Sherry|
|TBA||Not Without Hope||TBA|
|1974||Great Performances||Constance Wilde||Episode: "Feasting with Panthers"|
|1976||Somerset||Carrie Wheeler||2 episodes|
|1977–1981||Guiding Light||Brandy Schlooe||Recurring role|
|1978||The World Beyond||Marian Faber||Television film|
|1980||Fun and Games||Laura Weston||Television film|
|1980||The White Shadow||Paula Harris||Episode: "Reunion"|
|1981||The Big Black Pill||Tiffany Farrenpour||Television film|
|1983||Adam||Reve Walsh||Television film|
|1983||The Day After||Nancy Bauer||Television film|
|1985||Kids Don't Tell||Claudia Ryan||Television film|
|1986||Adam: His Song Continues||Reve Walsh||Television film|
|1987||Murder Ordained||Lorna Anderson||Television film|
|1989||My Name Is Bill W.||Lois 'Lo' Wilson||Television film|
|1990||Child in the Night||Dr. Hollis||Television film|
|1990||Timeless Tales from Hallmark||Bettina||Episode: "The Elves and the Shoemaker"|
|1991||Victim of Love||Tess Palmer||Television film|
|1991||The Legend of Prince Valiant||Queen Ilene||Voice, episode: "The Secret of Perilous Garde"|
|1992||Fish Police||Angel Jones||Voice, main role|
|1992||Jonathan: The Boy Nobody Wanted||Ginny Moore||Television film|
|1993||Jonny's Golden Quest||Jade Kenyon||Voice, television film|
|1993||Sex, Love and Cold Hard Cash||Sarah Gallagher||Television film|
|1993||Chantilly Lace||Natalie||Television film|
|1993||Final Appeal||Christine Biondi||Television film|
|1993||Gloria Vane||Gloria Vane||Television film|
|1993–94||Frasier||Danielle, Madeline Marshall||2 episodes|
|1994||Batman: The Animated Series||May, June||Voice, episode: "Sideshow"|
|1994||Parallel Lives||Winnie Winslow||Television film|
|1994||Voices from Within||Nancy Parkhurst||Television film|
|1995||A Season of Hope||Elizabeth Hackett||Television film|
|1995–1996||The Client||Reggie Love||Main role|
|1996||Ruby Jean and Joe||Rose||Television film|
|1996||Breaking Through||Pam Willis||Television film|
|1998||From the Earth to the Moon||Marge Slayton||Episode: "The Original Wives Club"|
|1998||A Chance of Snow||Madeline 'Maddie' Parker-Hill||Television film|
|1998||Stories from My Childhood||Queen Hildegard||Voice, episode: "The Wild Swans"|
|1999||Payne||Constance 'Connie' Payne||Main role|
|1999||Justice||Jane Newhart||Television film|
|1999||It Came from the Sky||Alice Bridges||Television film|
|2000||Trapped in a Purple Haze||Sophie Hanson||Television film|
|2000||The Norm Show||Claire Stackhouse||Episode: "Norm vs. Youth"|
|2001||The Ponder Heart||Edna Earle Ponder||Television film|
|2001||The Guardian||Sarah||Episode: "Heart"|
|2002||E! True Hollywood Story||Herself||Episode: "Curse of Poltergeist"|
|2002||Law & Order: Special Victims Unit||Mrs. Rawley||Episode: "Waste"|
|2002||I Love the '80s||Herself||Documentary miniseries|
|2003||Judging Amy||Gemma Lawnsdale||Episode: "Judging Eric"|
|2003||Skin||Dr. Sara Rose||Episode: "Endorsement"|
|2003||Miss Match||Lianne Fox||3 episodes|
|2004||Strong Medicine||Margie||Episode: "Fractured"|
|2005||14 Hours||Jeanette Makins||Television film|
|2005||Into the Fire||June Sickles||Television film|
|2005||Las Vegas||Liz||Episode: "The Real McCoy"|
|2006||24||Miriam Henderson||Episode: "Day 5: 5:00 p.m.-6:00 p.m."|
|2006||Numb3rs||Margaret Eppes||Episode: "Hot Shot"|
|2006||Criminal Minds||Prof. Ursula Kent||Episode: "Empty Planet"|
|2006||Worst Week of My Life||Libby||Episode: "Pilot"|
|2006||Twenty Good Years||Kate||Episode: "Remember the Alimony"|
|2006||Stroller Wars||Roberta||Television film|
|2006–2007||The Nine||Sheryl Kates||2 episodes|
|2007||Sybil||Hattie Dorsett||Television film|
|2007||Dexter||Gail Brandon||Guest role (season 2)|
|2008||Life in General||Mary Kate Walton||Webseries|
|2009||Uncorked||Sophia Browning||Television film|
|2009–2011||Private Practice||Bizzy Forbes|
|2011||NCIS||Leona Phelps||Episode: "One Last Score"|
|2011||Law & Order: LA||Mrs. Walker||Episode: "Benedict Canyon"|
|2011||Love's Christmas Journey||Mrs. Beatrice Thompson||Television film|
|2011–2015||Hart of Dixie||Candice Hart||Guest role (seasons 1–4)|
|2012||Scandal||Sandra Harding||Episode: "Hell Hath No Fury"|
|2013||Mistresses||Janet||Episode: "Guess Who's Coming to Dinner"|
|2013–2015||Perception||Margaret Pierce||2 episodes|
|2014||In My Dreams||Charlotte Smith||Television film|
|2014||Extant||Leigh Kern||2 episodes|
|2014–2015||Marry Me||Myrna Schuffman||Recurring role|
|2015||Your Family or Mine||Ricky Weston||Main role|
|2016||Childrens Hospital||Linda||Episode: "DOY"|
|2016||Rizzoli & Isles||Tilly Dunn||Episode: "For Richer or Poorer"|
|2018||The Good Doctor||Ruth||Episode: "She"|
|2018||Living Biblically||Diana||Episode: "Let Us Pray"|
|2023||A Million Little Things||Lana Strobe||Episode: "Dear Diary"|
- "Williams, JoBeth 1948-". Encyclopedia.com. Cengage. Retrieved April 12, 2022.
- Shilcutt, Katharine. "Still Standing." Houston Press. Wednesday January 12, 2011. 1. Retrieved on January 13, 2011.
- "Distinguished HISD Alumni Archived 2012-05-15 at the Wayback Machine," Houston Independent School District'. Retrieved on January 13, 2011.
- JoBeth Williams- Biography, Yahoo! Movies
- "The Ponder Heart". PBS Masterpiece. Archived from the original on November 8, 2001. Retrieved December 12, 2017.
- "JoBeth Williams' 'THE CLIENT' begins encore run on TNT". The Houston Chronicle. March 14, 1999.
- Lang, Brent (15 June 2023). "Josh Duhamel Joins Joe Carnahan's Survival Thriller 'Not Without Hope' (EXCLUSIVE)". Variety. Retrieved 31 August 2023.