Kelly Bishop

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Kelly Bishop
Bishop at the ATX TV Festival 2015 for the TV show Gilmore Girls
Born (1944-02-28) February 28, 1944 (age 80)
Occupation(s)Actress, dancer
Years active1962–present
(m. 1981; died 2018)

Kelly Bishop (born February 28, 1944) is an American actress and dancer, best known for her roles as matriarch Emily Gilmore on the series Gilmore Girls and as Marjorie Houseman, the mother of Jennifer Grey's Frances "Baby" Houseman in the film Dirty Dancing. Bishop originated the role of Sheila in A Chorus Line for which she won a Tony Award for Best Performance by a Featured Actress in a Musical. She is currently starring as Mrs. Ivey in The Watchful Eye (2023).

Early life[edit]

Bishop was born on February 28, 1944, in Colorado Springs, Colorado.[1] She grew up in Denver, Colorado, where she trained to be a ballet dancer, attending the San Jose Ballet School.[2] At 18, she headed to New York City and landed her first job dancing in a year-round ballet company at Radio City Music Hall. Bishop continued to dance in Las Vegas, summer stock and on television until she was cast in 1967 in Golden Rainbow, her first Broadway role.[citation needed]


Bishop's big break came when she was cast as the sexy, hard-edged Sheila in the 1975 Broadway production of A Chorus Line, for which she won the 1976 Tony Award as "Best Supporting or Featured Actress (Musical)" as well as the 1976 Drama Desk Award for "Outstanding Actress in a Musical". She was also cast in Broadway productions of Six Degrees of Separation, Neil Simon's Proposals, the Tony Award-winning The Last Night of Ballyhoo, and Bus Stop.[citation needed]

In film, she was cast opposite to Jill Clayburgh in Paul Mazursky's big-screen drama An Unmarried Woman (1978). In the 1987 film Dirty Dancing, she was originally set for a small role, but took on the much bigger role of Mrs. Houseman when Lynne Lipton (originally cast to play the role) fell ill during the first week of shooting.

Bishop went on to play mothers to high-profile stars in features: Howard Stern's in the Betty Thomas-directed comedy Private Parts (1997), and Tobey Maguire's in Wonder Boys (2000). Additional feature credits include Ich und Er (USA: Me and Him, 1988), Queens Logic (1991), Café Society (1995), Miami Rhapsody (1995) and Blue Moon (2002).

Bishop debuted on television in Hawaii Five-O. She starred in the Mike Nichols' series The Thorns in 1988. She played Lisa Ann Walter's mother on My Wildest Dreams in 1995. She guest-starred on, among other series, Kate & Allie, Murphy Brown, Law & Order, and Law & Order: Special Victims Unit.

From 2000 to 2007, Bishop starred in The WB/CW series Gilmore Girls as wealthy New England matriarch Emily Gilmore. She reprised her role in the 2016 miniseries Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life on Netflix. She would later reunite with Amy Sherman-Palladino, who created Gilmore Girls, on Bunheads,[3] which aired from 2012 to 2013 and was cancelled after the first season. Bishop has since appeared in television shows including Army Wives, Mercy, The Good Wife, and playing Benedetta in the Golden Globe-winning series The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, in which she was again reunited with Sherman-Palladino. Bishop currently stars in the TV drama series The Watchful Eye (which premiered on January 30, 2023) as Mrs. Ivey.

Following the end of Gilmore Girls, Bishop returned to theater, performing in Becky Shaw at the Second Stage Theatre in 2008 and as Evangeline Harcourt in the 2011 revival of Anything Goes alongside Sutton Foster and Joel Grey, as well as appearing in the 2011 movie Friends with Kids.

Personal life[edit]

Bishop resides in South Orange, New Jersey. She was married to the TV talk show host Lee Leonard until his death in 2018.[4][5]



Year Title Role Notes
1966 Step Out of Your Mind Missy Linden
1978 An Unmarried Woman Elaine Liebowitz
1982 O'Hara's Wife Beth Douglas
1986 Solarbabies Tutor Nover
1987 Dirty Dancing Marjorie Houseman
1988 Me and Him Eleanor Aramis
1991 Queens Logic Maria
1995 Miami Rhapsody Zelda
1995 Cafe Society Mrs. Jelke
1997 Private Parts Ray Stern
1999 My X-Girlfriend's Wedding Reception Sylvia Wienstein
2000 Blue Moon Peggy's Mother
2000 Wonder Boys Amanda Leer
2011 Friends with Kids Marcy Fryman
2011 A Novel Romance Lily Sparks
2014 Saint Janet Janet Turner


Year Title Role Notes
1976 Hawaii Five-0 Char Episode: "Oldest Profession - Latest Price"
1981 Advice to the Lovelorn Rita Borden TV film
1982 Hart to Hart Laura Episode: "Hart of Diamonds"
1983 The New Odd Couple Charity Episode: "Murray's Hot Date"
1984 Kate & Allie Paulette Episode: "Baby"
1985 The Recovery Room Kaye Brenner TV film
1987 As the World Turns Grace Wescott Andrews TV series - recurring role, summer 1987
1988 The Thorns Ginger Thorn Main role (12 episodes)
1989 One Life to Live Serena Wyman 1 episode
1990 The Baby-Sitters Club Flora Episode: "Claudia and the Secret Passage"
1992 ABC Afterschool Special Roxanne Holden Episode: "Summer Stories: The Mall - Part 1"
1992 Law & Order Marian Borland Episode: "Intolerance"
1992 Murphy Brown Connie Silverberg Episode: "Me Thinks My Parents Doth Protest Too Much"
1995 All My Children Freida Landau TV series
1995 My Wildest Dreams Gloria James Recurring role (5 episodes)
1996 One Life to Live Dr. Robbins 1 episode
2000, 2008–2009 Law & Order: Special Victims Unit Registrar Episode: "Slaves"
Julia Zimmer Episodes: "Persona" and "Zebras"
2000–2007 Gilmore Girls Emily Gilmore Main role (110 episodes)
2009 Army Wives Jean Calhoun Episode: "Operation: Tango"
2010 Mercy Lauren Kempton 4 episodes
2010 The Good Wife Mrs. Kent (voice) Episode: "VIP Treatment"; uncredited
2012–2013 Bunheads Fanny Flowers Main role (13 episodes)
2015 Sex & Drugs & Rock & Roll Elizabeth Episode: "Supercalifragilisticjuliefriggingandrews"
2015 Flesh and Bone Mrs. Hawthorn Episode: "F.U.B.A.R."
2015–2016 The Good Wife Bea Wilson 2 episodes
2016 Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life Emily Gilmore Main role (4 episodes)
2021 Halston Eleanor Lambert
2022–2023 The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel Benedetta Seasons 4 and 5 recurring role
2023 The Watchful Eye Mrs. Ivey[6] Main role


Year Show Role Notes
1968 Golden Rainbow Cat-Girl/Dancer Shubert Theatre
1968 Promises, Promises Clancy's Lounge Patron/Company Nurse Shubert Theatre
1968 Precious Sons Bea (standby)
1971 On the Town Dance Ensemble Imperial Theatre
1975 A Chorus Line Sheila Shubert Theatre
Originated role
Tony Award for Best Featured Actress in a Musical
Drama Desk Award for Outstanding Actress in a Musical
1990 Six Degrees of Separation Kitty/Louisa "Ouisa" Kittredge Vivian Beaumont Theater
1996 Bus Stop Grace Hoylard Short revival, 29 performances
1997 The Last Night of Ballyhoo Boo Levy Helen Hayes Theatre
1997 Proposals Annie Robbins Broadhurst Theatre
2011 Anything Goes Mrs. Evangeline Harcourt Stephen Sondheim Theatre
August 9, 2011 - January 15, 2012


  1. ^ "Kelly Bishop Broadway Profile". Internet Broadway Database. Archived from the original on October 7, 2019. Retrieved 2022-04-16.
  2. ^ "Kelly Bishop Biography". Yahoo! Movies. 2008. Retrieved 2008-07-06.
  3. ^ "'Gilmore Girls' reunion: Kelly Bishop joins Amy Sherman-Palladino's new ABC Family show -- EXCLUSIVE". Retrieved 2012-04-21.
  4. ^ "THEATER; Two Mature Lives on Stage and Screen, Now Playing in New Jersey", The New York Times, September 19, 1999. "She and her husband, Lee Leonard, the host of Jersey Talking on News 12 in Edison, have been living in South Orange for four years."
  5. ^ Worth-Baker, Marcia. "Mother's Always Right: played the mother many times over", Maplewood Matters, accessed April 22, 2007. "Ask Kelly Bishop, South Orange resident and star of Gilmore Girls, what drew her to the role of Emily Gilmore, and she recalls, 'The pilot was simply the best script I ever read.'"
  6. ^ White, Peter (September 13, 2021). "Hitchcockian Nanny Drama From Julie Durk Lands Pilot Order At Freeform; Andrea Londo & Warren Christie Among Stars". Deadline Hollywood. Retrieved January 16, 2023.

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