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July 28, 1946 |
Minneapolis, Minnesota, U.S.
Life and career
Kelsey's professional career began with stage appearances in her home of Minneapolis, Minnesota, with her good looks and striking mane of red hair winning her success that ultimately landed her in Los Angeles in 1972, with appearances in small roles on television shows like Emergency! and The Rookies, and the television movie The Picture of Dorian Gray (1973). Her first recognition came with an appearance on an episode of The Mary Tyler Moore Show as a rival to the "Happy Homemaker" character Sue Ann Nivens (played by Betty White), where she met Ed Asner on the set, with whom she later worked on the spin-off show, Lou Grant. Her appearance on The Mary Tyler Moore Show led to prominent guest appearance on shows like M*A*S*H, The Streets of San Francisco, Barnaby Jones, Spencer's Pilots, Quincy M.E., The Rockford Files, the television movies The Last of Mrs. Lincoln (1976) Something for Joey (1977), and Eleanor and Franklin (1976), Eleanor and Franklin: The White House Years (1977), and the miniseries Captains and the Kings (1976). She also appeared in the episode "The Mask of Adonis" from the 1977 series Quinn Martin's Tales of the Unexpected (known in the United Kingdom as Twist in the Tale).
Her big break came when producers of the television series Lou Grant, decided that the actress playing the female reporter on the show was too young and perky, and recast the part after three episodes with Kelsey in the role of Billie Newman, the crusading reporter for the fictional Los Angeles Tribune, which also co-starred Asner. Kelsey won five consecutive Emmy Award nominations (1978 through 1982) for Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Drama Series, losing four times to her Lou Grant costar Nancy Marchand and once to Kristy McNichol in Family.
After Lou Grant went off the air in 1982, Kelsey was primed for stardom by NBC as the lead in the sitcom Day by Day (1988) as a woman who runs a daycare center out of her home. The show ran for two seasons.
Kelsey continued to make guest appearances in television series and TV movies through the late 1990s, notably in the TV movie The Babysitter's Seduction and on several episodes of Murder, She Wrote.
After television work stopped trickling in, Kelsey returned to her native Twin Cities' area where she has continued her career in regional theater productions, memorably in the title role of Mary Stuart at the Park Square Theater, a performance that Talkin' Broadway described as "beautiful, feminine, determined and regal throughout, even when she's giggling with her lady-in-waiting. She affects every man who comes to see her." In 2009, she revisited her television past, playing Sue Ann Nivens for a week in a Minneapolis theatre company's restaging of The Mary Tyler Moore Show scripts, including the episode in which she originally appeared.
- Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Drama Series (five nominations from 1978 to 1982) - Lou Grant
- Golden Globe Award for Best Supporting Actress – Series, Miniseries or Television Film (three nominations from 1979 to 1981) - Lou Grant
- CableACE Award for Best Actress in a Comedy Series (1993) - Sessions
- Classic Television Archive: Quinn Martin's Tales of the Unexpected (1977)
- Talkin' Broadway, "A nipped and tucked Mary Stuart takes off at Park Square"