Samantha Mathis

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Samantha Mathis
Mathis at Nightmare Weekend Richmond in 2023
Born (1970-05-12) May 12, 1970 (age 53)
New York City, U.S.
Years active1986–present

Samantha Mathis (born May 12, 1970)[1] is an American actress and trade union leader who served as the Vice President, Actors/Performers of SAG-AFTRA from 2015 to 2019.[a] The daughter of actress Bibi Besch, Mathis made her film debut in Pump Up the Volume (1990), and later co-starred or appeared in such films as FernGully: The Last Rainforest (1992), Super Mario Bros. (1993), The Thing Called Love (1993), Little Women (1994), The American President (1995), Jack and Sarah (1995), Broken Arrow (1996), American Psycho (2000), The Punisher (2004), and Atlas Shrugged: Part II (2012). She has recently had recurring roles on The Strain as New York City Councilwoman Justine Feraldo, and on Billions as Taylor Mason Capital COO Sara Hammon.

Early life[edit]

Mathis was born in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, New York City, the daughter of Donald Mathis and Austrian-born actress Bibi Besch.[3][4][5] Her parents divorced when she was two years old, and Mathis was brought up by her mother. She relocated with her mother to Los Angeles, California, at the age of five.[6]

Besch tried to discourage Mathis from pursuing acting, but growing up on locations, in theaters, and in acting classes, Mathis knew she wanted to act.[3][4] She decided to become an actress at the age of twelve.[7]


Mathis began acting professionally at the age of 16.[8] Her first job was a commercial for "Always Slender Pads – Just for Teens".[4] She co-starred in the television series Aaron's Way and Knightwatch from 1988 to 1989. Her first starring role in a feature film was that of Nora in Pump Up the Volume (1990), opposite Christian Slater, whom she briefly dated at the time.[3][6] Mathis dyed her natural blonde hair black for the role in an effort to change her image from sweet and innocent to strong-willed.[7]

Mathis appeared in the television films Extreme Close-up, 83 Hours 'til Dawn and To My Daughter in 1990. Mathis and Slater had voice roles in the animated film FernGully: The Last Rainforest (1992). She next appeared in the comedy This Is My Life (1992), written and directed by Nora Ephron, playing an insecure teenager.[8] Mathis appeared in the play Fortinbras in New York City in October 1992.[9] Super Mario Bros. (1993), in which she played Princess Daisy from the popular Nintendo video game, was a box-office bomb but gained a cult following since its release.[10]

Mathis co-starred with River Phoenix in The Thing Called Love (1993).[11] She appeared in the 1994 film adaptation of Little Women, and in How to Make an American Quilt (1995), both starring Winona Ryder.[12] She then appeared in The American President (1995), playing the assistant to the President of the United States. Mathis costarred with Christian Slater again, along with John Travolta, in John Woo's Broken Arrow (1996). She took a little over a year off from acting after her mother died in 1996 from breast cancer.[13][3]

Mathis later appeared in American Psycho (2000), a film adaptation of Bret Easton Ellis's 1991 novel of the same name. She starred in Attraction (2000) and in The Simian Line (2001). She starred in the TNT television miniseries The Mists of Avalon (2001). Mathis starred with Thomas Jane in The Punisher (2004). She had a guest role on the ABC television show Lost as Olivia Goodspeed. She played Jane Fonda's daughter in the Broadway show "33 Variations".[14] Her indie film Lebanon, PA (2010) had its world premiere at the 2010 SXSW Film Festival. She appeared in an off-Broadway production of the play, Love, Loss, and What I Wore, at New York City's Westside Theatre in October 2011.[15]

In 2013, Mathis played psychiatrist Alice Calvert on the CBS television series Under the Dome, based on a novel by Stephen King.[16] In 2014, she joined the cast of the FX horror drama series The Strain as Justine Feraldo, a New York City councilwoman for Staten Island.[17]

In October 2015, Mathis was elected National Vice President, Actors/Performers of SAG-AFTRA.[18] She was re-elected in 2017.[2]

In 2019, she appeared Off-Broadway in the role of Kate Conlee in Make Believe, a new play by Bess Wohl staged at the Second Stage Theater. Michael Greif directed.[19]

Her 2020 musical Whisper House was postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic.[14]

Personal life[edit]

Mathis met actor River Phoenix on the set of the 1993 film The Thing Called Love. Soon thereafter, she broke up with boyfriend and Super Mario Bros. co-star John Leguizamo and started a relationship with Phoenix.[11] She was with Phoenix on October 31, 1993, the night he died at Cedars-Sinai Hospital of a drug overdose after collapsing outside The Viper Room in West Hollywood, California.[3][20]

In the autopsy report the LASD detailed that Mathis refused several times to give more details surrounding the death of Phoenix and had told deputies at the time of Phoenix's death that she had no knowledge of his drug use.[21] Mathis took a role in the film Jack and Sarah (1995), which was shot in London, to get out of the country after Phoenix's death because of the excessive press coverage.[6]

Mathis spoke for the first time publicly about the death of Phoenix in an interview with The Guardian in 2018.[22] She elaborated on the circumstances surrounding Phoenix's death: "I knew something was wrong that night, something I didn't understand. I didn't see anyone doing drugs but he was high in a way that made me feel uncomfortable...the heroin that killed him didn't happen until he was in the Viper Room. I have my suspicions about what was going on, but I didn't see anything."[23]

Awards and nominations[edit]

Mathis was nominated in 1995 for a Young Artist Award, despite being 22 years old at the time of her role, at the Young Artist Awards for Best Young Actress Starring in a Motion Picture for This Is My Life (1992) and in 2005 for a Saturn Award by the Academy of Science Fiction, Fantasy & Horror Films for Best Supporting Actress on Television for Salem's Lot (2004).



Denotes works that have not yet been released
Year Title Role Notes
1989 Bulldance Paula
1990 Pump Up the Volume Nora Diniro
1992 This Is My Life Erica Ingels Nominated—Young Artist Award for Best Young Actress Starring in a Motion Picture
FernGully: The Last Rainforest Crysta Voice
1993 The Music of Chance Tiffany
Super Mario Bros. Princess Daisy / The Queen
The Thing Called Love Miranda Presley
1994 Little Women Adult Amy March
1995 Jack and Sarah Amy
How to Make an American Quilt Young Sophia Darling Richards Nominated—Screen Actors Guild Award for Outstanding Performance by a Cast in a Motion Picture
The American President Janie Basdin
1996 Broken Arrow Terry Carmichael
Museum of Love Stephanie Short film
1998 Waiting for Woody Gail Silver
Sweet Jane Jane
2000 The Simian Line Mae
American Psycho Courtney Rawlinson
Attraction Corey
2004 The Punisher Maria Castle
2005 Kids in America Jennifer Rose
Touched Jeannie Bates
2006 Believe in Me Jean Driscoll
Local Color Carla
2009 The New Daughter Cassandra Parker
2010 Buried Linda Conroy Voice
Order of Chaos Jennifer
Lebanon, Pa. Vicki
2011 Good Day for It Sarah Bryant
Camilla Dickinson Rose Dickinson
2012 Atlas Shrugged: Part II Dagny Taggart
2014 Affluenza Bunny Miller
2016 American Pastoral Penny Hamlin
2017 Ray Meets Helen Mary
2018 Being Frank Bonnie
The Clovehitch Killer Cindy
Boarding School Isabel
2023 Pet Sematary: Bloodlines Kathy
2024 The Georgetown Project Jennifer Simon Post-production


Year Title Role Notes
1988 Aaron's Way Roseanne Miller Main cast; Season 1
Circle of Love Roseanne Miller Television film
1988–89 Knightwatch Jacqueline 'Jake' Monroe Main cast; Season 1
1989 Cold Sassy Tree Lightfoot McClendon Television film
CBS Summer Playhouse Mary Dunne Episode: "American Nuclear"
1990 Extreme Close-Up Laura Television film
83 Hours 'Til Dawn Julie Burdock
To My Daughter Anne Carlston
1999 The Outer Limits Marie Wells Episode: "The Shroud"
Freak City Ruth Ellison Television film
1999–2000 Harsh Realm Sophie Green 4 Episodes
2000 Mermaid Rhonda Television film
2001 First Years Ann Weller Main cast; Season 1
Night Visions Diane Ballard Episode: "The Passenger List/Bokor"
The Mists of Avalon Gwenhwyfar Television film
2002 PBS Hollywood Presents Lisa Morrison Episode: "Collected Stories"
2003 The Twilight Zone Rachel Stark Episode: "Into the Light"
Law & Order: Special Victims Unit Hilary Barclay Episode: "Control"
2004 Salem's Lot Susan Norton Television film
Nominated—Saturn Award for Best Supporting Actress on Television
2005 Fathers and Sons Jenny Television film
Law & Order: Criminal Intent Dr. Christine Ansel Episode: "Saving Face"
2006 Secrets of a Small Town Samantha Steele Episode: "Pilot"
Absolution Bettina Lloyd Television film
House Maria Palko Episode: "Clueless"
Nightmares & Dreamscapes Karen Evans Episode: "The Fifth Quarter"
2007 Lost Olivia Goodspeed Episode: "The Man Behind the Curtain"
A Stranger's Heart Callie Morgan Television film
Mitch Albom's For One More Day Young Pauline 'Posey' Benetto
2009 Grey's Anatomy Melinda Prescott 3 Episodes
Royal Pains Amy Hill Episode: "Wonderland"
2010 Unanswered Prayers Lorrie Beck Television film
2011 Curb Your Enthusiasm Donna Episode: "The Hero"
2013 Under the Dome Alice Calvert Recurring role; Season 1
2014 Law & Order: Special Victims Unit Catherine Summers Episode: "Reasonable Doubt"
2015–16 The Strain Justine Feraldo Main cast; Seasons 2–3
2019 Billions Sara Hammon Recurring role; Season 4
Into the Dark Dr. Victoria Harris Episode: "All That We Destroy"
Bull Avery Kress Episode: "The Flying Carpet"
2020 Law & Order: Special Victims Unit Melanie Franks Episode: "Swimming With The Sharks"
2023 12 Desperate Hours Val Jane Television film


  1. ^ Each position is for two years. Mathis was elected in 2015 and re-elected in 2017.[2]


  1. ^ International Television & Video Almanac. University of Michigan. 2007. p. 315. ISBN 9780900610813.
  2. ^ a b "SAG-AFTRA Opens Third Convention, Elects National Officers". SAG-AFTRA. October 6, 2017. Archived from the original on February 9, 2021.
  3. ^ a b c d e Graves, Lucia (July 24, 2019). "'It was too much loss. I fell apart': Samantha Mathis on River Phoenix and her career revival". The Guardian. Archived from the original on July 30, 2019. Retrieved July 30, 2019.
  4. ^ a b c Craven, Jonathan (March 1996). "Sam I am" (interview). Bikini.
  5. ^ "Samantha Mathis". Archived from the original on September 11, 2015. Retrieved February 15, 2015.
  6. ^ a b c Hensley, Dennis. "Elementary Mathis", Detour (December 1995)
  7. ^ a b Matsumoto, Jon (September 1, 1990). "Acting's in Samantha Mathis' Blood: Mom's and Grandmom's Too" Archived October 10, 2016, at the Wayback Machine, The Los Angeles Times; retrieved August 31, 2009.
  8. ^ a b Malkin, Nina (June 1992). "This is my Life". Seventeen. pp. 4, 82–83.
  9. ^ Gussow, Mel (October 14, 1992). "Theater in Review" Archived February 19, 2022, at the Wayback Machine. The New York Times; retrieved April 24, 2008.
  10. ^ "That Time Samantha Mathis, Daisy from Super Mario Bros., and a Puppet Defeated King Koopa". YouTube. October 14, 2017. Archived from the original on December 13, 2021. Retrieved May 3, 2020.
  11. ^ a b Richesin, Nicki (September 25, 2012). "Interview With Peter Bogdanovich about River Phoenix". The Huffington Post. Archived from the original on July 29, 2021. Retrieved July 27, 2021.
  12. ^ Thompson, Bob (October 15, 1995). "Patch in to Mathis". The Toronto Sun.
  13. ^ Sheridan, Patricia (April 30, 2007). "Samantha Mathis profile" Archived December 1, 2008, at the Wayback Machine, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette; retrieved April 24, 2008.
  14. ^ a b Kaufman, Joanne (March 17, 2020). "Samantha Mathis, Self-Isolating Downtown". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Archived from the original on March 17, 2020. Retrieved March 17, 2020.
  15. ^ Hetrick, Adam (October 5, 2011). "Dee Hoty and Samantha Mathis Join Love, Loss, and What I Wore Oct. 5" Archived November 3, 2011, at the Wayback Machine, Playbill; retrieved October 30, 2011.
  16. ^ Rushfield, Richard (July 15, 2013). "Richard Rushfield visits the set of CBS's summer hit 'Under the Dome'". Retrieved August 7, 2013.[permanent dead link]
  17. ^ Petski, Denise (November 14, 2014). "Samantha Mathis Joins 'The Strain'; Inbar Lavi In 'The Last Ship'". Deadline Hollywood. Archived from the original on August 22, 2020. Retrieved September 10, 2015.
  18. ^ "SAG-AFTRA Opens Second Convention; Elects National Officers". SAG-AFTRA. October 2, 2015.
  19. ^ Brunner, Jeryl (August 16, 2019). "With The New Play 'Make Believe' Samantha Mathis Takes A Deep Dive Into Childhood". Forbes. Archived from the original on August 17, 2019. Retrieved August 17, 2019.
  20. ^ Pearce, Garth (June 1996). "Why I Still Grieve For River", OK! Weekly. Accessed October 27, 2022.
  21. ^ "Autopsy report" (PDF). Archived (PDF) from the original on February 25, 2015. Retrieved April 23, 2015.
  22. ^ Alexander, Bryan (October 26, 2018). "River Phoenix's death: Samantha Mathis breaks silence about the tragic night 25 years ago". USA Today. Archived from the original on October 26, 2018. Retrieved October 27, 2018.
  23. ^ Freeman, Hadley (October 25, 2018). "The untold story of lost star River Phoenix – 25 years after his death". The Guardian. Archived from the original on October 25, 2018. Retrieved October 25, 2018.

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