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Annie Potts

Annie Potts

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Also Known As: Died:
Born: October 28, 1952 Cause of Death:
Birth Place: Nashville, Tennessee, USA Profession: Cast ... actor set designer costume designer
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BIOGRAPHY

Annie Potts' unique voice and quirky personality made her a natural fit for roles that called for colorful, experienced, definitely quirky women. Potts first burst onto the scene as the sassy, quick-witted secretary in the international phenomenon "Ghostbusters" (1984). It was a role that she would reprise in the successful 1989 sequel and a later video game. Potts possessed a natural gift for playing slightly off-the-wall characters with big hearts; similar to the surrogate mother roles she essayed in the John Hughes Gen-X classic "Pretty in Pink" (1986) opposite Molly Ringwald, and on the critically acclaimed television version of the feature film "Dangerous Minds" (ABC, 1996-97). But it was her turn as a sarcastic yet struggling interior designer on the Southern-flavored sitcom "Designing Women" (CBS, 1986-1993) that made Potts a household name. The actress endured numerous career setbacks throughout her run, whether canceled TV pilots or short-lived sitcoms, but she was always exceedingly employable because there were very few comic actresses able to steal scenes in such a unique fashion. Simply put, if she had done nothing else but "Designing Women," her immortality would have been assured, but luckily she brought to life memorable comedic performances in a series of film classics as well.

Anne Hampton Potts was born on Oct. 28, 1952 in Franklin, KY. Bitten early on by the acting bug, she studied theater at Stephens College in Missouri before taking on some graduate work at the California Institute of the Arts in California. In the early days of her career, she found consistent work as a set and costume designer while honing her craft through acting classes. Tragedy struck early for Potts, however, when at age 20, she and her first husband, Steven Hartley, were involved in a serious car accident in New Mexico. As a result, Hartley lost a leg and Potts endured multiple fractures and chronic arthritis. After she recovered, Potts joined a road company of the play "Charley's Aunt" as a way to get move past the trauma. When the production returned to Los Angeles and with the help of the play's co-star, legendary actor Roddy McDowall, Potts began meeting with casting directors.

Television provided Potts with steady work in the nascent days of her career as a struggling actress. She had a minor role in the made-for-TV movie "Black Market Baby" (ABC, 1977), guest starred on the comedy series "Busting Loose" (Paramount Television, 1977), and played a headstrong trucker in the utterly ridiculous TV movie, "Flatbed Annie & Sweetiepie: Lady Truckers" (CBS, 1979). In 1978, Potts made her film-acting debut in the adventure comedy "Corvette Summer," starring as a teenaged wannabe prostitute who has an affair with a high school boy (Mark Hamill). That same year, she also had a featured role in the drama "King of the Gypsies," starring another Hollywood legend, Shelley Winters, and fellow up-and-comer, Susan Sarandon. In 1986, Potts landed the first of her numerous classic roles, co-starring in the John Hughes teen classic "Pretty in Pink" opposite Molly Ringwald, Jon Cryer and Andrew McCarthy. In the Gen-X favorite, she played an eccentric record store manager who also served as Ringwald's confidante and maternal figure in the film. With the exception of Jon Cryer's "Duckie," Potts stole more scenes than anyone, exposing a natural quirkiness and colorful persona that she would mine throughout her career.

On a worldwide scale, the actress gained even more exposure by nasally-whining her way through the second highest-grossing film of 1984 and one of the greatest comedies of all time, "Ghost Busters," starring veritable comedy icons Bill Murray, Dan Aykroyd and Harold Ramis as oddball parapsychologists who start a booming business removing ghosts from haunted buildings throughout Manhattan, becoming national heroes along the way. Potts was delightful as Janine Melnitz, the fiery secretary and love interest of Dr. Egon Spengler (Ramis). Like everyone else in the cast - which also included Rick Moranis and Sigourney Weaver - Potts would reprise her role in the film's less successful but still money-making sequel "Ghostbusters II" (1989).

Knocking it out of the park for a third time, Potts gained a whole new legion of fans as the perky redhead Mary Jo Shively on the Golden Globe-nominated comedy sitcom "Designing Women" (CBS, 1986-1993). The Southern-flavored series revolved around the personal lives, work and romantic trials of four women who worked together at an Atlanta design firm - Julia Sugarbaker (Dixie Carter), a sophisticated and outspoken businesswoman; Suzanne Sugarbaker (Delta Burke), Julia's oft-married and former beauty queen sister; and Charlene Frazier Stillfield (Jean Smart), the pretty, slightly naïve office manager. In spite of its title, the women rarely did any "designing" as they spent most of their time hurling wisecracks at each other in disguise of 1980s social and political issues. Less cartoonish than Burke and Smart and less hard-nosed than Carter, Potts' Shively was the adorable Everywoman, a sardonic yet insecure single mother struggling to stand on her own and achieve success as a designer. Although the show ended under less than comical circumstances - with show creators accusing the network of male chauvinism and prior to that, Burke accusing the network of firing her after season five due to weight gain, the sitcom became one of the most popular on the network, running neck-in-neck with the similarly feminist program, "Murphy Brown" (CBS, 1988-1998).

Next up on the small screen, Potts donned a chef's hat on the comedy series "Love & War" (CBS, 1992-95), playing a gourmet chef who nags her customers as well as her coworkers. She switched gears toward the dramatic when taking on Michelle Pfeiffer's role in the TV version of the film "Dangerous Minds." Playing against type, Potts received great reviews for her performance as Louanne Johnson, a dedicated and fearless inner-city schoolteacher who inspired a group of sullen teenagers, all from lower-class backgrounds, with her unconventional teaching methods. Potts returned to her comedic roots with the short-lived sitcom "Over the Top" (ABC, 1997) opposite Tim Curry and Steve Carell. While 12 episodes were filmed, the show was cancelled after only three episodes aired. Her next vehicle better showcased her talents. Beginning in Birmingham, AL in the volatile 1960s, the insightful drama "Any Day Now" (Lifetime, 1998-2002) focused on the relationship of Caucasian Mary Elizabeth (Potts) and her best friend Rene, a shy African-American (Lorraine Toussaint) who grow up and lead separate lives but reconnect 30 years later.

Throughout the 1990s, Potts tried to keep a toe in the film pool, often being cast in supporting roles such as Jeff Bridges' moody wife in Peter Bogdanovich's "Last Picture Show" (1971) sequel "Texasville" (1990), and in the buddy road trip movie "Breaking the Rules" (1992). Potts' sweet voice also brought to life the character of Bo Peep, the porcelain shepherdess, in the CG-animated monster Pixar hit "Toy Story" (1995) and its equally successful sequel "Toy Story 2" (1999). By the new millennium, she was guest starring on such hit programs as "Boston Legal" (ABC, 2004-08), ABC's top-rated comedy series "Ugly Betty" (2006-2010), and a recurring role as a bossy lieutenant on the fantasy drama "Joan of Arcadia" (CBS, 2003-05), which starred Amber Tamblyn as a teenager who could speak to God. In 2009, Potts reunited with some of her "Ghostbusters" co-stars in "Ghostbusters: The Video Game," proving that familiar, annoyingly nasal voice of Janine Melnitz. That same year, she was cast as a deeply religious and cheerful mother of a very peculiar clan on the CBS sitcom "The Karenskys," but the pilot was never picked up. True to form, Potts bounced right back and landed a starring role in the made-for-TV drama "Freshman Father" (The Hallmark Channel, 2010) as an apartment manager who became the surrogate mother of a young Harvard student and his son.

By Candy Cuenco

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