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Jenna Elfman

Jenna Elfman

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Also Known As: Jennifer Mary Butala Died:
Born: September 30, 1971 Cause of Death:
Birth Place: Northridge, California, USA Profession: actor, dancer, grocery clerk, jewelry factory worker

Biography CLOSE THE FULL BIOGRAPHY

An ebullient performer who earned fame with her role as a buoyant free-spirit on the popular sitcom "Dharma & Greg" (ABC, 1997-2002), actress Jenna Elfman broke through as a stand out cast member of the failed sitcom, "Townies" (ABC, 1996). A professional dancer who made the switch to acting in the early 1990s, Elfman made immediate strides on the small screen, landing guest starring roles on both dramas and sitcoms, including "Roseanne" (ABC, 1988-1997) and "NYPD Blue" (ABC, 1993-2005) before landing her first regular gig with "Townies." Though "Townies" was only on the air a short time, network executives were duly impressed with Elfman's talents and signed her to an exclusive deal to develop her own series. The result was "Dharma & Greg," which managed to stay on for five seasons while earning the actress three consecutive Emmy Award nominations. Once the show was canceled, however, Elfman's career hit a brief rough patch that included starring in the failed sitcom, "Courting Alex" (CBS, 2006), while publicly embarrassing herself after a heated argument with a Scientology critic that ignited a brief, but white-hot media firestorm. But Elfman continued to persevere, regaining her presence as a...

An ebullient performer who earned fame with her role as a buoyant free-spirit on the popular sitcom "Dharma & Greg" (ABC, 1997-2002), actress Jenna Elfman broke through as a stand out cast member of the failed sitcom, "Townies" (ABC, 1996). A professional dancer who made the switch to acting in the early 1990s, Elfman made immediate strides on the small screen, landing guest starring roles on both dramas and sitcoms, including "Roseanne" (ABC, 1988-1997) and "NYPD Blue" (ABC, 1993-2005) before landing her first regular gig with "Townies." Though "Townies" was only on the air a short time, network executives were duly impressed with Elfman's talents and signed her to an exclusive deal to develop her own series. The result was "Dharma & Greg," which managed to stay on for five seasons while earning the actress three consecutive Emmy Award nominations. Once the show was canceled, however, Elfman's career hit a brief rough patch that included starring in the failed sitcom, "Courting Alex" (CBS, 2006), while publicly embarrassing herself after a heated argument with a Scientology critic that ignited a brief, but white-hot media firestorm. But Elfman continued to persevere, regaining her presence as a charming sitcom actress who was often the best thing about an otherwise unremarkable show.

VIEW THE FULL BIOGRAPHY

Filmographyclose complete filmography

CAST: (feature film)

1.
2.
 Love Hurts (2009)
3.
 Touched (2005)
4.
 Clifford's Really Big Movie (2004) Voice Of Dorothy
5.
 Looney Tunes: Back in Action (2003) Kate Houghton
6.
 Obsessed (2002) Ellena Roberts
7.
 Town & Country (2001) Auburn
8.
 Cyberworld 3D (2000) Voice Of Phig
9.
 Keeping the Faith (2000) Anna Reilly
10.
 Ed TV (1999) Shari
VIEW THE FULL FILMOGRAPHY

Milestones close milestones

:
Began dancing at age five
:
Studied ballet until age 16; switched to jazz dance
:
Danced in music videos, including one for a Depeche Mode song
:
Toured with the rock band ZZ Top as a "Legs" girl
1991:
Began studying acting with Milton Katselas
1991:
Appeared as a dancer on the annual Academy Awards telecast
1991:
Met future husband Bodhi Elfman auditioning for a Sprite ad
1995:
Early TV credit, guest appearance on the ABC drama, "The Monroes"
1996:
Made regular series debut in the short-lived ABC sitcom, "Townies"
1996:
TV-movie debut, "Her Last Chance" (NBC)
1997:
Made feature film debut in "Grosse Point Blank"
1997:
Cast opposite Thomas Gibson in the ABC sitcom, "Dharma & Greg"
1998:
Starred opposite Richard Dreyfuss in "Krippendorf's Tribe"
1999:
Acted on stage opposite Miguel Ferrer in "Visions and Lovers"; directed by Katselas
1999:
Co-starred with Matthew McConaughey in the Ron Howard-directed, "EDtv"
1999:
Co-hosted the telecast of the Emmy Awards with David Hyde Pierce
2001:
Had featured role in "Town & Country"
2004:
Guest-starred on two episodes of "Two and a Half Men," playing a woman who comes between Charlie and Alan
2006:
Cast as a single, workaholic attorney in the CBS sitcom, "Courting Alex"
2009:
Cast in the CBS sitcom, "Accidentally on Purpose"
VIEW ALL MILESTONES

Education

California State University, Northridge: Northridge , California -
Beverly Hills Playhouse: Beverly Hills , California -
Los Angeles County High School for the Performing Arts: Los Angeles , California - 1989

Notes

"She's an honest actress and truly funny. She doesn't have to act funny; she instinctively knows where the humor is." --Chuck Lorre, producer of "Dharma & Greg" to Electronic Media, June 30, 1997

"She's just a breath of fresh air and as charming as she can be. She's as noticeable in this role as she went unnoticed in her role in 'Townies'. I think it's the role that will make her a breakout star." --Paul Schulman, dean of media buyers, in Electronic Media, June 30, 1997

"There's a lot of myself in the character--her freeness, her playfulness. Dharma does say things in front of people that I wouldn't, things that are inappropriate to her surroundings. But a lot of comedy comes out of those scenarios . . .I feel that . . . it comes off the screen how much fun I'm having." --Jenna Elfman in Electronic Media, June 30, 1997

"I think I'm good at being me and not worrying about how I come off. I'm pretty comfortable with who I am." --Elfman quoted in Daily News, July 23, 1997

"What I love about acting is that you can safely and securely get out of your system all those retarded things you've ever done in your life." --Jenna Elfman, quoted in Daily News, February 19, 1998

"I'm still a novice at this fame stuff. If someone is staring at me I immediately start thinking "Do I have a booger?'" --Elfman to the Chicago Sun-Times, February 22, 1998

"I had someone say to me once, 'Why are you so f---ing happy all the time?' Look, if people want to be cynical and try to put blackness on things and try to tear down yummy sensations, they can. I just want to create art and inspire others with my work and make this planet a little happier for people to live." --Jenna Elfman quoted in US, March 1999

On fame: "People in this business put so much weight and significance into it. And then you meet these big stars and you realize they're all idiots. I've found that big, famous people are like idiot dorks. If I know one thing, it's that everyone has their insecurities." --Elfman quoted in Chicago Sun-Times, March 7, 1999

Jenna Elfman on her role as Matthew McConaughey's UPS deliverywoman love interest in Ron Howard's "EDtv": "It's not too flattering. I had to be willing to be ugly and unwanted. I was never cool in high school and I kind of drew on that. I was very insecure about boys, so around Matthew I just acted like 'I'm not worthy'. It was a release not to have to try and look so good." --to TV Guide, March 13, 1999

Elfman on her biggest frustration: "I want people to start offering me some big dramatic parts. Sometimes people get locked in this spunky girl thing, like I do every week. I want the opportunity to do other things too." --quoted in Time Out New York, March 18-25, 1999

"She's a ray of sunshine. I know that sounds corny, but she just lights up a room with her joy." --"Dharma & Greg" co-creator Chuck Lorre on Elfman, quoted in Biography Magazine, May 1999

"What would you like to do in the future?

Elfman: A good variety of roles is probably the ideal because that's what I love to do. Of course, when you're doing comedy, comedy, comedy, you want to do drama. When you're doing drama, drama, drama, you want to do a comedy. I think I've watched other actresses do this because you sort of want to be taken seriously and be a `dramatic actress,' and then the movies never do well and whatever. So I had a glimpse of wanting to do more drama, of which I do want to do, but I'm not in a big rush right now. I want to just keep doing interesting characters; girls that have something different about them."

--from "Five Questions with Jenna Elfman", Associated Press, July 5, 2000.

Companions close complete companion listing

husband:
Bodhi Pine Elfman. Actor. Born c. 1969; met in 1991; moved in together; he proposed on Valentine's Day 1992; married c. 1994; nephew of composer Danny Elfman.

Family close complete family listing

grandmother:
Mary Ference Butala. Died at age 89 on November 10, 1999 from cancer.
father:
Richard Butala. Executive. Worked for Hughes Aircraft; married in the 1950s.
mother:
Susan Butala. Homemaker. Married in the 1950s.
uncle:
Tony Butala. Singer. Member of the popular 1960s male group The Letterman.
sister:
Debbie Butala. Older; born in December 1957.
brother:
Rick Butala. Older; born in March 1961.
VIEW COMPLETE FAMILY LISTING

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