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Kathryn Joosten

Kathryn Joosten

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Also Known As: Died: June 1, 2012
Born: December 20, 1939 Cause of Death: Lung Cancer
Birth Place: Eustis, Florida, USA Profession: Actress, Psychiatric Nurse

Biography CLOSE THE FULL BIOGRAPHY

Amidst Hollywood's ranks, finding a late bloomer attaining success on television or in film was more the exception than the rule. For Emmy-winning actress Kathryn Joosten, however, paying her dues in numerous forgettable projects ended up paving the way for her later success. Rather than toiling away for years as a waitress while trying to land auditions, she did not even catch the acting bug until middle age. And it was at that time that she hit big with recognizable roles on two of the most successful network programs of the new millennium: "The West Wing" (NBC, 1999-2006), portraying the secretary to the President of the United States, and "Desperate Housewives" (ABC, 2004-2012), in which she essayed the ultimate snoopy suburban neighbor. Joosten's success story was even more unusual when considering the series of personal setbacks she had overcome on her way to establishing a career as a dependable character actress, adept at both high drama and wacky comedy alike.Born in Dec. 20, 1939, Joosten's mother died when she was just 24 years old. By the early 1970s, she was well into a career as a psychiatric nurse at Chicago's Michael Reese Hospital, a facility for disturbed teens. She married a...

Amidst Hollywood's ranks, finding a late bloomer attaining success on television or in film was more the exception than the rule. For Emmy-winning actress Kathryn Joosten, however, paying her dues in numerous forgettable projects ended up paving the way for her later success. Rather than toiling away for years as a waitress while trying to land auditions, she did not even catch the acting bug until middle age. And it was at that time that she hit big with recognizable roles on two of the most successful network programs of the new millennium: "The West Wing" (NBC, 1999-2006), portraying the secretary to the President of the United States, and "Desperate Housewives" (ABC, 2004-2012), in which she essayed the ultimate snoopy suburban neighbor. Joosten's success story was even more unusual when considering the series of personal setbacks she had overcome on her way to establishing a career as a dependable character actress, adept at both high drama and wacky comedy alike.

Born in Dec. 20, 1939, Joosten's mother died when she was just 24 years old. By the early 1970s, she was well into a career as a psychiatric nurse at Chicago's Michael Reese Hospital, a facility for disturbed teens. She married a psychiatrist at the hospital, later having two sons and settling into the comfortable suburb of Lake Forest, IL. The marriage foundered, however, due to the doctor's alcoholism and the two were divorced in 1980. Faced with the prospect of single motherhood with two young sons, Joosten was haunted by her mother's bitter deathbed regrets about a life too short and dreams deferred too long. Armed with that knowledge, she made the difficult decision to follow her longtime dream and started acting classes at Steppenwolf Theater in Chicago.

By day, Joosten worked a variety of jobs, including a wallpaper hanger, a housepainter and a saleswoman for Welcome Wagon; by night, she was appearing in community theater and establishing contacts by scouting locations for film. The location scouting paid off with bit parts in "Grandview U.S.A." (1984), "Lady Blue" (ABC, 1985) and "The Package" (1989) â¿¿ all filmed in the immediate Chicago area. Community theater eventually led to semi-professional theater gigs until, in 1992, Disney held a cattle call for performers at Orlando's Disney World. Joosten landed the job, pulled up stakes, loaded the kids and belongings into a truck and headed for Florida. It was a rough ride and a decidedly unglamorous acting gig, but it was proof positive that acting was in her blood.

In 1995, armed with no agent, little money and zero connections, Joosten headed for Los Angeles, where she banged on doors relentlessly, bagging her first paid role inside of five months; two lines on "Family Matters" (ABC, 1989-1998), the show that introduced the world to the bespectacled nerd, Urkel. A few years in the TV trenches led to the role Joosten would become most readily identified with â¿¿ Delores Landingham, secretary to President Josiah Bartlet (Martin Sheen) on "The West Wing." She completely inhabited the role and made the character hers, until Delores was written out of the series in 2001 after succumbing to a car crash. Around the same time Joosten was working on "Dharma & Greg" (ABC, 1997-2002) as the recurring character Claire, the two high-profile roles opened more doors for the actress. In fairly quick succession, she landed roles as Old Lady God on "Joan of Arcadia" (CBS, 2003-05), Natalie on "The Drew Carey Show" (ABC, 1995-2004), as well as small roles on "Curb Your Enthusiasm" (HBO, 2000- ) and Scrubs" (ABC, 2001-2010). While making an appearance on "My Name Is Earl (NBC, 2005-09), she appeared as a character struggling to give up cigarettes. The irony of this was that the actress was an actual lung cancer survivor, who openly discussed her traumatic life struggle during an appearance on "The View" (ABC, 1997- ).

Despite her fame as the long-suffering "West Wing" secretary, it was "Desperate Housewives," where Joosten really hit her stride as a recognizable actress. The hit series followed the darkly comic turns of a group of suburban moms on Wisteria Place, with the tenuous neighborly relationships formed on the cul-de-sac the centerpiece of the show. All sorts of intrigue, shady dealings and closet-dwelling skeletons were to follow in subsequent seasons among the shady middleclass climes of Fairview. Joosten's role as Karen Cluskey started with her as a cranky, curmudgeonly aging neighbor, delivering snarky lines and serving as a foil to the show's more nubile lead actresses. Over the course of the show's run, however, Cluskey turned into a much more sympathetic character â¿¿ namely a confidant of Lynette (Felicity Huffman) and a keeper of a few dark secrets of her own. Her run on the high profile show netted Joosten an Emmy Award for Outstanding Guest Actress in a Comedy Series in both 2005 and 2008. In 2010, she was again awarded with an Emmy nod for playing Karen Cluskey on "Desperate Housewives," a role that earned her a promotion to full-time regular status for the following season. In September 2009, Joosten's lung cancer returned. Despite her efforts to beat the disease yet again, the beloved actress passed away on June 1, 2012 at age 72. Less than two months later, she was posthumously honored with another Emmy nomination for her "Desperate Housewives" role.

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Filmographyclose complete filmography

CAST: (feature film)

3.
 Bedtime Stories (2008)
4.
 Rails & Ties (2007)
5.
 TV Set, The (2006)
6.
 Wedding Crashers (2005)
7.
 Hostage (2005) Cast
8.
 Silent Killer (2004)
9.
 Secret Santa (2003) Winifred
10.
 Phoenix (1998) Esther
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Milestones close milestones

:
Became involved with community theater after her divorce
:
Took classes at Steppenwolf Theater in Chicago, IL
1992:
First break was as a street performer for Walt Disney World
1995:
Moved to Hollywood to purse acting career
1996:
Landed first TV role on the ABC sitcom "Family Matters"
1997:
Appeared on an episode of "Frasier" (NBC) as the mother and personal secretary of Frasier's conniving agent Bebe Glazer
1998:
Landed recurring role on the ABC sitcom "Dharma & Greg"
1998:
Appeared in a recurring role as the bingo buddy to Drew Carey's girlfriend on the ABC sitcom "The Drew Carey Show"
1999:
Cast as Delores Landingham, secretary to President Bartlet (Martin Sheen) on "The West Wing" (NBC); character was killed in a traffic accident at the end of season two; appeared in a dream sequence in 2002
2001:
Appeared in the "My Old Lady" episode of "Scrubs" (NBC)
2003:
Cast in a recurring role as one of the incarnations of God on the CBS series "Joan of Arcadia"
2005:
Cast in a recurring role on ABC's "Desperate Housewives" as Karen McCluskey, Lynette Scavo's (Felicity Huffman) bickering neighbor
2005:
Played memorable role as Chazz's Mom in the comedy "Wedding Crashers"
2005:
Guest starred on two episodes of the NBC sitcom "My Name Is Earl"
2009:
Played Aunt Jackie in "Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Squeakquel"
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