After drawing raves as one of the stars of the sardonic off-Broadway revue "Forbidden Broadway" in New York, Chloe Webb had difficulty transitioning to television and film work. While chance brought her to the attention of filmmaker Alex Cox, Webb's willingness to go the distance for the role of a lifetime won her the part of punk rock martyr Nancy Spungen in Cox's "Sid and Nancy" (1986). Art house acclaim arrived sooner than mainstream acceptance, with Peter Greenaway spiriting the young hopeful to Rome for a key role in his "The Belly of an Architect" (1987), an exquisitely mounted dud that nonetheless pointed Webb to a higher profile roles in "Twins" (1988), opposite Arnold Schwarzenegger and Danny DeVito, and on the acclaimed ABC series "China Beach" (ABC, 1988-1991). Her working class appeal and crooked smile typed Webb into supporting rather than lead roles in such films as "Heart Condition" (1990) and "Queens Logic" (1991), where her talents were largely wasted playing girlfriends. She fared better on television, enjoying her best post-"Sid and Nancy" exposure as the lovelorn Mona Ramsey in the miniseries "Tales of the City" (1993). Withdrawing largely from public life by the new millennium and contributing only the occasional cameo appearance to films, Webb returned to the spotlight with a flourish as the bisexual and bipolar matriarch of the dysfunctional Gallagher clan on Showtime's "Shameless" (2011- ), embracing at last the mantle of character actress, but committed to delivering nothing less than a star performance.
Chloe Webb was born in New York City's long-time bohemian conclave Greenwich Village on June 25, 1956. Raised in Syracuse, she traveled at age 16 to study at the Boston Conservatory of Drama and Music, and when attending Syracuse University, became a student of celebrated vocal coach Dr. David Fairchild. Committed to the dream of a life in the arts, Webb returned to Manhattan in her twenties and performed in off-off Broadway plays, establishing herself as a comedienne. Her aptitude for mimicry won her a slot in the ensemble of the comedy revue "Forbidden Broadway," which lampooned classic and current plays running on the Great White Way. Word of mouth made "Forbidden Broadway" a must-see cabaret theatre experience and an enthusiastic review by critic Rex Reed helped the show attain Toast of the Town status by 1982. The following year, the actress traveled to Los Angeles, where she scored uncredited bits on such weekly television series as "Remington Steele" (1982-87) and "Mary" (CBS, 1985-86), both produced by Mary Tyler Moore's MTM Enterprises and broadcast by CBS.
Through the intercession of Miguel Sandoval, an experimental theatre impresario based in New Mexico, Webb was recommended for the role of Nancy Spungen in "Sid and Nancy" (1986), British director Alex Cox's chronicle of the destructive and ultimately fatal love affair of Sid Vicious, bassist for the punk rock band the Sex Pistols, and his Jewish-American girlfriend. After auditioning for Cox in an office off Venice Beach, CA, Webb was awarded the role in favor of such worthwhile candidates as British actress Helena Bonham-Carter and a then unknown Courtney Love, a former stripper who later co-founded the all-female indie band, Hole. Cast opposite intense actor Gary Oldman, Webb's experience of filming "Sid and Nancy" was equal parts exhilaration and madness, with the pair's onscreen chemistry often approximating spontaneous combustion. Though "Sid and Nancy" received mixed reviews from the mainstream critics - who tended to hold in higher esteem the central performances over the material - the film boosted Webb's visibility immeasurably.
Webb traveled to Rome for a role in British filmmaker Peter Greenaway's "The Belly of an Architect" (1987), playing the flirtatious and possibly unfaithful wife of anxiety- and cancer-ridden architect Brian Dennehy. The exquisitely choreographed curio drew jeers from the British critics and went unreleased in America until the success of Greenaway's "The Cook, the Thief, His Wife, Her Lover" (1990). Webb had more to do in loyal girlfriend mode in Ivan Reitman's "Twins" (1988), a buddy picture for Arnold Schwarzenegger and Danny DeVito. That same year, she accepted a special guest star stretch on the critically-lauded ABC series "China Beach" (1988-1991), concerned with the lives of female military and civilian personnel during the Vietnam War. As USO girl Laurette Barber, Webb coped with such trials as a bout of laryngitis prior to a big audition and ducking mortar fire in silver lamé and go-go boots. She left the series after its first season to concentrate on feature film work, her first stop being the ensemble comedy "Queens Logic" (1989), which sat unreleased for two years.
Already in her mid-thirties by 1990, Webb had to content herself with further girlfriend roles and was paired with Bob Hoskins in the dire body switch comedy "Heart Condition" (1990). She contributed small, sometimes uncredited roles to Reitman's "Ghostbusters II" (1989) and Keva Rosenfeld's "Twenty Bucks" (1993), which followed the passage of a $20 bill from character to character in an ensemble that also included Steve Buscemi, Elisabeth Shue and Linda Hunt. With worthwhile film roles failing to materialize, Webb returned to the medium of television, co-starring in the British-American coproduction "Silent Cries" (1992), based on the novel Guests of the Emperor by Janice Young Brooks about the plight of American nurses after the Japanese invasion of Singapore in 1942. Again working on the small screen, Webb enjoyed one of her better roles with high marks from the critics, when she signed on to play the lovelorn Mona Ramsey on "Tales of the City" (1993), a British-backed miniseries broadcast in America by PBS in 1994.
Briefly glimpsed in a waiting room in Ron Underwood's comic fantasy "Heart and Souls" (1993), Webb was given slightly more to do as the drycleaner coworker of Debra Winger's small town naïf in Stephen Gyllenhaal's "A Dangerous Woman" (1993). She was in buddy mode again, fetching in a red beret and a blonde dye job, as Annette Bening's cosmopolitan confidante in "Love Affair" (1994), a weak remake of the already weak weepie "An Affair to Remember" (1957) also starring Warren Beatty and Katharine Hepburn. In Nick Cassavetes' "She's So Lovely" (1997), based on an unfilmed script by John Cassavetes, Webb contributed a cameo as a bartender confessor to actors Sean Penn, Robin Wright and Harry Dean Stanton. Lost in the shuffle of Richard Linklater's "The Newton Boys" (1998), a rollicking caper about charismatic bank robbers in the Roaring Twenties, Webb managed to bring bravado to her limited screen time as the encouraging wife of demolitions expert Dwight Yoakam.
Buried yet again in the cast list in Griffin Dunne's supernatural comedy "Practical Magic" (1998), Webb retrenched in television, providing voice work for an episode of Nickelodeon's animated "Hey, Arnold!"(1996-2004) and contributing a guest appearance to the family drama "Judging Amy" (CBS, 1999-2005), as a survivalist single mother whose paranoia leaches out to taint the lives of her children. Produced by star Glenn Close, "The Ballad of Lucy Whipple" (2001) follows a Gold Rush migration of a wagon train of easterners, among them Webb's spirited prostitute. After a several year hiatus, Webb returned to television for a first season episode of the Fox medical drama "House" (2005-2012), playing the manager of a paralyzed jazz musician. Additional guest roles followed on the CBS sitcom "Two and a Half Men" (2003-15) and "Medium" (NBC/CBS, 2005-2011), which reunited her with friend Miguel Sandoval. Webb and Sandoval reteamed with Alex Cox for "Repo Girl" (2009), a micro-budget semi-sequel to Cox's cult hit "Repo Man" (1984).
After tendering a colorful cameo to Dick Rude's indie "Quit" (2010), playing a Joshua Tree convenience store clerk with Pipi Longstocking dreadlocks, Webb settled into semi-regular status on "Shameless" (Showtime, 2011- ), an American retooling of the award-winning Channel 4 British series (2004-2010) of the same name. Webb received some of the best notices of her career as Monica Gallagher, the bisexual and bipolar ex-wife of series lead William H. Macy, whose hypomanic illness compels her to attempt suicide by slitting her wrists at Thanksgiving in front of her already jaded but nonetheless shocked children. Though Monica was packed off to a psychiatric facility, she pulls off a daring escape with another patient, auguring an uncertain future for the character but continued adventures for a gifted character actress given too few opportunities to cut loose.
by Richard Harland Smith
Cast (Feature Film)
Cast (TV Mini-Series)
Was an original cast member of off-Broadway revue, "Forbidden Broadway"; contributes material to the show
TV debut as cast member of the late night talk-variety show, "Thicke of the Night"
Feautre film debut, "Sid and Nancy"
Had featured role on the ABC drama series "China Beach"
First TV-movie, "Lucky Day"
TV miniseries debut, featured in "Armistead Maupin's Tales of the City" (PBS)
Co-starred in the off-Broadway production of "The Waiting Room"